I enjoyed watching the BBC 2 programme Michel Roux’s service last night, particularly with regard to the whole question of “service”. In a world where the younger generation expect “respect” without earning it, Michel Roux has an uphill battle to expect his charges to respect the customer, regardless of how irritating the customer genuinely may be. Reading this morning I came across this quote from a manager of a North African hotel which illustrates the attitude required.
“We strive very hard to get the whole organisation focused on the customer and focused on providing the customer with a consistent and very high quality of service.’ HR specialists have given a great deal of thought to finding ways of ensuring that the staff across the globe are committed to the senior managers’ goals of high customer service quality. The general manager of one of the North African hotels clearly and thoughtfully stated the key to this: ‘People like to live a dream, you know, and it is our duty to try to fulfil their dreams. The key is the human aspect of things. Technology can help a lot, but technology can be upsetting; the human service, the human element, soothes and calms people. We have a job here to make people calm, to make them happier, and that a machine can’tdo – it aggravates people. So we have to make our guests feel as if they were a friend, that they’re not a pawn in the world and that when they come to us they are recognised for what they are. We have to look after them and that’s what I mean when I say that we are in the people business. It’s the interaction between customer and staff that counts. On this I have little direct influence at all. When you sit in the coffee shop and you’re being served a cup of coffee I have no influence. I can make sure that the system functions: that the coffee is hot, the china is clean, the spoons are clean, the table is clean and the waiter serves the coffee properly and looks neat and tidy – all that the system can arrange. But to give the smile, and to make the interaction right, that is much more than the system; that’s a way of life. You can’t force people to smile or to be happy, but you have somehow to create it.”