Often, we imagine that the brand name lends some “aura” of protection against lapses in customer service. The reality is that each of our frontliners matter in customer engagements.

I am never one to go for expensive haircuts, but would rather go for the fixed price barbers that are all over the island. These barber shops are convenient, clean, and you get a deccent haircut rather quickly.

Most of the time, I would frequent a particular branch of the chain, and most of the time, there are a few familiar barbers there who would cut my hair efficiently with nice conversations.

However, the last time I went to the barber, I was attended to by a new barber, who did not seem to have the prerequisite skills of her peers in the same shop. On top of that, my scalp suffered some knocks and scratches due to her inexperience. At the end of the haircut, I could visibly see irregularities in my hairline and overall haircut, but I am perhaps way too lazy to ask her to correct the badly done haircut. On top of that, she did not seem to be in a good mood either (it is not an easy job, I understand).

Today, I went to the same shop, and there were two barbers. One of them was a familiar face who has attended to my haircuts very often, and the other, the lady who cut my hair badly the last time. I prayed that I would get the older lady who knew how to cut my hair, and luckily enough, she attended to me.

At the end of the haircut, I got what I expected – efficiency, a good cut (imho), and pleasant chit-chat that made the already fast haircut, even more pleasant.

Therefore, when we look at a service business, it is very different from a retail business selling tangible, physical products. A service business such as a barber, relies on the individual skills and talents of each frontliner provider. It is not a matter of bringing out products from shelves and punching in numbers on a cash register. A service business needs to engage the very best of frontline crew, so that each customer can have not just the best possible service, but a repeatable level of service standards that the customer would come to expect and love. It is certainly not easy, as the work ethic, attitude, and aptitude of each employee will be different, and maintaining consistent and repeatable service quality will make much more demands on a service business compared to a simple retail business selling physical products.

Remember, our customers rely on our consistency, and not just good service quality, that would place as little stress on them whenever they visit our service outlets. It should not be a roulette driven by chance, but a dependable machinery scrupulously watched over by quality managers.