As a trainer who specializes in customer service skills transfer, I have a skewed sense of criticality when it comes to any kind of service lapse. Traditionally, industries were either the manufacturing industry or the service industry. But today, a fine line divides the expectations that customers have from products and services.
I know, I know .... 'make a good product and the world will beat a path to your door' - but today, this just isn't enough, is it? Especially when every tangible item in the world is sold with a sense of the intangible - take a look at all the tag lines:
- 'Drive home a relationship' - for a car brand
- 'Open happiness' - for a cola brand
- 'Connecting People' - for a mobile company
Let me give you another example. The government operated 'Cottage Emopriums' in Delhi have much more variety in artifacts and craft-based products than most of its privately run counterparts. The pricing too, is quite fair. However, step into one of the Cottage Emporiums, and the almost empty shopping spaces will tell you a different story; right across the street, Fabindia or Anokhi would be brimming with visitors - both Indian and foreigners. The difference is in the service.
I am an ardent vacationer ; G (the better/bitter half) and I love to grab an overnight bag and vanish from the city whenever we can. Of course, after having kids, we plan much more now, keeping in mind their convenience. Also, since both of us are hoteliers, when we plan, we really plan! So invariably, we take turns in calling up the hotel that we have booked, which gives us a fair amount of insight into their service standards.
Very often, the decision to stay in a particular hotel / resort is governed by how well you were treated on the phone. Let me give you the conversation we had with a front office executive recently - verbatim:
G : Hi! I am calling from Delhi, and we have booked a room for next week. Can I get a confirmation on that?
FOA (front office Assistant) : You booked from Delhi? Then they would have given you the confirmation letter.
G : Well, yes, but I want to know which kind of room you would be allotting us.
FOA : Sir (exasperation already in his voice), we only allot rooms one day before the arrival of the guest.
G : Ok, but I have a preference of a river view room, and if I give you a preference so much in advance, can't you make sure that I get it? (most hotels even block by a specific room, if the guest insists)
FOA : No, we only put the preference one day before. You can call us again to tell us your preference one day before you check in.
G (almost grinding his teeth into a fine paste) : But you can note it somewhere and do it yourself one day before right?
FOA : I may not be on the shift, Sir.
G (doing his deep breathing exercises) : Ok... please make a note next to my reservation request in the remarks column - you do have a remarks column right? Where you put the billing instructions? OK... put a remark there, so that anyone who handles my reservation can see it.
FOA : Fine, Sir. Anything else?
G : The website spoke of activities for the family in the evening. What activities do you have?
FOA : Nothing much, Sir. There is the swimming pool.......
G : That's a facility - what's the activity?
FOA: Ummmm.....errr....... I don't know much about that Sir. Some activity might be there.
G: Can I get a pickup from the railway station?
FOA: Yes Sir. We can send a car to pick you up. It will cost you Rs. 3500/-
G : But its sixty kilometers away! Even a flight will cost lesser! And your website said something about market priced cabs......
FOA : Sir, website says a lot of things.................
At this point, G's face had developed a hue that falls in between purple and red in the color palate, so he just put the phone down and continued with his deep breathing exorcises.
A question ...... Would you take the trouble to visit the resort?
(I was almost tempted to write the name of the resort here, but resisted it, since I'd like to draw conclusions after maybe one more phone call - quite against my standard modus operandi, but we really liked the pictures so..........)