The business of Business
People patronize products and services because of their quality and value for money. Services provided have to delight customers. It is my view that the business of business establishments is mainly to ensure that they do everything in their power to provide excellent service. Ironically, many businesses today fair poorly in delivering the kind of service that customers expect.
Consider the following scenarios from my own personal experiences:
1. A shop offering photocopying services has 3 of the 5 photocopying machines that are out of order, and the 2 machines are not fully operational because the shop ran out of toner.
2. An airline company has 1 out of 5 counters open in a busy afternoon. The attendants are either absent or taking a break, yet no person in authority takes charge & attempts to call anyone to assist & man the counters. There are already around 12 passengers queuing & they are being served by only one counter attendant.
3. On a Sunday, a mall with entrance at the basement parking is still closed at 10:00 a.m. and the security guard opens the steel gate at 10:05 a.m., with around 10 customers waiting to enter.
4. A restaurant has a particular food as its specialty but the food is not available as the main ingredient is out of stock. An alternative food is selected from the menu but it is also not available.
5. A drugstore branch does not have a queuing system. Customers are served according to how fast and how far they extend their arm in handing the doctor’s prescription to the counter attendant. The counter attendant obliges without telling the customer that another customer came ahead of him/her.
6. A gasoline station has no attendants in tow & the customer is already waiting for 5 minutes in front of the filling station.
Business Opportunities Lost
Why do these things happen? How many businesses realize that every time a prospective customer gets turned off with their service, they lose business opportunities? Why is it that some of these business establishments do not seem to care? How come they do not try hard enough to improve the services that they offer? They seem to have gotten callous and insensitive to the desires & wishes of their customers.
I personally do not come back to a restaurant where waiting time is longer than eating time, where one of the viands I ordered comes out when rice has already been consumed & when everyone is about to leave, where one has to stand & wave his/her hand just to be noticed by a waiter. I certainly leave a gasoline station after waiting for 5 minutes, with no counter attendant, supervisor or person in authority telling me that I will be attended to shortly. I would probably even ask sarcastically from a restaurant owner, after telling me that my first 2 orders are not available, to just tell me first which in the menu are available so I do not get disappointed getting a “strike 3” when my 3rd order is not available. I have also called the attention of some business establishments for their inability to come up with “Loose change”, with attendants asking “Do you have a 1.00 peso coin?” or “Is it okay if we lack 75 centavos?” Worse, some attendants will not give you 75 centavos & will keep quiet about shortchanging you.
Proper Training of Staff
Should HR be faulted for their inability to train staff properly? Or is it command responsibility and the business owners should be the ones blamed? Obviously, especially on Sundays and holidays, business establishments cut down on costs & human resources are meager. Given these, it is the call of the owners & not HR.
It is my opinion that business owners must empower HR to hire the best talents and train them well. Staff should not be assigned to service customers unless they have been given adequate training.
Take the following cases:
1. A restaurant attendant asked if I wanted the chicken I ordered chopped. She also asked what else I needed. I answered “yes I wanted my chicken chopped” and “yes I needed a bottled water & a small plate for the sauce.” Ten minutes later, the waiter came and served me unchopped chicken, a glass of tap water & no small plate in sight.
2. Arriving in the airport early, my friend & I requested a counter attendant for an earlier flight and she told us it was not possible because the plane was to board passengers in 30 minutes. An airport supervisor overheard her and asked us if we had check-in luggage and we answered in the negative. He then instructed the counter attendant to accommodate us as the plane was not full. It did not end there. We were the last two passengers & we requested for aisle seats in the middle section. The counter attendant gave us 2 rear seats. When we arrived on the plane, there were probably only 5 passengers seated in the middle section. I clarified with the plane Supervisor upon boarding why the mid-section seemed empty. He said that they were trying to balance the plane because the mid-section was where they place the luggages. Really? Two additional passengers will cause a problem to the plane if they are seated in an almost empty mid-section of the plane?
Mindfulness and Flexibility in Providing Service
On the first instance, it is my view that business establishment staff, including supervisors, customer relations officers, attendants & cashiers, should be a bit more mindful in servicing customers. They have to listen more attentively to the requests of customers and ensure that these requests are noted and observed. They have to avoid making customers wait for a long time and if ever it is inevitable that they will wait, someone from the business establishment should at least tell them that they will be attended to shortly. It should be business establishments’ foremost objective not to discomfort customers in any way.
On the second instance, I suppose that while there are manuals that contain rules and regulations as well as procedures, business establishment staff must learn to be more flexible instead of rigid in interpreting these rules and regulations as well as procedures. Sometimes, it is the fault of superiors and trainers to insist to their staff that they have to follow to the letter what are written in the manuals. Sometimes, it takes mere common sense to save the day for business establishments if staff are only allowed to use their ability to discern.
“Pastolero” (The Shepherd)
I get the feeling that many business establishments do not have a “pastolero”, that is, someone who will shepherd the service team in providing excellent service, someone who will fill in the “gaps” that he/she observes whenever service slackens or whenever annoyed customers are encountered & someone who himself/herself will attend to customers should there be a void in the service.
I think that HR people who have not only excelled in HR but also in Administrative Services can be excellent “pastoleros” in service establishments. We HR and Administration people, because of the very nature of our jobs, are mindful, discerning, sensitive to the feelings & situations of others & action-oriented.
“Pastoleros” should not be like some service providers who probably have gotten used to providing lousy service that they are callous and no longer notice what is wrong or what is right and what the customers really need. I think that business establishments must invest on hiring “pastoleros” in the workplace.
It is the Business of Business to Excel
It is the business of business to excel and satisfy the needs of customers. Most of the time, we banner “customer satisfaction” in our Vision, Mission and Values Statements but we just pay lip service to it.
It is high time that business establishments pay closer attention to their inherent business. After all, it is their business to provide high quality and excellent service to their value customers.
(Ernie Espinosa is the President of Human Resource (HR) Gabay Asia Pacific, Inc. He is a Board Member for 2014-2016 of two of the largest international HR federations in the world, the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) where he was President in 2008-2010, and the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource Management (AP-FHRM) where he was President in 2007-2008; 2012-2014. He was the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) President in 2002 & PMAP’s recipient of the People Manager of the Year Award in 2006. He was VP HR of Energy Development Corporation & Fujitsu Computer Products Corporation of the Philippines. He can be reached at [email protected] gmail.com)
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