Customer service beyond the hands

My radar screen is finely tuned to home in on examples of great, good and not-so-good service…and non-service.

I much prefer service that comes from the eyes,  mouth  and heart rather than just from the hands.

Let me explain.

From time to time, I take a cab from a central landmark in Kuala Lumpur.  This is how the transaction typically unfolds.

I wait in line. After a short period of time, I’m at the ticket counter. I smile. But it is impossible for my smile to be returned because the person  behind the counter does not show me any eye contact. Neither does her colleague.  It seems that the counter top is more important to the service staff than their customers.

The ticket officer asks me about my destination. No eye contact, no smile. No warmth. No humanity.

I let her know my destination. She tells me the price. Her hand shoots out in my direction. It is asking for money. She saves her energy by using the “talking hand trick.”

Still no eye contact.

I give her the money. The hand comes back in my direction and gives me the cab voucher.

I then say, “terima kasih” – thank you  – in Malay, the national language of Malaysia.

This is when I often get eye contact and even a half smiling acknowledgement.

End of transaction.

So what do I expect?

Actually, there are two sides to this story – my side and the side of the ticket officer.

On my side of the counter, all I want is acknowledgement. I speak of the “BDE” of the service encounter. The “B” is the beginning. In a recent post, I wrote about how to build rapport an 4 seconds. This can be done at the beginning of the transaction. Then there is the “D” – the During of the transaction. In a fast-moving, high volume ticket counter environment, smiling and being friendly would be sufficient to create a good service impression. And then there is the “E” – the end of the service encounter. This once again is the showing of eye contact, a smile and wishing the customer a good journey/see you again etc.

Now, I’d like to go to the other side of the ticket counter. The ticket clerks deal with customer after customer. In a previous post, I mentioned lessons from Maria Sharapova – treat every customer as if it is your first. Customer service people who work in high volume environments can actually make their days go faster by being friendly to their customers.

Many of these customer-facing staff say that customers are not friendly. The reality is that most (not all!) customers will mirror the behaviour of the people serving them. If the customers get a smile from the ticket officer, the customer will most likely smile back. If the customer gets a “long face”, then the customer will most often mirror this.

The bottom line is that customer service officers will make their jobs more interesting if they use service that comes from the eyes, the mouth and the heart, rather than just from the hands. They get back what they give.

So, yes, I much prefer service from the eyes, mouth and heart. I feel good in the process – and the customer service officers will enjoy their jobs a lot more than they seem to do now.

2 thoughts on “Customer service beyond the hands

  1. I totally agree with you George. I am also a keen observer of service and I love nothing more than to thank someone who provides good service. In fact it makes my day as much as theirs. Companies who really care about the customer have such amazing opportunities.


    • So, here is a simple suggestion…start a “thank you” movement among our clients. The thank yous would go to colleagues and to customers. We have started it with a client in Malaysia and it is making a real difference.


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