Friday, May 29, 2009


 What most people tend to overlook in service companies is that the customer identifies your company with the way they are treated by your frontline people.

If they are treated nice, polite and effective, they think you have a great company. And if they are treated with disinterest and no respect the customer has a negative perception about your company.


Let me share with you a recent experience with my golf club. This club is  ranked within the top 20 courses in the country. And they want to be within the top 10. The way a customer experiences this golf club is determined by (of course) the course AND by the employees they meet. The frontline people in the golf club are the shop assistants, the waitresses in the restaurant and the green keepers. Any customer will meet those people.


In the shop there is almost every other week a new assistant. This obviously is not a good sign. Why don’t they want to stay? These new employees don’t know the members and they are trained on the job in the reservation system. This means that it takes very long before my reservation is confirmed. What happens frequently is that I will be put on hold and another employee tries to help. She doesn’t know what I wanted so the whole process starts from the beginning again. This makes me think, why are new employees not trained in their own time, rather than in my time. And as a member I do value the fact that people who see me every week also know me by name. When there are continuously new employees it is obvious that they don’t (get to) know me. It makes their job also more interesting once they build a relationship with the customers.


Okay, enough about the first confrontation. Then we go to the restaurant for a cup of coffee. Most of the time there are not enough waitresses to help me, or better phrased there is nobody. After a while someone shows up, with a bad temper. And it looks like a favour that they are willing to serve us. No smile, no politeness at all. During breaks many employees come behind the bar for some kind of self service. They fetch coffee, drinks etc for themselves. So, it looks like I am the only fool paying for his drinks. Again, there is no manager who trains them and who looks at the operation from a customer point of view.


Then we start to play on the gorgeous course. The course is in excellent condition most of the time. To keep it that way. it is crucial that the green keepers are aware of what the customer experience is of the course. However a green keeper told me that they are not allowed to talk to customers! The reason is that it will cost time. So, no customer engagement and the green keepers do miss this (social) contact with the players.


Any experience with the frontline people is directly associated with the way I perceive the golf club. Although the club invests a lot of money in maintaining the course and the clubhouse as well as in marketing, they do miss the point.  The main driver for the way a customer perceives this golf club is the way they are treated by the frontline people. The frontline is your REAL business card! An investment in employee engagement, customer engagement and training will have a great ROI. Not only financially but also in employee retention and satisfaction as well as in customer satisfaction and loyalty.


It is crucial for service companies to understand that their people are the real assets. They are the real business card of your company. Service innovation is  a waste of resources if you don’t invest in your employees as well.


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