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November 28, 2012 / glennlim thots

Service Excellence

While in Malaysia recently, I had the opportunity to witness an outstanding example of service excellence. I was having a cuppa at a HK-style cafe, and observed the manager chatting with an elderly foreign couple who were obviously new to the country and culture. The couple, like me, came (walked) over to this cafe from our nearby hotel. The manager was friendly and affable, like all good managers ought to be. But this one went beyond the usual pleasantries. I overheard him asking about their itinerary, and suggested interesting places to visit, pointing out directions and routes on their map. Throughout the 5min conversation, he listened, offered suggestions and solutions to some of their needs. I was pretty impressed with this manager’s level of EQ and understanding of service psychology. He knew how to read his customer’s ‘state of being’. This couple had at least 3 needs:

1) They were strangers in a strange land. They didn’t know anyone. They needed to feel welcomed and connected.

2) They were disorientated, maybe even confused. This was their first visit to Malaysia. They needed to be assured that they made a right choice coming here, and not having to regret their decision because of a bad experience.

3) They were tired. You could tell from their looks they had a long flight. It may not even have been a pleasant flight. They needed some friendly service and maybe some pampering.

This manager recognised all 3 needs, and he met them all. He knew they were not at his cafe just for a drink. That was their felt need. But their real need was psychological and emotional.


This elderly couple was obviously smitten by the manager’s excellent service. They returned for the following 2 days that they were in town, even though there were many other nearby cafes to choose from! Positive customer experience ALWAYS lead to customer loyalty! That’s how you build repeat customer base. What’s more, customer experience is infectious. I was vicariously hooked to the couple’s experience so much so that I too returned back to patronise the cafe just so to continue observing the exceptional service being rendered! This manager won over a by-standing customer just through his service to others!

On the final day of departure, the couple, luggage in tow, patronised the cafe for the last time. The manager offered them the cafe’s signature tea drink, on the house! What surprised me more was when I overheard him offering to call a cab to drive them to the airport. The couple declined, but you could see the glow on their faces as they left his cafe to his final parting words “Have a safe flight!”.


Here are 3 key lessons from this episode:

1) Learn to read beyond ‘felt needs’ – Assess customer’s unspoken needs and seek to meet those needs early. Pay attention to details, listen, and ask questions. You will gain trust and establish rapid rapport with them.

2) Serve beyond expectations – Go out of the way to make customers feel special, comfortable, and important. Address needs with immediacy, and add personal touch to your service.

3) Treat customers as friends first – All other outcomes are secondary and become immediate by-products built on your friendship. If all we have is a sales agenda, we can get trapped in a ‘salesmanship performance’. We may be tempted to hard-sell to meet out bottom-line, and push potential customers away. Building client rapport will position us to hard-serve, not hard-sell. And when customers feel comfortable with you, they trust you and allow you to ‘influence’ them knowing you have their best interest at heart. So the most authentic sales service is always to start a genuine conversation with ‘no strings attached’, caring for customers. Treat them as friends first!

I hope this article has been helpful. Do leave comments or questions please!!…With loving service 🙂 Glenn Lim


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