Yesterday I felt the need to make a comment on a popular travel blog. I felt a sense of injustice that some comments made by readers could be considered culturally insensitive regarding customer service in the Far East. The comments centred around the almost obsessive need for those delivering customer service in the Far East to get customer feedback. On flights, in hotels and even in restaurants, Western travellers seemed put of, even incensed by the regular requests to write down their experience for the staff who’d served them. Understandably, when chased up as to why they wrote less than perfect comments, said travellers then felt even more annoyed and put out. I joined in the conversation to point out that generally, service in many parts of Asia was only considered acceptable when 9 or 10 out of 10 was given, and that confirming that a wonderful service had been delivered was a cultural norm. This seemed to inflame other bloggers, who said that if you are delivering service to international clientele, you should know that harassing a Western guest for feedback is just not cool.
But it’s not just those who deliver service who are impacting the way we receive service – it’s the customers, too! Brits abroad will often wax lyrical about their waiter or bellboy at their hotel whilst on their summer holiday, and will head back to the same location the following year to indulge another holiday of personalised service. Our cousins in America has created an ever-broader global culture of tipping for all service (rather than the European approach of tipping only for excellent service), which has changed the way customer facing employees behave in touristic locations. The service we receive and expect, along with the service we deliver is continually evolving – some for the better, some not so good. We all influence that “global” service model every time we travel abroad or buy online. Determining what is necessary, and what marks us out as “better than the rest” is no longer fixed, it’s transient. In order to know what is best, you need to be continuously sampling and reflecting on service delivered.
When considering the travel blog I mentioned above, one marketeer rightly pointed out that with survey & feedback fatigue from consumers at large, the drive by marketing and brand functions to get more feedback – on the assumption that the majority of customers will be advocates – is driving errant behaviours. All to often, hotels will ask 2, 3 or 4 times for a Tripadvisor review. This turns us off, or worse, encourages us to leave a negative comment for the heck of it. When we push too much for feedback, or ask to often, rather than increase the volume of our Voice of the Customer input, we actually reduce advocacy and potentially loose potential future business. If you are driving your customer facing people to ask for customer feedback at every single customer interaction, think how that is making the consumer feel?!
Nowadays, it’s not so clear cut. I’m sat here in a Dutch hotel chain, sipping Spanish beer, in Scotland, talking to my mobile phone provider, who’ve outsourced their service to a call centre in India. The chap who services my call is apologetic to a fault – almost grovelling when I point out a couple of issues. By the end of the call, he is conferring blessing on me, my family and my country, and wishing me the best of luck in life, love and business. Having lived in India for a few month when working for Virgin, I find this charming, it makes me smile, and I wish him the same. He ends the call by calling me brother, and I wish his family just as many blessing. To some, this might seem weird, for others, wonderful, but as global netizens, we need to learn to love and embrace the way customer service is delivered around the world, and draw the best from it in our local delivery.
So take a moment to reflect – when you’ve been on your travels, what did you love? What drove you crazy? How much of what you do to your customers makes them love or loathe you? As many of you head off on your summer holidays, tune in to the customer service experience abroad – you might just learn a think or two!