Service in the Service Industry

Two episodes bring me to this topic now. I had a recent celebration and went out to the Social and Gari Bar. I was expecting a great night out with friends but was sadly disappointed. I don???t know if this is representative of the level of customer service nowadays but certainly, it???s adding up to a not-so-pretty picture.

Malaysia, I read today, has been ranked ninth in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation???s (UNWTO) list of 10 most visited countries, with 24.6 million international tourist arrivals in 2010. That is a staggering number and one I believe, we ought to be proud of. But if the level of customer service we afford to both locals and tourists is what I???ve seen of late, we will see a noticeable decline in these numbers in time to come. I believe any effort we make at that point to overcome, will be quite futile and too little too late.

At Gari Bar, we ordered a bottle of Absolute. When another bottle was ordered thereafter, we were told there was no more. We ordered another brand, again told that there was no more. This was on 14 February so you can understand our surprise at this situation on a festive day such as this was. Many of us ordered pizzas and there was a single bottle of tobasco making its rounds in the entire restaurant. This happened, even though there was a supermarket in the building. People had to wait, as that bottle made its way from table to table, for minutes at a time. It was a joke at the time, but in entirety and in hindsight, didn???t look that funny any more.  No one told us when we ordered the first bottle, that there was no more of that brand if we wanted to re-order. I wouldn???t expect that level of service from a local caf?? but certainly, was expecting something from an established restaurant/bar as this was. So disappointed, we left to continue the party elsewhere.

Enter the Social. A strong name. I would say, best be social then, or risk ridicule. Much like an MMA fight scene I watched on YouTube recently where ???the Finisher??? was finished off in the first round. So, we get into the place, and order a bottle of vodka. Angustura bitters is an aromatic beverage flavouring and great for sun-downers. We asked for bitters to accompany our drinks. We were given the bitters but it was subsequently removed. It ???belonged??? to the kitchen, we were told. Then, we discovered it was actually just hidden in the bar fridge in front of us. So, how much does a bottle of Angustura bitters cost? Apparently, enough to be un-sociable. We asked why we couldn???t have the bitters for our drinks. Firstly, we were told there was no more. Then, we were told that we couldn???t have it because it was for the kitchen and then we were told that we would be charged additionally for it. All this, after we committed to ordering our bottle of vodka. Apparently, its quite ok once you???ve spent RM300 on a bottle of vodka to disappoint and frustrate an entire party gathering just to save a bottle of bitters. The Social???s tagline is ???It???s like walking into my best friend???s house???. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

So, what has this got to do with people development? Everything. But let me just touch on four points here.

1. We are relying to a great extent on much foreign labour. But the performance and quality of service (in the service industry at least) we are receiving doesn???t seem to be a match with our expectations. If we are to rely on foreign labour, it is incumbent on us to ensure that they reflect our brand, our vision and passion well, or we risk losing brand loyalty and customers.

2. To some extent, we expect our talent to follow instructions. And at the same time, we also expect a level of discretion in how they carry out their job. Clearly, the staff at the bar were afraid of the repercussions should this gang decide to make off into the night with this expensive bottle of aromatic flavouring… to the point that they were quite happy to brazenly lie about the bitters and accept that the clients were not satisfied with this outcome. ???Call the manager if you like??? was the reply we received. We spend thousands, if not millions, on our advertising campaigns, on our marketing plans, on our facebook strategy and on product development. All of it comes to naught if we don???t have an integrated approach to how we intend to position and deliver on our brand. People are key to this, and I don???t need to tell you that.

3. It takes years and much effort to build a name for yourself, spread awareness about your unique offering but it takes very little to blow it all away. Sad and perhaps unfair but very true. So, what do we do about this ??? how do we build this into any plans we make?

4. We cannot control others or how other things transpire but we can control how we deal with things. Every situation can be both good or bad, positive or negative, depending on where you sit. How you react is up to you and it is possible to turn a bad situation into a good one. And if we can teach this hard-to-learn, hard-to-practise lesson to all of our people, it???s a worthy skill to possess.

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About rowena morais

Media Communications and Editorial Specialist. With my strong professional network of contacts, I help individuals and organisations, particularly those within Human Resource and Technology, strengthen their skill-base and brand through compelling writing, beautiful design, content marketing and publishing. Let's talk.

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