What does good service mean?

For the customer, a human connection can make all the difference

By Alina Ovanesso

The word service is not the same in all the languages and neither is its implication. Depending on the country we are from, our expectations of service – and what that concept even means – can differ quite a lot.

However, even though the cultural aspect of service is hard to overlook, I am going to deliberately dismiss it. I’m going to tell you, instead, about my thoughts on the notion of universal service. It’s what I think is important in a customer experience and let’s see if it isn’t the same for you…

Whether you are the most outgoing personality or socially challenged, service pushes you to socialize. Like any other socialization, this affects me personally and this is why I pay attention to good service. Good service can cheer me up and put me in a great mood for a few hours or sometimes it can even make my day!

Recently, I bought a bicycle, and the good service I received affected the whole purchase experience. The shop assistant helping me was very competent and well trained. He immediately adjusted some of the parts to fit me and informed me about some crucial things to remember. I found it surprising because, during my previous bike purchases – I have owned four others in the last few years – I never experienced anything like this. Besides being competent, the shop assistant also showed empathy, sharing his own experiences. There was a very important human factor attached to his service that made me feel he could relate to me. That connection, perhaps, makes all the difference. Who wants to be served by a robot or machine?

I have, however, also experienced quite the opposite. There are numerous cases where service seems to not only lack that human connection, but also any flexibility with regard to the “rules.” Once, after choosing a bunch of roses at a flower shop, I asked the shopkeeper if I could also buy a little bit of colorful ribbon and I’d wrap them myself. Can you imagine my surprise when she said “no”? Apparently, the policy was to only decorate flowers bought inside the store, not the ones exhibited outside. But I had already selected the flowers; there was no other way to get that ribbon. And the shopkeeper could not see beyond this silly rule, which was clearly more important than a customer’s happiness.

To me service should be much more than an efficient transaction. And these examples illustrate what the ingredients of the good service are to me: humanity and flexibility. Humanity is indispensable. The ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What kind of service would you want? What kind of service would make you come back? And I think flexibility is something that should be built in to policies so that service providers have a chance to exercise that humanity. After all, isn’t customer satisfaction the goal of every transaction?

Sometimes I wonder: is my interpretation of good service so much different from others? I am inclined to think that it is not – that everyone, regardless of his or her cultural background, welcomes some element of humanity. After all, a smile is the same in every language. Isn’t it?

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