Can Excellent Customer Service Exist Without Kindness?

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Home > Articles > Can Excellent Customer Service Exist Without Kindness?

 Can Excellent Customer Service Exist Without Kindness?

William Wan | Today's Manager
September 2, 2019

​Bad customer service is frustrating so be kind and make someone’s day.

In our interactions with others, be it friends, colleagues, or strangers, it is easy to recognise when we have been treated kindly or unkindly.

Similarly, we can easily distinguish good customer service from bad customer service. Good customer service usually puts a smile on our face and often makes our day. This happens when service staff understands our needs and goes the extra mile to help us find the product or service that we need, or resolve a problem. Even in the case of online stores, a personalised note received in the mail makes all the difference.

On the other hand, bad customer service can make one feel frustrated and helpless.

While there are many things that can affect the retail experience of a shopper—online or offline—customer service is undoubtedly one of the top factors that impact how shoppers perceive brands.

According to the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer 1, 50 per cent of consumers have abandoned a purchase due to poor service experience, seven in 10 shoppers say they’ll spend more money with a business that provides great customer service consistently, and 33 per cent of customers say they’d look to switch to a competitor after a single bad service experience.

What Determines Excellent Customer Service?
Those working in the retail, food and beverage (F&B), or hospitality industry would be no stranger to a list of “X steps to great customer service” in their training programmes upon starting with an organisation. Some common steps include: start with a smile, be polite and respectful, anticipate what the customer needs, respond promptly, and so on.

These steps are all important in ensuring a pleasant customer experience. However, excellent customer service requires more than following a formula or series of steps. Sustainable excellent customer service needs to come from the heart.

It is the attitude of kindness in us, that allows us to empathise with the customers’ needs. Approaching difficult customers with a positive attitude can completely change expectations and turn the situation around. Small acts of kindness and empathy can go a long way to make customers feel cared for and served.

The Disney brand is more than a theme park with rides; Disney sells an experience. They have captured what it means to provide customer service with kindness. In fact, it’s required by “cast members,” as Disney park employees are called, to make sure that customers are having a great day. 2 That might mean handing out a pin, replacing a dropped ice-cream cone, giving directions, answering every question with more than “I don’t know,” or just finding out why a child is crying. Each staff is empowered to embody kindness.

Embodying Kindness in Customer Service
An attitude of kindness and graciousness is only possible when it stems from a company culture of kindness. If we want our employees to treat our customers with kindness, we must treat our employees first with kindness.

Kindness is all about treating our customers and employees as people—the way we want to be treated appreciating them, getting to know them, listening to them, and showing that we care. It is no accident that The Ritz-Carlton addresses their staff at all levels as “ladies and gentlemen”.

The benefits to the organisation are plenty.

When kindness is part of the company culture, employees are more likely to work hard for the company and go the extra mile. Kindness can also boost staff morale and employee engagement. This translates into a more motivated workforce and lower staff turnover, so employers can better retain talent. Companies will find that because of its positive reputation, it will not be difficult to find top talent, as kind people are naturally attracted to kind organisations.

A culture of kindness is great for a company’s brand. In a world where consumers have an abundance of brands that they can choose from, kindness can be the difference in winning customers. Genuine acts of kindness, good deeds, and selflessness—whether small or large— allow brands to stay authentic so that people can connect with them.

Actions Speak Louder than Words
Consumers today are perceptive and can easily tell if a brand campaign is authentic or merely a public relations stunt. Hence, it is important that the customer experience needs to be aligned with the message, and that employees walk the talk.

As automation increases and more brick-and-mortar stores move online, brands need to adapt to new technologies and channels of communications. The ways in which employees interact with customers are also changing.

However, as long as a culture of kindness and graciousness exists within the organisation, and its values are at the core of all internal and external communication, I believe excellent customer service, however manifested in the new economy, will still be felt and appreciated by customers. It will not become a thing of the past.





Dr William Wan is a Justice of the Peace and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). He was a senior partner of a regional law firm and a managing director of a psychometric company headquartered in the USA.

Copyright © 2019 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 3, 2019

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