Service With An Attitude: A New Twist

I was in a meeting with Liew Swee Lin, a senior leader in Malaysia’s leading integrated entertainment company, Astro.

Swee Lin coined a phrase that stuck with me.

She said, “I want our people to deliver service with an attitude. I want them to take ownership for the promises they make to our customers. I want them to follow through to make sure that we deliver on our promises.”

Service with an attitude. This idea got me thinking.

We normally speak of customer service people “having a good attitude.” This concept is linked to the way that we treat the external and internal customers that we serve.

Service with an attitude adds a new dimension as it relates to situations where a promise is made by eg a customer service executive, and the delivery of that promise is dependent on the actions of people who work elsewhere in the organisation.

Service with an attitude is displayed when service employees stand up for the rights of the customer with their own colleagues. It is about following through to make sure that the promises they make to their customers are fulfilled.

Let me give you an example of where I wish my banking executive had demonstrated service with an attitude.

We had entered a new relationship with a bank. As a part of the deal, they wanted to give us credit cards.

Frankly, we don’t need another credit card. But then they enticed us with certain privileges that we could use when we travelled.

We informed our banking executive that we were heading overseas in three weeks. We wanted to know whether the card would be ready by then.

The answer was “yes.”

Okay, promise made and deal done. We signed up for the credit cards. They were going to be delivered in around a week’s time.

A week went by. No word from our banking executive. We contacted him and asked for an update. He assured us that the card would be delivered very soon.

We waited. Another week went by.

We were now one week from our travel date, We called again. Same answer, the card was on its way.

The cards did not arrive.

By this time, we were getting agitated. The bank had promised our credit cards in a week, and there were nowhere to be seen after two weeks.

Finally, with just three days before we flew out, I rang the banking executive and explained that our attitude to using the credit cards would be negatively affected if they did not arrive on time.

There was a commission to be paid to the banking executive when we activated our credit cards. So, my call raised his alarm bells. No activation of credit cards meant no commission for his efforts.

He apologised, and promised me that he would personally deliver the cards the next day.

He delivered in this promise – but, by this time, we were less than happy. It took me some time to activate the card. Happy customers buy more – and my actions reflected my feelings. And, frankly, after that experience, I don’t really want to use the credit card.

Okay, let’s analyse what happened here.

A promise was made to us by the banking executive. The fulfilment of that promise was dependent on other people in the bank’s customer service chain. There was a delay for some reason. Maybe the credit processing back office people were really busy. Maybe they were short-staffed. Maybe they had run out of plastic!

But, frankly, as customers, we don’t care about any of this. All we want is for the company to deliver on the promises that it been made to us – the promises that we, as customers, have accepted in good faith.

Did our banking executive show service with an attitude? No he did not.

It was only after our third call did he follow through to stand up for our rights. But by that time, we were in negative emotion mode.

Imagine what would have happened if, after the first week, our banking executive said something like this to the credit card processing people, “Hey guys, I NEED that credit card NOW.”

He was well within his rights to do this as the bank’s promise was not being kept – and the bank was in danger of creating an unhappy customer.

Would this have created a sense of urgency at back office level. It certainly would have put an edge on their performance – no one likes to have people breathing down our necks.

Will this process create stresses and tensions in the organisation? Most probably – at first.

However, at a human level, it will mean that the other departments involved in processing the order will, at the minimum, keep the customer-facing departments – the ones who make the promises in the first place – updated on current workloads and backlogs. They will do this to avoid the heat that would come from calls asking, “What is the hold-up?”

This in turn will enable the customer-facing staff to manage customer expectations and let them know how long they will have to wait.

This is what Swee Lin means by having service with an attitude.

It goes beyond having a “good attitude” ie being nice and doing the right thing. It is about almost hurting if the promises that they make to customers are not met.

As suggested in my last blog post, the titles of customer-facing people should be “Customer Champions” – as this suggests that they are here to serve the customer, and to uphold the customer’s rights – with attitude.

Service with an attitude. I like the concept! What do you think?

Until next time.

4 thoughts on “Service With An Attitude: A New Twist

  1. When brilliant basic or material service is lacking, no amount of goodwill can turn poor or “ok” service into service with attitude, given your story. Going to the root causes of poor delivery is essential to get the supply chain in sync with the right attitude. I do pity the sales professionals who are doing a great job selling and get blamed for the poor attitude of the support team members because sadly, we don’t really care, we just need a face to unload our disappointment. No winners in this equation. Thanks for sharing.


    • And there is another side to this, Chong Eu. It is the sales people delivering the brilliant basics of sales through service as well. It’s important for customers to feel that they have been looked after by sales people at a human level as well as a transactional level. This is an important part of the customer journey and sows the seeds for the next sale. Thanks for your comments.


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