Can we give too much service?


Can we give too much service?

Service is what we do for a living. We provide space so people can park, and we ensure that the parking resources of our organizations, whether cities, universities, hospitals, or office complexes are properly maintained and protected.  We are told constantly that we need to have employees that provide good customer service and contact. So far so good.  But can we over do it.

The other day I went to the bank. I had been there many times and knew exactly what I was going to do. As I walked into the lobby, I was assaulted by no less than seven blazer clad employees who were going to help me whether I needed it or not.

I was greeted, asked if I was having a nice day (I was up to then) then was asked how they could help me (they couldn’t, unless they could take a deposit which they couldn’t.) I went to fill out a deposit slip and was told not to do it, but to take my checks to the window and the teller would fill it out for me. When I got to the teller, there was a cop at the next window who looked as exasperated as I did. “This is a bank, right?” he said. I said that I wasn’t sure.  When I walked out I was again asked if everything was OK and if they did a good job. I told the ‘vice president’ who was speaking to me that maybe their customer service was a tad over the top. He was horrified. I left.

My wife and I have a favorite restaurant. Its pretty up market and we go about once a year. When we go in, the Maitre ‘d escorts us to our table and asks if we would like cocktails. He took our order and seconds later, a waiter arrived with our drinks. He asked if we wanted menu’s now or would prefer to wait. We said we would wait a few minutes and enjoy the beautiful room. He disappeared.

A few minutes later I looked around the room and caught the waiter’s eye. I nodded my head and he returned with the menus. He handed them to us and left. We opened them and found that they were self explanatory. We discussed what we wanted and I looked up again and caught his eye. He came over, asked if there were any questions and took our order.

The rest of the evening went the same way. It was like the staff was invisible, but there when we wanted them. It seemed they were always in the background but carefully watching and were tuned to notice if we needed anything. They never came by and asked, never intruded, but were there when needed. They didn’t ask how the food was, they already knew. And if there was a problem, they would have sensed it and fixed it. The evening was perfect. And the waitstaff never introduced themselves. What a relief.

In the case of the bank, I felt ‘put upon.’ I knew what I was doing, I didn’t need help. In the case of the restaurant, I felt like I had fantastic service, but frankly I seldom felt like I was being served.

There is a fine line between good service and overdoing it. This is particularly true in situations that are routine, like a restaurant, hotel, car rental, or a parking lot. We want help when we need it, but don’t want it thrust upon us.

A good staff can sense when help is needed and step in, and the rest of the time let you be on your way.

My bank was simply trying too hard.

I rather like it when a bank officer stands in the lobby and sort of  ‘oversees’ the operation. They can help when needed, but more importantly they can fix problems (open another window, direct a lost soul to the right place, help a newcomer find their way. But for the rest of us, a simple smile and nod is sufficient.





Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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