If you take any train in Japan, whether that is an ordinary train, a transit train, or even a bullet train, you are almost certain the train will be 100% on time.

When you enter any train, you find clean, comfortable cushioned seats, unlike many elsewhere. There have been very few instances when a train arrives late. But in such an unlikely case, you will get a slip of printed paper documenting that the train you were on was late for some reason, so that you can provide documentary PROOF to your bosses that you were really late. That’s service to the core of the culture!

Actions: Clockwork processes equal great service

Although people are what truly defines excellent service, if the processes and back-end systems are dysfunctional as we have observed before, even the greatest, the most courteous, the warmest service providers will be scorned at and derided by demanding customers today.

While many organizations finger-point their frontline employees at the earliest instance of service failures, try taking up an ISO 14000 or 9000 compliance program, and have internal and external auditors examine every business process to determine if some of the processes are obsolete, cumbersome, and getting in the way for your people to render great service.

Service is not a cosmetic surface, but must be deeply rooted and entrenched in the culture of the organization, or even the nation. People can be trained on the mechanics of delivering service, or even have processes corrected to streamline efficiency, but no long-term benefit will come out of these until and unless the national and organizational culture encourages, nurtures and rewards innately service-driven people.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.