Customer Service Begins with an “A”

“A” is for Attitude. And customer service is built on the bedrock of a positive attitude. Without a positive attitude all of the attempts to “train” customer service will fail.

Customer service attitude

Picture this; a man, Mr Jones, walks up to the front desk of an hotel at the beginning of a holiday. He has just completed a twelve hour flight in economy class overnight to reach his destination.

The food and service were passable, nothing better or worse than expected in economy class. Immigration officials at both ends of his journey were pleasant, if not so efficient.

There was a little problem with getting a taxi and he got to the hotel no more than an hour or so later than he anticipated. On a journey with a twelve hour flight he considered that to be not too bad in his experience and was content although quite tired as he was not a good sleeper on flights.

His well earned holiday had been at the forefront of his mind as he boarded the aeroplane. It had now receded somewhat as the need to clean off the sweat of travel and the smells of the aeroplane by getting under a steaming hot shower became his compelling desire. And perhaps to rest his head on a clean, fluffy pillow for twenty minutes or so to recuperate before having a nice, fresh breakfast.

He was a seasoned traveller so he made sure that he booked a day ahead to enable him to book in after sunrise and not to have to wait until the previous occupants, if there were any, had checked out.

Unfortunately, a mix up in his booking had occurred. The night shift staff, recognising that he had not turned up by midnight, assumed he was not going to arrive and sold his room to a late arrival who was part of a small tour party larger in size than expected. His room was not going to be available until sometime after 12:00.

Think of two different attitudes of the hotel front office staff member who greeted him upon his arrival.

First, let us think of the “blame the night staff” attitude. After initial pleasantries the conversation may have gone something like this.

Staff member: “I am sorry sir. The night staff gave your room away when you did not turn up. You will have to wait for your room. I am so sorry those people are so bad.”

Guest (irritated): “I did turn up, I am here now.”

Staff member: “But you did not turn up on time last night when the staff expected you to.”

Guest: “I was never supposed to be here last night. I gave you my flight details in the booking. I was always due here this morning.”

Staff member: “I am sorry sir. If you would wait over there I’ll let you know when your room is available”.

Guest: “When will the room be available?”

Staff member: “I don’t know sir. It depends on when the people in your room sign out. We were fully booked last night.”

And so the conversation goes on with perhaps an escalation to a supervisor and perhaps with the guest becoming irate.

Let us now think of the customer service attitude. A similar conversation may have gone something like this.

Staff member: “I am sorry, sir, your room is not available as you expected.”

Guest (annoyed): “Why is it not available? I booked it!”

Staff member: “I do not know what has happened specifically Mr Jones, but let me see if I can make you comfortable whilst I solve this problem. Did you fly in overnight? Would it be helpful if I could arrange for you to be able to have a shower and get changed whilst I sort this out?”

Guest: “What I would really like is my room, but a shower would be nice. Thanks.”

Staff member: “Are you hungry? I can organise a nice hot breakfast for you after your shower”.

Guest: “That would be great”.

In the first instance the attitude is wrong. The focus is not on the customer and his expectations, a shower and breakfast and a sleep, or possible solutions. It is on shifting blame and the customer is left thinking “Who cares about you, what about me?”

Customer service begins and ends with attitude. Attitude is partly a factor of an individual’s personality, but is also driven by the environment people work in. It is the leadership, processes, policies, performance management, motivation and team spirit that dictate the attitude of individuals in a corporation to a large degree.

If you are a leader and you want your people to deliver great customer service, then remember that is your attitude to developing an appropriate environment that will drive their attitude. Their attitude will determine what level of service your customers enjoy.

About the Author

Kevin Dwyer is Director of Change Factory. Change Factory helps organisations who do not like their business outcomes to get better outcomes by changing people’s behaviour. Businesses we help have greater clarity of purpose and ability to achieve their desired business outcomes.

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