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Change in mindsets needed
19/01/2007 The Star  Winning Ways by PUAN SRI T.D. AMPIKAIPAKAN

Substandard services from both the government and private sectors, Malaysia is beleaguered by problems that are preventing it from becoming truly world-class.

HAVE you noticed how quickly we make excuses for substandard services provided by the government sectors and yet we are indignant when we get crap service from the private sector? Why the discrimination? After all, we pay for all the services that are provided for us by the state and the private sector.

As Malaysian citizens, we pay all sorts of taxes – for the water and electricity we use, the roads we drive on, the land we live on. In fact, we pay for everything that we think the public sector provides. We do not look at the big picture; we think it is gratis and so we do not complain when we are short-changed by the service sector. If you are brave enough to complain, your file goes missing. This is the reason why we put up with the rude, curt, unhelpful and often moody service providers.

On the other hand, our perception that immediate payment is required for service in the private sector is the reason why we get so incensed when the service rendered is not to our satisfaction.

The bottom line is all about perception. We expect people in the public sector to be unhelpful and rude. And then we are so surprised when we get “the service” that we rave about what should come naturally to people working in the service industry.

The whole world revolves around the business that is done and the people involved in doing the business. A country’s image is centred on its people and how they respond to others who come to their shores either as business partners or visitors.

Look around and see how great nations are perceived by their own people and others in the world. They will tell you that their country survives and thrives because they know that their businesses are build on friendships with people from other shores.

Why do we not see it? Why do the people in the service industry ignore the fact that the customer is the “big boss”? When a customer walks away, he basically has fired everyone – from the CEO down – just by taking his custom elsewhere, unless you have no choice and the company is a monopoly.

Imagine if every visitor to Malaysia has experiences that leave much to be desired. All that he or she has to do is go north, past the Isthmus of Kra and on to our neighbour!

Every employee is a service provider; it does not matter whether you are serving someone face-to-face or sitting behind a computer working on a project. Everyone directly or indirectly serves a customer.

Real service starts from the top. When a CEO comes down and talks to the customer, you show your people that you care and you show your customers that you are serious about the service you provide. True leaders do not compromise on the quality of their service. They know that:

·Without the customer, you have no job. Imagine no one going to the Immigration Department on a Monday morning to apply for a passport. Calculate the loss of revenue if that happens.

·Your customer is not a nuisance who upsets your work schedule. Attend to the customer’s requests and needs – for that’s the reason you have a job. Yet some do this with much reluctance.

·Visitors to your home are special. How do you treat them? With great courtesy, I hope. Your customer is also your guest. You have an obligation to treat the person with respect and courtesy. The smile, the greeting, the essence of what you are expected to do to cater for their needs as well as how you treat them if you are unable to satisfy their every wish, are all part of the service portfolio.

·The customer at your service window is not your enemy with unreasonable requests. The customers are there because they have a need. Your job specification tells you to serve the customer, providing quality and excellent service.

If your organisation truly cares about the perception of service, then do a service audit. Will the people in the Prime Minister’s Department dare to do a customer survey? Will the Ministry of Education look into their customer feedback? Will schoolteachers do a survey on the way their students and parents view their service? Malaysians think that a verbal complaint is an insult and a written one is an injury, not realising that feedback on service can only make one improve. The following questions will give you a glimpse into how you treat your customers.

·Do your customers get the service that is promised by your organisation?

·Do they enjoy coming to see you or do business with you? Do you get a smile from your customers when they see you at the counter?

·Do they tell others about your good service? Do you get letters of commendation?

·Do they feel that you have at least done your best to help?

I had a complaint from a parent who was misinformed about entrance requirements for a place in a particular private university. What if your staff members misinform potential customers? Imagine this story going around to other candidates who are likely to apply. Imagine the negative publicity.

Only an organisation that is customer-driven will thrive in this competitive world. We, in Malaysia, need to understand that concept and work through what we want our service promise to be and the kind of people we hire who will keep that promise.

Your service standards cannot be a computer-generated letter of apology that requires no signature. You might as well shape up or ship out.


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