Customer service is an important issue in the Human Resources world. As succinctly stated by China Gorman, former COO of SHRM, “As business leaders and HR professionals, we all know about the close relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.” In the past week or so, China , Trish McFarlane, Mike VanDervort, and Deidre Honner – exceptional HR bloggers all – have posted about customer service.
I recently returned from a vacation with a desire to write about the same issue, but from a slightly different perspective. I want to tell you about genuinely helpful and friendly employees who bent over backwards to service my needs, and I am going to theorize why this type of service is so rare that one is surprised and delighted when it occurs. Especially because it does not involve Zappos. 😉
I went on a cruise.
For 10 days and nights I was aboard a floating hotel city, where my need for food, drink, sleep, recreation, and entertainment was in the hands of one company and their employees. For those 10 days, I was surrounded by cruise employees with friendly faces and cheerful greetings. It did not take the wait staff long to learn that I like iced tea a lot, so when I sat down at a table 3 or 4 glasses of iced tea would instantly appear. My room steward had the sweetest smile and happiest voice ever. Her “good morning!” always cheered me, even on the day I had a bad eye infection and was running a fever. It amazes me that she could display such a consistently positive, upbeat demeanor after cleaning my toilet and shower. I could bore you to death with other examples.
I have been on well over 20 cruises, so I am not a gushing newbie. I have found that most cruise line employees try very hard to ensure the customer’s satisfaction, although Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) (my recent host), did a truly exceptional job in this area.
So why does the cruise industry, and RSSC in particular, excel in the customer service area when so many other companies fail? The sad answer, in my opinion, is entitlement. Many US workers feel that they are entitled to jobs, and many US companies feel they are entitled to customers. That attitude of entitlement causes both employees and companies to forget that they exist to serve their customers, and leads to the online gripes and complaints that they earned. Remember Dave Carroll and his broken guitar?
Most cruise ship workers come from economically depressed countries where earnings don’t come close to matching the US and other Western countries. The workers on my recent cruise -and who I interviewed specifically for this blog – came from Romania, Indonesia, Phillipines, Serbia, and India. They work for cruise ships because they can earn a lot more money than they can in their countries of origin. They don’t feel the slightest bit entitled to any job.
Cruise companies aren’t entitled to passengers, either. Only 20% of Americans have ever been on a cruise, and competition for passengers is fierce. These companies can’t afford to let lousy customer service make them lose a competitive advantage.
I’m not going to talk about other issues with cruise workers – and yes, I know there are many – in this blog. Whatever the other issues, I am grateful for the RSSC workers who tried so hard to give me a pleasant vacation experience, and wish more companies and their employees would follow that lead.
Weigh in! Does an attitude of entitlement foster poor customer service?