Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Customer Service and Brand Perceptions

I travel a lot for business and pleasure. I have been to many countries around the world, including many third world countries, some dictatorships, a couple communist countries and some religion-based states. I just returned from Cuba. Staying at hotels and resorts and eating at restaurants throughout the world has led me to experience many different degrees of hospitality and service, including the complete lack thereof. 

In the USA, we have grown accustomed to a fairly high level of personal service when we interact with brands. Most people know the mantra, "Right or wrong, the customer is always right." Ghandi said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Going back more than thirty years, companies have hired consultants to help them create "legendary service" cultures and "aha! moments" for their customers. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Ritz-Carlton employees are empowered to offer each guest up to $2,000 per day to make things right with those guests.

We expect happy greetings, smiles, civility, politeness, deference and responsiveness in our interaction with service people. And we expect their patience and understanding when we are slow in our interactions with them. We even have grown to appreciate service people who anticipate our every need before we do ourselves - refilling water glasses, pulling a shade down to reduce the sun's glare in our eyes, replacing a dropped napkin, carrying our luggage for us, etc. We have grown accustomed to positive brand experiences delivered by well-trained and pleasant service people.

This is not the case everywhere. I am generally very civil, pleasant and perhaps even annoyingly cheerful in my interactions with others. Which is why it surprises me when I find that a service person completely ignores me or yells at me or tells me to do something myself. I have even had service people respond, "So what?" One waitress spilled wine on me and then started laughing. I recently witnessed a concierge shouting, cursing and shaking his fist at a customer. 

Don't take good service for granted. It is an important element of a positive brand experience.

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