Service is our Way of Life

Let me share with you my experiences about South America, which changed my perception about the concept of service…

I visited three countries in the year 2000: Bolivia, Chile and Nicaragua to learn about the ownership, operations and maintenance of community water and sanitation supply systems and the sustainability thereof. This study tour was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Bolivia is a country of contrasts and extremes, with a kaleidoscope of colourful culture, the most delightful peoples in the world, with one of the lowest income per capita. Bolivians are materially poor but culturally and traditionally rich peoples of the Andes (altiplano).

This tour opened my eyes and ears, in terms of their energy, extraordinary way of life and humility.

In the middle of my tour in Bolivia, I came across an animal called a llama. A domesticated pack animal of the camel family found in the Andes. This animal is a totem. A symbol of prestige, warmth, confidence, success, strength, perseverance, communication and confidence. It is reported that people born under the llama sign are people who know exactly what their goal in life is.

Traditionally, llamas offer solutions to the local people in terms of wool, meat, companionship and transportation. Historically, llamas were also used to transport silver ore in the silver mines of Potosi.

Lessons learnt …

Since llamas serve the people of the Andes, the question is, what can we learn from this relationship between a people and an animal, their token?

I want to take you through a series of writing blogs in order to demonstrate to you that the word SERVICE is loaded with a deeper meaning. This initial blog provides a contextual background of the concept ‘service’ and draws parallels with my experiences in Bolivia. I captured these experiences in the form of a novel entitled: Confessions of a Llama.

Check out this book …

Hopefully the novel will assist you to connect the dots about SERVICE and those who serve. The llamas. These are people from all walks of life. Herd boys, a medicine man, sex workers, psychiatrists, merchants, nurses, pilots, bus drivers, a diplomat and many more.

I want to convince you that ….

– service is integral to our lives. Everyone needs a service. Globally, about 7,7 billion people either serve or are served by others.

– GOVERNMENTS service citizens through the provision of infrastructure: electricity, water, roads and transport, health, education, welfare and other related service delivery programmes. Likewise, the business community renders variety of products and services to meet the demand of consumers.

In the South African context, service delivery takes the form of a Constitutional obligation by government to address the basic human needs of citizens, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The Batho Pele (People-First) principles and a Thuma Mina (Send Me) philosophy, which symbolize a commitment by government to deliver people-centred services in line with party political promises.

In terms of the BUSINESS COMMUNITY, the growth of sales depend partly on the ability of a business to integrate customer service within its operations and the overall corporate strategy.

Like governments, companies which do not embrace customer service as part and parcel of their business model, are unlikely to succeed in the future as disgruntled customers will go elsewhere, to their competitors. Equally, companies which embrace higher employee engagement and strive to achieve exceptional customer service, are more likely to become more profitable, have more brand loyalty and more improved employee morale.

I also want to argue that …

– there’s a high probability for socially responsive governments to get voted back into power based on their exceptional track records and ability to address the public needs of their citizens in a sustained manner. The opposite is also true.
– meeting customer expectations consistently can have a significant effect on customer loyalty, and in turn, revenue. The opposite is also true.
– in this age of technology (automation and innovation), caring for your customers has never been more important. At a click of a mouse or a post on social media, unhappy customers do share their opinions or dissatisfaction over bad service, which can negatively affect a business or brand loyalty.

I conclude that …

– because of its closer proximity with its customer base, the hospitality and travel industry possess hidden secrets about customer service, which they hardly share with governments.
– by striving to provide quality or exceptional customer service, governments can bring about overall feelings of contentment and happiness amongst members of the public, thereby doing away with or preventing service delivery protests and violence.

Let me leave you with some of the traits and secrets of what makes an exceptional customer service:
– Focusing
– Smiling
– Greeting
– Listening
– Empathy
– Etiquette
– Cleanliness
– Ambience
– Decor
– Emotional Intelligence (EI)
– Humour
– Decisiveness

Hope you are able to follow my logic of why customer service is a necessity for the 7,7 billion people on earth. It is a way of life. It requires a different way of thinking. A different way of doing things, both in the public and private sectors.

In the next blog,

I will narrow the issue of customer service closer to the hospitality and tourism industry, by sharing with you, the Ten (10) Commandments of Exceptional Customer Service. The Future of Customer Service.

Let’s Create a Better World for the Next Generation. Without a Service, we are All Lost