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Great Service is about Social Intelligence

Q. I have an experience to share; this happened to me on Monday. I visited after a long while, a kirana store I used to buy daily use stuff from. The kirana shopwala Anna (storeowner) remembered which brand of nicotine I preferred, even though I had gone to him after a very long time. Next to Anna's shop was this huge building that had come up recently, sporting a new coffee shop.

I decided to give the Cafe' a visit. The coffee was good, but one thing that irritated me was the constant query by the service guy on how the coffee was. He kept asking about the service delivery and about possible improvements he could bring about.

From his point of view he was giving me greater consideration as a customer, but I felt irritated by the extra attention. I for some reason believed he was doing this to convince me I am a valuable customer, and not necessarily because he was interested in what I had to say. I have had similar experience from other outlets too.

The humble kiranawala Anna never asked about the service quality, or the taste of the omelette he made, but he remembered what I required every time, and that to me was far more appealing than the requests for suggestions.

Your comment?

My comment: I am not surprised this happenedService delivery isn't easy, as the people rendering the service are called to 'assess' customers they are serving, and accordingly customize their engagementMeaning, in a restaurant you could get the Bodhisattva-types who want to be left alone, as you could get pompous idiots who want their egos stoked. Its the service person who needs to differentiate between the two and accordingly vary the service experience.

In your case, the service person failed to see the bother he was causing with his constant questioning. That's because he wasn't socially intelligent enough to 'read' you. 

There's a second issue to this encounter, one of being genuine. A service encounter as designed by the provider must be played out as one that's genuineMeaning, if the rule-book says you 'show care', and you do it, do so because you really care. It mustn't be a 'forced' concern that seeps through. If you have flown in an airplane, you know what I am talking about. Just before flyers step into the cabin, you have these hostesses welcoming you at the door. Nine times out of ten we know they are dishing out welcome routines that are a sham. We know they do it because that's what the service operation book says. I for one would prefer they shut up and not say anything than do their fake routine. 

In the case of your Cafe' experience, its possible the service person you encountered was doing his fake routine. At least you thought so. That is a pity. Service people need to be genuine. If they aren't, there will surely come a time when they will be called out for the sham they put up.

In the world of marketing, service is now the differentiator. In an era of commoditization of brands, services have become the key differential that tips consumer favor towards brands that have it. Services that are thoughtful and genuine, that is. 


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