By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
Sometimes it’s really important to step out of your normal circle of activities and see things from a new perspective.
I was fortunate enough to go on holiday to India in March and it certainly opened my eyes. Not just because it is such an incredibly vivid and colourful country, teeming with life and activity, but because the service ethic there is truly impressive.
I can’t pretend I was staying in budget or back-packer hotels, so of course one would expect levels of service to be good. But I was really struck by how the staff in all the hotels we stayed in, as well as the tour operator running our tour, took an absolute pride in their levels of service. We were usually personally greeted by the hotel manager on arrival and staff would frequently ask us ‘what could we be doing differently to make your stay more memorable? – not just at check-out but during our stay too. The attention to detail was exemplary.
What came through was the extent to which people cared about service and were proud of it. Their mindset was that service is a profession and an art. This is something we can easily lose sight of. Yes, we are all very focused on service standards and statistics but we mustn’t let the figures obstruct our view of what service is really all about – making customers feel cared about and anticipating their needs.
As Easter approaches and many people plan to take some time off, my trip to India underlined for me how important it is to get a break and recharge the batteries. It doesn’t have to be as far-flung as India of course – it could be much closer to home, or even at break at home. The important thing is to give yourself some time and space. This helps us reflect on what we do and how we do it, and reconnect to what our real purpose is.
Of course, in this day and age, few people cut themselves off from work completely even when they are on holiday. We all check our phones intermittently and probably cast our eye over what emails have come in. But doing so when away can actually help you see things more clearly: which subjects are not actually that important in the scheme of things, which things other people are best placed to take forward.
Looking at work when on holiday in fact helps teach us to get a better sense of perspective. It is easier to judge what matters and what doesn’t, where our priorities need to lie. It also teaches us “being away from the office and our colleagues – that as individuals we can’t and shouldn’t manage and drive everything ourselves. There can be a tendency to take too much onto individual shoulders. When you are away, you have no choice but to let other people get on with things.
That is how it should be, as we all work in teams after all. Teamwork is a key element of delivering great service – another thing that my India trip brought home to me.
I hope that everyone can find the time and space for a break when they need it. We often talk about work/life balance. A break helps you reset the balance and move forward again with new energy and clarity when you return.