Monday, 25 May 2015

[Straits Times] Time to train S'poreans to be better customers

HIGHER service standards can be attained only if good relationships between customers and service staff exist ("Service levels here still not up to scratch: Experts"; Wednesday, and "Understand difficulties retail staff face" by Ms Mary Chan Pheck Li; yesterday).
Mention poor service and sales staff invariably come to mind; little has been said about customers who contribute to this sad state of affairs.
Having worked in the retail sector for many years, it saddens me that our quality of service has not been up to expectations despite our strong emphasis on training.
Perhaps, it is time for us to view the issue in perspective.
Singaporeans may be adequately trained to serve, but things will not get any better if they are not trained to shop properly ("PM Lee on service standards: Be a good customer as well"; Tuesday).
Our local customers are characterised as irrational, bossy, impatient and lacking understanding for the problems encountered by service providers.
Comparatively, Japanese and Caucasian customers are generally more gracious and friendly, and they tend to smile and thank the staff, which could be why our sales staff prefer serving foreigners.
Unlike Singaporeans, many foreigners are considerate and gracious shoppers who would normally return merchandise
that is not to their liking to where it was originally placed.
This is not the case with locals who fling T-shirts and slippers everywhere when they find them unsuitable.
In such an uncongenial situation, some service staff may find it difficult to smile, much less provide good service.
Alas, there are customers who still harbour the archaic mentality that service staff are subservient to them; they fail to respond to greetings from service staff, thinking that the latter are employees who do not expect, or deserve, simple courtesies.
However, times have changed, and people who work in the service industry today are better educated and knowledgeable; they want a right to their dignity.
Hence, customers must shed the outmoded "the customer is always right" notion; instead, they should be considerate in their expectations of service providers.
Hopefully, then, there will be endearing customer-staff relationships which, in turn, further improve the quality of service.
Jeffrey Law Lee Beng