Is Efficiency Undermining Customer Service?


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Maybe because the weather is miserable here in Canada, but I have reflecting on my travels in sunny Europe last summer.

Whether in Italy, Greece or Turkey, I was struck by the fact that not once did a server in a restaurant bring the bill until asked. Which did cause some embarrassment when we forgot to ask.

Food and gatherings around food are an important part of European culture — so it is not rushed. As a customer we were never made to feel that we were expected to leave so that another group could be seated — so the table could be turned and profitability increased.

Yet here in North America, often the server will drop by and ask if there is anything else and drop of the bill before we have even finished our meal. Always with a comment like “whenever you are ready”.

However, the message is very clear. Finish up and move on — we have other customers to serve, or I want to go home.

My Perspective: I appreciate that every organization needs to be efficient if they want to be profitable. As a leader I would insist on it. However, do we subliminally send a message to our customers that we are “watching the clock”. Are our actions consistent with our words, or do we sometimes do things that indicate that possibly we don’t place as high a value on customer service as our statements proclaim.

Make sure that in your desire for efficiency — which is critical to business success — that these behaviours don’t inadvertently creep into the customer experience and undermine your desire to be customer-focused.


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