One Thing I’ve Learnt from the Service Industry

What’s the first thing that comes to mind if I were to ask you which is the most popular Hot Pot in Singapore? If your answer isn’t HaiDiLao, chances are, you haven’t been there yet. Despite the high prices (Average $40/pax), they seem to have no issues getting full table reservations every weekend and people are willing to queue up to 4 hours just to have a meal. While I was dining with my family there recently, I asked myself what made them so popular and why people are always coming back? HaiDiLao is able to retain their customers and attract new patrons at the same time – something most businesses struggle to achieve. What made them so successful?

Top tier customer service

This is no doubt the core of their business. From the beginning when we get our queue numbers to the moment we leave the restaurant, we are always greeted with a huge smile. Every single time I patronise HaiDiLao, I would leave with a really good feeling. But is this really the main reason why they are so successful? How do businesses such as Singapore Airlines enjoy such high levels of customer satisfaction too? We have to dig deeper into the true meaning of customer service.

The true meaning of customer service

During my time as a staff in Universal Studios Singapore, I got a glimpse of what the tourism industry is like. I was a part-time admin staff and had to do frequent patrols around the park to ensure things were smooth for both guests and employees.

During one of my afternoon checks, I happened to spot a little commotion. One of the guests approached the staff stationed at the express queue and told him that his one-time express pass was wrongly marked and he hadn’t used it yet. However, his ticket was clearly marked and torn, indicating that it was used. I could tell the staff was not buying his nonsense and wanted to turn him down, but his leader quickly stepped in and apologised for the error, even giving him entry into the express queue.

Baffled, the staff asked his leader: “Why did you let him in? It was clearly a scam and he is cheating us and the resort’s money.” The leader responded: “It is not worth it. Because this is what customer service is all about.”

I was shocked. I always thought customer service was all about greeting customers with a wide smile.

It was at that moment I realized:

“Customer service is all about biting the bullet, even when we know we are in the right”

In Singaporean slang: suck thumb and continue…

Why is this the case?

From the logical point of view, let’s say…with every 100 customers, 95% are happy paying customers, 2.5% are scammers, and the remaining 2.5% are legit customers with issues. What happens if we start to think we are always right and are not prone to mistakes? We are going to group these 2.5% customers with actual issues with the other 2.5% scamming customers and end up in a situation where we identify all 5% of our customers as “scammers”.

Starting to see my point? Let’s say for example you buy the latest iPhone, unbox it at home and find a crack on your front screen probably dented during shipping. You head to the Apple store and they deny your claim, saying you dropped it and have to bear full responsibility for the damaged phone. How furious would you be? You will start ranting to your friends, family and might eventually take it to social media, destroying their reputation. But if the staff bit the bullet and took responsibility for it, you will walk away happy and wouldn’t make a huge fuss. In fact, you might even leave a nice review for them! Not only do they keep you as their customer, they also manage to protect their reputation as the first trillion dollar company.

The fact that 2.5% of their customers are trying to cheat them isn’t the issue. The real issue lies within what these 2.5% scammers + another 2.5% legit customers with issues can do if they do not get what they want. I can guarantee that if this happens to any one of my aunts (and they aren’t the type that scam), they are going to spread the news like wildfire, stronger than you can ever imagine.

It isn’t worth it

The same concept applies to any business out there. Going back to HaiDiLao, I’m sure they are aware that there are customers making false claims that they are celebrating their birthdays just to treat themselves to a free fruit platter. Yet, they still give their customers the benefit of the doubt and celebrate with them.

As a business, it doesn’t matter if we give in and our customers don’t write us a good review or thank us for it. Because if they do, it’s a bonus for us. But the moment we put our pride in front of us and assume they are trying to cheat us, it doesn’t matter if their claim is legit or a scam. We can be rest assured they are going to say bad things about our company and slowly but surely, these negative news will cause a decline in customers and a damage to the business. Would we rather lose a small amount of our capital on those 2.5% scammers or lose 97.5% of our happy and legit customers?

Applying it to our lives

Most of you must be wondering – I’m not a business owner, so what does this got to do with me? Well, the principle I shared can be applied to many areas in our lives.

At work, when someone from another department (especially the seniors and bosses) claim they are busy and request for our help on tasks unrelated to our job scopes, be grateful, bite the bullet and help them. Don’t assume they want to slack off and take advantage of us and tell them “It’s not my job”. If we help them, who knows? We may have made a new friend! However should we be really busy, then we can explain our situation and I’m sure they will understand. If they still enforce it upon us repeatedly, then it’s time to ask ourselves if they really do deserve us, weigh the pros and cons, and decide if it is worth all the pain. If you continue to read my blog in the future and save your emergency funds, I’m sure some of you will be more than willing to leave a toxic environment to pursue greener pastures.

In the stock market, it is important to bite the bullet and admit our loss. A very good example of this is GoPro Inc (Ticker: GPRO). Towards the end of 2016, investors were hyped about their new drone and started buying their shares at $10 each. When it failed, they didn’t accept their loss and claimed it was just a ‘paper loss’. The company had no other areas of growth, it was screwing up over and over again, and sales are continuing to decline, yet some investors continued to hold their shares until they reached an all time low of $4.42 per share.

If we make a bad decision and buy a certain stock only to discover later on it isn’t a good company and it doesn’t align with our investment plans, then ‘suck thumb’ and accept the loss. Don’t let emotions overwhelm you and start taking control by making the right move.

I’m sure there are more examples of biting the bullet, but I hope this article brings a new perspective about customer service, how we can learn from them and how we can apply it in our lives.

*Featured image from Evolllution

If you’ve enjoyed this content, please share it around. Be notified when I publish a new article by clicking the subscribe via email button on the right. For those who prefer social media, you may follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Medium. If you also enjoy writing and sharing your ideas, I’m open to collaborations. Feel free to contact me here or at thefivelayers@gmail.com if you need help or have any questions.

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