Service with a smile is a wonderful thing

Today, I would like to talk about customer service. Before I jump into it though, let me introduce myself: My wife and I quit our jobs and have started to travel the world almost five months ago. As practicing minimalists (no, it’s not a religion, cult or paid membership exclusive club but a set of values we live by) with carry-on luggage only and no ties, we have the opportunity to travel where and when we want. Since leaving Australia in September, we have traveled to New Zealand, USA, Canada and now Ecuador.

As we don’t have a regular income at this stage, we are mindful how we live and very conscious what we spend our money on. As practising minimalists, we value experiences more than material items. As we experience the world, our three biggest expense categories currently are travel, accommodation and food, and with these three, we are exposed to a variety of services on a daily basis. 
As we experience those services, we find that often not even the basics are met or that services are provided without energy or enthusiasm: An AirBnB host who doesn’t clean the property between guests does a disservice to their brand and to the brand of AirBnB. A waitperson who continually reminds you that tipping is not compulsory but very much appreciated but does nothing to provide the appropriate level of service in the first place, does not deserve a tip. A tour guide who is rattling through the facts but shows little emotion or enjoyment does not encourage us to recommend the tour to others.

As we continue to travel and ‘collect’ customer service experiences — good and bad — we ask ourselves: 
 • How do small businesses manage to survive in today’s economic climate? Often, people expect the best quality of service but want to pay as little as possible for it. 
 • How can businesses find employees who enjoy what they are doing? And what do employees value so that they want to stay? We can tell by a person’s manner when they don’t really want to be there. 
 • What could or would we do differently if we owned and / or ran a business in which a service was provided?

So far we have learnt the following (and we are happy to share these with service providers we meet):
 • Provide a good service experience in the first place and the rewards will come. 
 • Service is both tactile and sensory. Consider all the senses of the customer when developing and providing your service.
 • Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. If you lack imagination, one way of doing it is as a mystery shopper in a business similar to yours (yet, we have met several AirBnB hosts who themselves have never been guests in an AirBnB).
 • A service includes tangible and intangible components. For example, a museum entry may include a ticket and a self-guided map (the tangible component). It is important for the overall experience of the service that the map is easy to understand and follow (which may include providing it in multiple languages). Also, given people who enjoyed an experience usually talk about it with their friends and family, ensure the ticket and / or map have the museum’s contact details on it and / or some interesting facts that people might want to share. All of the latter are intangible components of a service.
 • Connect with your existing and potential customers via social media. Ensure you have a presence on at least two major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 • Finally, but probably most important of all: A smile and simple politeness go a long way to creating an enjoyable service experience.

The world is your oyster if you are willing to provide service with a smile