What is the truth about Australian Customer Service?

2017-09-26T09:11:57+00:00 July 25, 2017|

I’m not convinced that a Disney, Nordstrom or Zappos customer service style is easily applicable in our country. It reads well and inspires us but really, how practical are these methodologies for our culture?

We are not like Americans who generally do not seek anything outside of their borders. In fact, we take all the good bits from any country outside of our ‘island’ and make it ours.

We are welcoming by nature – let’s face it Australia is significantly more of an immigrant nation. Yet we seem to struggle with customer service.

According to a data driven insights report: Global Customer Service Barometer report from American Express; 32% of consumers in Australia believe that companies usually ‘miss their expectations’ and this is alongside countries such as Mexico (48%) and Italy (34%).

Anyone that has experienced Italy knows that you don’t go there for customer service…. so is this what foreigners are saying about us? Apparently we are amongst the unhappiest customers in the world?

Why is our customer service so bad? Here are some theories for you to mull over and debate with me.

  1. Is it that we have an identity crisis?

Almost a third of the Australian population was born overseas. Almost seven million out of 24 million Australians were born overseas. The average Aussie is more likely to have family abroad”.

Article published in The Age by Bernard Salt 2017: Australia is world’s most successful immigrant nation

I know when speaking with some of my clients in the Airport and Travel sector, they are very mindful of the differences when approaching Europeans to Asian to Australians. From the statistics above it’s not just airports that have a multicultural solution required to build rapport with customers. It would appear that we have a much bigger challenge, in connecting and relating to people, when we are bouncing between diverse backgrounds in every service interaction.

  1. Are we too cool?

We shifted our palate from tea to coffee and started kissing each other on the cheek in an oh-so-sophisticated continental way. But then you’d expect that from the most successful, most accommodating migrant nation on Earth. It’s not about “us’’ converting “them’’ to our culture; it’s about both cultures growing together over time, fusing in a very Australian way, where we take bits of each culture and create something that suits our values”.

Article published in The Age by Bernard Salt 2017: Australia is world’s most successful immigrant nation

So this gets really tricky. We haven’t even, as a nation, determined ‘what good service looks like’ Or have we? Is that why we are so unhappy with the service? We have too many variables as a nation due to our cultural links, and we are more disappointed than not, because there is no consistency in Australia?

  1. Is it our tall poppy syndrome?

For those of you who don’t really know where this term came from I have taken an exert straight from Wikipedia. See below:

Of the Australian definition, Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald writes, “(Australian) citizens know that some among them will have more power and money than others… But according to the unspoken national ethos, no Australian is permitted to assume that he or she is better than any other Australian. How is this enforced? By the prompt corrective of levelling derision. It has a name—The “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. The tallest flowers in the field will be cut down to the same size as all the others. This is sometimes misunderstood… It isn’t success that offends Australians. It’s the affront committed by anyone who starts to put on superior airs.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. If our culture is what gets in the way of delivering exceptional customer service then perhaps applying customer service methodologies that are transferable to any human that we serve is a safer bet. As Paul Barratt writes in the poem Our Culture “Peoples are very dear”

Customer service is about caring for people. Surely we are a caring nation and we can do more of that!

I’m on a mission to re-energise our customer service by focusing on the human interactions between customer and service staff.

Jaquie Scammell

“Why serve when you can inspire”