Monday, July 20, 2009

Service in Singapore

I'm not sure if I can be considered as someone who has been in the service industry. You see, to most people, the "service industry" normally refers to the F&B, hotel, retail industrys in general. You'd think of jobs like front-end counter staff, sales staff, waiter/waitresses, etc. But in truth, the service industry would probably a more expansive range of jobs - in fact, any job which are customer-facing would probably fall into this category.

So, having worked as a customer service engineer, a financial planner then as a client trainer, I think I should probably "qualify" as someone with more than 10 years experience in the service industry. =P

An article in the forum of Today newpaper wrote about the personality traits required to do well in the service industry, which I found quite interesting. It mentioned that a lot of Singaporeans who have maids at home may find it difficult to reverse the mindset of "being served" to "serving others". I guess that's probably true. After all, if a person is so used to having some at his/her beck and call, they would not likely take it too well when the situation is reversed.

But I wonder - does good customer service mean that you always give in to the customer, even if what they are asking for is unreasonable? The old adage, "The customer is always right" certainly has its merits. Afterall, all businesses in the service industry rely on keeping their customers happy, in order for the business to thrive or even to survive. Still, my belief is that a good customer service does not always mean you have to agree with the customer, or to give in to whatever the customer asks for - regardless of whether the request is reasonable or not. I feel that sometimes, a service staff has to know his/her work boundaries well, so that he has the confidence to provide the customer with the appropriate response (and answers) when faced with a difficult situation (e.g. an unreasonable or even aggressive customer). In such instances, giving in to the unreasonable demands may not be the "best" solution as not only would it allow other customers to see and think,"hey, if that guy can get what he wants THAT way, then I can too!"; doing so would also undermine the role of the entire service line. Sometimes, being assertive (not aggressive) and putting the unreasonable customer(s) in their rightful place is the best thing to do, and it can actually raise the respect and opinions of the service industry if done properly.

But in order to do that, it largely depends on the service staff's mentality, and ultimately, his/her EQ. The ability to judge a situation well, and being able to control one's emotions and temper in a tough and possibly embarrassing situation is something that comes with experience, and also depends a lot on the personality of the staff, though it CAN be trained. Sadly, it's also true that many service personnel in Singapore lack this skill and hence the bad rep for the many service providers (and their staff) in general.


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