Case study • Food for thought
Courtesy and Politeness in Thailand and Australia
The Thai people are very attentive and try to please everyone. They say whatever is needed to conform to norms of social etiquette, respect and politeness, and avoid unpleasantness and conflict. In contrast, Australians believe in absolute truth that does not depend on a situation. Thai people rarely say ‘‘please’’ or ‘‘thank you’’ as the Thai words of politeness carry the ‘‘please’’ element. As a result, English-speaking individuals think the Thai are demanding, but the Thai-speaking people think they are making a polite request. The Thai also use the smile instead of polite words. This is in contrast with the Australians, who use the words ‘‘please’’ and ‘‘thank you’’ commonly. In Thailand, respect is shown to all of higher status and age, including objects of everyday life such as books, hats, umbrellas, elephants and rice, which are associated with knowledge, the head, royalty, religion, and life. This is in contrast with Australia, where people are less respectful and do not have as many sacred symbols. (Source)
1. Respect your customer
Any relationship, be it a personal or a business one, starts with respect. As Dale Carnegie stated, one of the key principles for building relationships is to make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. Customer service is all about making customers feel valuable and important. Any customer deserves your full attention and polite, friendly attitude. That’s the easiest way to show that you really care and generate a wholesome experience that lasts.
2. Be Honest
Nothing destroys trust faster than broken promises. So always do what you promised. Be fair about prices, additional fees and extra charges. Establish clear return and refund policies. Deliver on time, or even earlier. Respond and follow-up when you say you will. Provide the services you say you provide in your correspondence and in your marketing. As the old adage goes, honesty is the best policy.
3. Take Responsibility
Professionalism implies that you are ready to take responsibility for the problems or negative experiences that customers are having with your services. This means that you, as a professional skipper are ready to sincerely apologize to a customer, even when a problem or a situation that caused customer’s frustration was not your fault at all. Apologize and do your best to make sure the issue gets fixed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
4. Always Put Yourself in The Customer’s Shoes
Have you ever tried putting yourself in the place of the customer before addressing their request? It probably comes with experience. Personal experience of your own where you encountered unsatisfactory customer service. Could you recall how it feels to get frustrated or neglected when you look for support and assistance? Would you let your customers feel this way, too? Let this unpleasant situation teach you something – always think of how you look like from a customer’s perspective.
5. Express Your Gratitude
Words of gratitude will make your customers feel appreciated. Saying “Thank You” to the people who chose you won’t take you much effort but it will definitely show how grateful you are. Also, it shows you appreciate the opportunity to be helpful and provide assistance to them.
5 Essential Don’ts
1. Don’t Make Things Overly Complicated
Never underestimate the inexperience of your clients. Today’s clients are much more sophisticated, experienced and technically savvy, but they still expect you to guide them and take care of them like children. You need to be easy and straightforward when your clients need help and advice.
2. Don’t Be Indifferent
Indifference kills skipper-client relation. It means you just don’t care. Yes, you can call it an occupational hazard and attribute it to dozens or hundreds of tasks you have to do but you should always find time for your clients or excuse yourself extremely politely and get back to them in a very short notice. Your job is to take care and make any client’s problem, your own problem.
3. Don’t Treat Clients as Transactions
As Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson once put it, “Care about a customer’s heart, not just her pocketbook.” In other words, don’t treat people coming to you as a one-time transaction, do all your best to build strong and long-lasting relationship. Show a true interest and stay in touch so they would come back again.
4. Don’t Ignore Client Feedback
Make sure you listen to your clients. Let them share their opinion about their experience with you, keep open to any kind of suggestions or feedback they might have. This will make you a better skipper. Let them know that you really care about what they think and expect of you. Putting customers’ thoughts into the focus is a good practice. And it usually pays off hugely.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Complaints
No matter how hard you try, you can’t satisfy all your clients. Complaints are inevitable, so don’t discourage them. As Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller stated in their book, “A complaint is a gift“. In other words, any complaint is an opportunity to find and fix a problem. Complaints direct your attention to the areas that need improvement.