Customer Service Lessons from a country that has hit rock bottom economically
It seems only fitting as I fly home from Greece today that I share a summary of what has inspired me from a country that has a debt of over 321 million Euro. My summary is: the Greeks have had to improve their customer service. And It makes sense.
When people need work and need customers we would expect the service to be excellent.
Most of the locals are responding to customer service far better than what I have experienced in our region of late and there has been an improvement in how Greece are approaching their customers. Here are my 7 takeaways that I think we could all learn from, despite the health of our economy.
1. OBSESS ABOUT PROVIDING VALUE:  In  they always finish a meal with a surprise and delight, whether it’s a plate of fruit, traditional dessert or a small digestive drink to end the meal. Seems a little odd given the country’s desperate economic situation. If they wanted to they could charge for dessert and most would pay for it.
Why not give something additional that is not advertised, not expected by the customer and certainly compliments the product or service that has already been purchased. What little one percenters do you include in your customer experiences? When was the last time you surprised a customer with something additional to what they expected and how did they react? How can you make your customers eyes light up?
2. EMPOWER STAFF WITH PRODUCT FLEXIBILITY: In  there is always something for everyone! My experience was that if you cannot find what you want on the shop floor or the menu does not display the dishes you are looking for, there are always alternatives. All you need to do is ask!
When the boss is not there what decisions can the staff make that give them flexibility to offer solutions a little outside the boundaries? How does empowerment look in your business when it comes to going the extra mile to please a customer? The answer ‘no’ is such a harsh reply and we must try to avoid it at all costs.
3. TRADE THE HOURS THAT ARE CUSTOMER FRIENDLY: In  they close the shops when customers sleep! Summer in Greece is when the tourists flock and where the most money can be made. Shops trade till midnight, or as some sales assistants said; ‘until there are no more customers’.
How certain are we that our trading hours are customer friendly? When I take this concept a little further really what it means is; are you making decisions in your business that suit you and the workers or are you making decisions that suit the customer. If you are not sure, walk in their (customers) shoes and see things from their perspective.
4. FAST SERVICE IS NOT ALWAYS BEST: In  if you are a customer; stay as long as you like! Regardless of the value of your purchase or the type of transaction you are having, you will be treated with time and care. For example; if you buy a less than $3.00 coffee at a café you are always welcomed, never hurried on and are free to stay, as long as you like, literally hours for one coffee.
We often value fast over meaningful. Have we got it wrong? Of course there are times and places where speed is critical but there are also times and places where it is not. We often miss these social cues from our customers who are possibly up for a chat, wish to linger or simply want to engage with your staff and feel that someone is taking an interest in them. Before we hurry our customers on, maybe we should offer alternatives for those that wish to stay for a while. 
5. REMOVE THE OBSTACLES FROM THE CUSTOMER: In  anything goes! Rules are rare and there are very few barriers to the customer experience. They take this too far in my opinion ie; smoking is accepted anywhere; there are no handrails on walking tracks with a sheer cliff drop. Their attitude is –  you can do what you want at your own risk.
Western society is restricted enough (particularly in Australia) when it comes to rules and regulations, how much more do we add to the customer’s experience from within our own company policies and procedures? Our job in Customer Service is to remove the obstacles for the customer and make it easy to do business with us. When did you last look at the touch points in your customer journey and challenge the obstacles in place? Are they necessary and again are they for the benefit of your company or for the customer? It doesn’t hurt to ask these questions, you may be surprised with what you discover and how quickly you can improve an experience.
6. MORE ATTENTIVENESS TOWARDS THE CUSTOMER: In  the staff attentiveness was 99% of the time exceptional. If I was in a retail store, they watched me, followed me and waited for me to give some sort of signal or cue that I was interested in a product or needed assistance. Never did I witness a staff member on their phone once they knew I was in their presence. They want to sell and they are there for you 100%.
Keeping present and alert in customer service is one of the hardest skills to develop. Besides some tools and lessons on mindfulness and staying present there are some more basic questions to ask. What distractions and unnecessary items are my staff surrounded by that takes their attention away from the customer?  How well set up is the environment for staff and customers to engage and for customers to be seen or heard?  How have we as a company defined what being attentive looks like? 
7. TALK ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS WITH PRIDE AND KNOWLEDGE: In people are proud of what they have to offer you, no matter how simple it may be and they are extremely good at talking. The Greeks are never short of words, that’s for sure. I had one experience where the manager of a restaurant invited us into the kitchen to see with our own eyes the dishes that we may like to eat. He was proud and wanted us to be certain we knew what we were ordering.
Story telling in customer service is the difference between transacting and interacting. When staff are equipped with knowledge about their products and are able to confidently talk about your brand we experience more of a connection and feel like we are being taken behind the scenes as I was at the little taverna in Greece.
How have you educated your staff on the history of your company, the stories of your products and the benefits of what those products bring?
How proud are your staff of your brand?
Would they invite their customers behind the scenes of your operation?   I can certainly understand how the Greek mentality and culture has perhaps got them to this point of no return with their economic situation. However I must say (always the optimist) that there have been some golden gems that have come from this financial crisis and one is a significant uplift in how they think about and treat their customers.
As Aristotle said: “Don’t worry about hard times, because some of the most beautiful things we have in life come from changes or mistakes.”   I agree. Perhaps I’d like to add to Aristotle’s philosophy and suggest; “don’t wait for the hard times to come. Just deliver customer service to each and every customer as if you needed each and every customer”.
Jaquie Scammell
Why serve when you can inspire