America invented customer service, and then forgot about it The irony of customer service is that America invented the concept of customer service on a corporate level. The reason this is so ironic, is that these days, corporations are in a huge hurry to save as much money on customer service as possible while sacrificing quality. I would say that these days, America is very unreliable in customer service on all levels from restaurants, stores, banks to large corporations.
What about other countries?
Traditionally Europe never had good customer service according to a friend of mine who is from Austria. I cannot confirm her claim, but after my brief visit to Europe, I was appauled at how I was treated as
a customer. Indians have good customer service if you go to a hotel or restaurant in person. But, the minute you are dealing with a phone company, or dealing over the phone with anyone, the quality of service degrades to a horrible level.
Hospitality in Ethiopia
I spent three hours talking to a local Ethiopian girl who told me that
in their country they learn hospitality from age three. When they come
to America they excel in any business involving hospitality including
restaurants, hotels, cafes, etc. It comes naturally to them as that is
part of their culture. They know how to interact well, make you feel
at home, and take care of all of your needs. In short, with
Ethiopians, you will be treated like a king. What a nice change from
being treated like “whatever.”
Customer service is cultural.
However, cultures change over time, and America has gone from a place where customers are cared for to a place where saving money is key. India is a place where customer service involves having someone who can barely communicate in any language answer the phone and then put you on hold without even asking permission which is the height of rudeness — then, the phone disconnects and you get hung up on.
What can we learn?
We learn from others. Unfortunately, if you are in an environment where people are unkind, you will learn to be unkind. If you start off nice, the moral erosion might take a few years or decades, but those bad guys around you will rub off on you. On the other hand, if we want to learn how to give the best customer service, we can learn from those who do it best. We can learn what they are doing, and what it is about them that makes them so good.
My favorite restaurant has three Italian waiters.
These are not run of the mill guys. They have all traveled and had a lot of life experiences. Additionally, they are warm, inviting, friendly, talkative, and they love food. At other restaurants they have people who are just there because it is a job. Having people who bring personality, warmth, and spice to a job makes the customer service experience a lot better.
It pays to travel the world
If you go to different countries and see how they interact and see how they serve people, you will learn something. Of course you’ll see the “how not to” more than anything else. But, you might also see how nice Indians can be if they are in person (opposed to behind a phone) and how Ethiopians interact with guests. You might see how Wells Fargo handles its affairs in a professional way, and how efficient the Japanese are handling basic business transactions. I don’t believe you can provide good customer service unless you soak in some experiences with good role models and make service a priority.