This is a re-post of a piece I wrote back in January 2007 when I traveled back to Tokyo for a visit. I find that what I wrote then is quite applicable to what I do today for work which falls under the umbrella of IT Service Management. The key word in ITSM being SERVICE.
One of the things that I now realize I took for granted when living in Japan was that of service. When most think of service it usually revolves around the service industry. Companies like Hotels, fast food restaurants and others.Their mission is to provide service to you the customer. However, the service I speak of lives at the individual level, not the corporate level. It is the individual sense of pride and honor in the work that one performs. We have all been a victim of some disgruntled employee who has to somehow provide a service to you in your time of need. These are the worst experiences that many face on a regular basis in the U.S.. I am not saying that every experience is bad, but a good majority of service is the reflection of one’s absolute minimum effort expended to get you what you want. Usually in accordance with some corporate guideline. In Japan it is different, very different. Sure, there are those rare occasions when you may be confronted with a taxi driver less than enthusiastic about taking you where you want to go when he wants the long fair and you only want to go up the road a bit. But in general, I really was reminded on this trip on what a pleasant experience it can be as a customer. There were several little things on our way out of the airport that exemplified the service level expected from those encountered, but it was not until I got into the elevator at the hotel that I truly saw it in action. I know this is going to sound very minor, but if you think about what this guy’s job is, and what he did for a living you would see what I am talking about. He was a porter. This is a guy who basically transfers peoples crap all day long to and from hotel rooms, knowing that the owners of these bags are travelers, people who can afford to travel the world and stay in a hotel as nice as this one. I think he may have been on his break and heading to the area in the hotel where employees take their breaks when I entered the elevator. The first thing he did, was upon seeing me approach, he placed his hand over the edge of the door to ensure it would not begin to close on me as I entered. We exchanged brief pleasantries and I began to press the number to my floor noticing that he had not yet pressed his button. By the time he asked me which floor I was going to, I had already pressed the button and it lit up. I then watched him press my floor again and then his. I thought that was pretty amazing service. To ensure that I had actually engaged my floor he pressed my button first before pressing his. That was a sign of service and attention to detail I had never been aware of before. What kind of training could educate someone to ensure the customer would reach their destination regardless of what the customer had done for themselves? I can tell you that I am not sure I would have been a diligent as he had I been in his position or employment. This was the case for everyone I had run across at the hotel. It is a very weird feeling at first having people wait all over your every need. But at the same time it feels good. Makes one feel special. I will say that for me, I appreciated it, but I know there are many who take that level of service for granted and expect it. In Japan, you do. Going back to the states, that was one of the things I had to get used to. I mean seriously, if you are working in a service industry would you not see your customers as the most valuable commodity your business needs to exist? Companies focus on the bottom line, but a large part of that is growing customer loyalty and you can not always do that through a brand or product. inevitably the best way is through simply keeping your customers happy and satisfied with the human experience. We all complain about bad service, but do we really provide good service? Do we put our customer’s needs before our own? Hell, do we even know who our customers are? Working in Technology, support more specifically, I know more times than not people have no idea who there customers are or to what end they even have a function.
This is something that also applies to the world of IT Service Management. The concept of knowing who your customers are and ensuring that they have the best products or services available to them. And when things break, employing a true empathy by understanding the impact on your customer and doing whatever it takes to get them back into service. It might be time to stop and think about the true meaning of service or how we provide it, as based on how we expect it.