Over the Top Service

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When it comes to customer service, do you take pride in your friendly, open personality? Do you really connect with your guests, accommodating them in the manner in which they desire? Are you viewed as the epitome of customer service – effortlessly meeting the needs of everyone?

What about those people who also believe they are taking care of their guests but end up really annoying them? Sure, I will engage with service personnel when they are providing me with friendly service. However, I do get frustrated when I am trying to eat my meal, and they just won’t stop talking to me.  In reality, I like friendly service, but not the kind of service where they are hovering over me, pointing out that I have spinach in my teeth!

While that may be an exaggeration, I have experienced this “over the top” brand of customer service on several occasions. Do you know the type? The service provider who just wants to get up close and personal with their customers – maybe a little too close for comfort? My personal favorite was a dining experience during a trip to China. Before I begin, please let me state that I appreciate the fact that cultural differences exist, and I try to embrace them whenever I travel. By doing so, you gain a new and great understanding of a culture different from your own!

My husband and I were having dinner one evening in this small restaurant in Beijing; the food was fantastic and we were shocked at how well you could eat for so little money. The service, on the other hand was overwhelming! We were surprised at the pure volume of employees in this restaurant. There had to be at least two servers for each customer! We were shown to our seats and immediately greeted by a server with a picture menu in English (pretty common everywhere we traveled in China). We ordered our meal along with a pot of tea. The speed at which our beverages and food were delivered was frenetic! Hey, we were hungry, so we didn’t complain. As we were digging into our dinner, one of the servers kept coming up and asking if we enjoyed our meal. Then magically, another  server would materialize from somewhere and fill our teacups almost every time we took a drink. Both servers took turns returning to our table to spoon food onto our plates from the serving dishes. While we were impressed by the care and concern given to us by the servers; it really started to become incredibly funny to us. We just chalked it up to cultural differences! Let’s face it; if someone in this country approached your table, grabbed a serving spoon and started piling food onto your plate, you’d probably stab their hand with a fork, right?

As we were trying to finish our dinner, I placed a piece of what I believed to be pork into my mouth and realized it was a giant piece of fat! Of course I was just about to extract this slimy particle when you guessed it, one of the servers returned to refill our plates and teacups for the 10th time! I really didn’t want to create an international incident by spitting out part of my dinner, so I just sat there smiling and nodding, praying that she would leave quickly before I threw up on my plate! While we considered this level of service a bit extreme, we were more uncomfortable than annoyed. We wanted to pay our check and leave before we floated away from the pure volume of tea we consumed!

Of course this was an extreme case of over-serving, but how many times have you experienced the chatty server, the long-winded cashier, or the nosy desk clerk? How do you find the middle ground when serving your guests? When does the service you provide cause your guests to run away from you?

I can understand how someone can take customer service to an obnoxious level, especially if they are passionate about their product or service, On occasion, I have been that person who was so eager to please, that I had to stop myself from becoming too over-enthusiastic. You know the type – the employee who was going to satisfy every need regardless of how annoying they are to others, in particular – the guest!

When I would find myself sliding off the precipice into obnoxious behavior, I would try to take a step back and take my service cues from the guest. Did the guest engage me in conversation about my product? As I continued to talk, did they get that glazed over look on their face? I found the most important factor in providing excellent customer service was listening to the guests. If I actually kept my mouth shut and listened, I could extract all the information that was required to provide the level of service they wanted, not what I believe they needed.

We are in the business to serve our guests and provide for their every need. That is the end result of anyone who works in a customer-facing industry. When providing a high level of service to your customers, be careful not to create an additional need for them – the need to get away from you and your “over the top” customer service!

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