Customer service, where art thou?

Read this piece this morning over my must-have cup:

Make good service a way of life (Source)
At your service with Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan

Keeping the customer satisfied should be the most important consideration for any service provider – be it in the public or private sector.

A COUPLE of days ago I received an e-mail from a service provider. They gave me three options to activate my service; do it via e-mail, SMS or by telephone.

I chose to confirm by e-mail, as that would have been the most convenient given my job demands. Lo and behold, I get back an e-mail message asking me to confirm my confirmation via, SMS and telephone.

On another occasion, now as an internal customer, I was invited to a meeting via e-mail only to be told that I had to confirm my attendance in the attached form that was to be faxed back to the organisers.

Whether an internal or external customer, I found the complete absurdity of bureaucracy in full action in both instances.

Service must make sense.

Common sense must always prevail in service rendered to us common people. It must serve people of all walks of life, in all income clusters from various histories and family backgrounds, and nationalities.

Service must be time-sensitive and it must be agile to times as well. What may work today may no longer do so tomorrow as priorities change, expectations grow with maturing public and global demands.

This holds true in any country, any service and no less any public service delivery.

In each of our defined daily roles — be that of a hawker, a housewife, an unemployed or a student, a CEO or a public official like myself, we each look for one thing and one thing only when we seek a SERVICE.

That when we turn up to a point of service, it is delivered as promised by the provider with basic human courtesies extended.

No amount of technology advancement can replace this elementary and essential need we all want from a service — public or private.

I have received many complaints of public service delivery and its officials – not on lack of technology advancement and modernity – but mostly on the runarounds given to the public by our officials.

Whilst we must work and hold to laws inscribed there is nothing stopping anyone from making life comfortable for a customer when he/she visits a foyer with a long waiting queue.

Officials could do the” McDonald” for instance where a staff would go down the line to take orders. By the time you are at the counter your order is ready for collection.

We could offer refreshments to make the wait less taxing. Even seemingly inconsequential actions such as answering the telephone courteously could calm a somewhat irate customer. Nothing beats the pressure gauge more than to ring a line with no answer or when it is answered, you find that you need to call another number for your problem to be solved.

Recently, when the systems failed at the Immigration Department in Pusat Bandar Damansara (PBD), the whole team decided to compensate the customers – who were kept waiting – by working the next day, a Sunday, at the nearest office to complete the interrupted work.

In its simplest form of service innovation, this action would leave a long term positive emotional impact on a customer.

The fundamental essence of service to me is respecting the sacredness of time itself; sacredness of the customer’s time. The customer is the most important person, not the provider.

When we keep people waiting without notice and set expectations (in whatever form), it displays total disrespect for that person.

Arguably, strength of character is the main denominator to extending “boutique” service.

Where there is strength in character, integrity follows. Where there is integrity, what is expected of one in any situation and of any task is delivered and delivered to nothing less than excellence and fineness.

When we have people with the right attitude and character delivering service, their quest for success will be driven by making life as simple and comfortable for customers.

Even when things break down, technology flounders on a bad day, your customer service remains intact. In the instance of the Immigration service, even when systems failed, the service itself did not break down!

How one handles and manages the customer can make a potentially explosive moment into a “it’s not a big issue” second.

Based on this rule — we make for an environment where officials will always look to innovate, improve, refine the delivery system.

Making it simpler, efficient and no doubt satisfying for our CUSTOMERS. The quest for modernity and hardware advancement will be driven by the software needs — i.e. the customer’s convenience and comfort. There is order to the rule. Things are not done in vacuum and on a perceived need any more. When we have these basics of SERVICE in our tenets and charter, the public service delivery would move Malaysia to great heights globally, making it a formidable brand.

Public officials must reach out across the aisles to all our partners and critiques. Every one of them is our customer; even our harshest critiques.

As service providers we must accept criticisms as a gift, a gift for improvement without which we remain stagnant and torpid. We must work off humility and integrity as our points of reference.

Every public official must have the competency of a “Public’s Complaint Bureau.” Complaints management must be the “problem” of every official.

Engagement with stakeholders, including the media, must be the scorecard of everyone in the service.

Without engagement, we will continue to operate in our own world view — an ineffective proposition by any means, not simply for the Public Service but for the public and country at large.

When public officials revert to the basics of real service we inculcate a culture of quality, precision and excellence in the public service of Malaysia.

On a day when all is broken, the fineness of our Service Delivery will remain remarkably intact!

A very ‘enlightening’ piece, I must say, which I doubt every reader of The Star do not know. But, errr… Tan Sri, since you have noticed it and are aware of it, what are you going to do about it?

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