Singapore Airlines again shows stellar service

Today I expected the brief 1-hour flight from Penang, Malaysia to Singapore to be uneventful. Instead, however, I was treated to anther example of Singapore Airlines above-and-beyond service.

The flight was reasonably empty, so I took the opportunity to ask the lead steward how he liked the new uniforms SIA had just rolled out. Instead of different colored suit jackets to denote the stewards’ rank, they all now wore dark blue suits and their ties were color-coded to their status.

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What’s your definition of above-and-beyond service?

My friend, internationally acclaimed concierge-level service speaker Holly Steil and I were talking about what constituted world-class service. I had just returned from Malaysia and Singapore where I stayed in 4- and 5-star hotels. I gave her a few examples of what I thought was extraordinary service:

  • The bellman who took me to my room of the 600-room at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel called me by name two days later, with no contact in between.”That’s standard at a high-end hotel,” Holly said.
  • The concierge at The Legend Hotel who escorted me from the lobby down nine floors to hail me a cab, even though there was a doorman who could do it.Holly shared, “All concierges would assist you in getting a cab if they didn’t have another guest waiting.”

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How do your people react to dissatisfied customers?

I was returning the $200 Z-Coil sports shoes I thought would help my heel pain. I’d purchased them the previous week with the provision I could return them with no restocking fee if my physical therapist didn’t approve of how they supported my feet. It took me a few days longer to get in to see her than I thought.

Andrew, the manager, said I could wear them around my house to see how they felt and still return them if needed. I did just that.

My PT said the coil in the heel was too unstable for me. I explained this to the salesman at the counter. He said he would refund me minus a “sanitation” fee. I told him Andrew, who was helping another customer, said there was no return fee. Andrew came to the counter and looked at the shoes. He threw them back into the box and said they were too worn to waive the fee. I told him I wore them only around the house, as we had agreed. He gave me a disgusted look.

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What do Malaysians and North Americans have in common?

Me with Jonathan Low, MAPS conference chairI got to answer this question for myself a few weeks ago when I spoke in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had two engagements, one speech for the Malaysia Association of Professional Speakers annual convention, where I spoke on “TurboTime: Maximizing Your Results Through Technology.” (I’m pictured here with the conference chair, Jonathan Low.)

The second presentation was a two-day intensive seminar for executives on “Creating Customer Service Excellence.” This program was sponsored by Elite Citadel, a seminar promoter for SE Asia.

What did I notice about the two audiences that was similar to North American audiences?

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Sales techniques learned from Indian shopkeepers

Taj MahalIn Agra, our group descended the stairs into the marble shop where ten men sat on the floor before us. We seated ourselves on the long bench to observe their craft. Sam, the shopkeeper and guide, walked us through the making of the intricate marble tabletops, boxes, and plates inlaid with semi-precious stones. This same art work adorns the Taj Mahal.

marble craftsmanWe watched transfixed as the younger men — often sons of the older men — sanded ant-sized pieces of malachite, turquoise, onyx, abalone, cornelian, lapis, jade, mother of pearl and coral into the correct shapes. The master craftsman chiseled out the marble into which these minuscule pieces would be glued in place to create the ornate designs.

Naively, we didn’t realize the sales process had begun.

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Turn your liabilities into assets

Years ago I led a seminar on how to have a positive attitude at work. In the text, “Attitude: Your Most Priceless Possession,” author Elwood Chapman,suggests employing the “Flipside Technique.” The concept is to take something not commonly considered good and reframe it as a positive, injecting a dose of humor when necessary. I’m using … Read more

How can you squeeze more out of your day?

I was asked to participate in Ben Yoskovitz’s project to put together the Ultimate Guide to Productivity. He’s asking for your one best idea to increase your productivity. When I was retained by Microsoft to be their workplace effectiveness spokesperson, I was asked to come up with some of my best quick productivity tips. The … Read more

What is causing your upset customers?

A recent issue of the consulting firm Yankelovich’s newsletter, “Monitor,” got me thinking again about the customer experience. The article was about civility and how “kindness and consideration are always in demand,” but more so after horrific events. I believe people are looking for human connection in the face of tragedies that leave people thinking, … Read more

Are you punishing excellence?

Gary Kurth was fired for being excellent. His performance was so great in fact, that he out earned his colleagues. That was the problem. An April 8 story in the Santa Barbara (California) News-Press explained that Gary was among 3,400 Circuit City employees who lost their jobs in the last few weeks because their sales … Read more

Are your staff resourceful?

I had flown in to keynote a customer service conference at a resort. Because of weather delays and too-tight connections, I hadn’t eaten since lunch, and now, after 9:00 p.m., the destination airport concessions were closed. I asked my driver to stop at a fast food place so I could eat during our hour-long drive, … Read more