Change our Perception of Customer Service

Mr A is a successful, high-EQ business exec. He conducts himself professionally and with great circumspection. You visit Mr A one day at his office and the way his staff behaves completely ruins everything that Mr A has spent decades building.

Mr B is an urbane, mature business man known for integrity, honesty and generosity. He invites you to his home for a meal. The moment his wife opens her mouth completely destroys what Mr B has stood for all these years.

Recently I recommended a friend to a restaurant when he asked about a particular type of cuisine. I even invited him there for a meal.

I swore I will never do that again.

Let me explain.

You spend at least 20 years cultivating a relationship with the restaurateur, the chef, and the staff. Everyone there knows you by name because you are a regular and you cause no trouble.

You invite your friend there but he behaves like a complete jerk – he doesn’t like the table assigned and makes his displeasure known rather noisily, he criticizes the room temperature, the volume of the music, the choice of music, the way the menu is laid out, the wine list with its “limited selection” and the quality of the cutlery, etc. He is loud in making his unhappiness known. When the food comes – it is a Michelin-starred restaurant by the way – he condemns the presentation, the temperature of the food, and the speed at which the wait staff responds to his requests for condiments. He literally throws a tantrum in front of everyone, to the extent that even other diners are beginning to take notice. What a commotion! He behaves as if he is spending a million bucks at the restaurant when you are the one paying for the meal. He seems to forget that he is your guest and that you are the host. Plus what kind of idiot asks for ketchup in a Michelin-starred restaurant anyway? (Yes, I should be more careful who I consider “friends” from now on.) This moron makes me lose face, he makes the restaurateur lose face, he makes the chef lose face, he makes the staff lose face and on top of that, he declares to everyone within earshot that he’s never ever going back to the restaurant. Doesn’t he even realize that he has made an utter fool of himself in front of the whole world? I am so embarrassed!

Much has been said about the appalling state of customer service in Singapore but we must recognize that customer service is a two-way exchange. If you are nasty and treat service personnel like your personal slaves, you don’t deserve any service, to be perfectly honest.

So nowadays, when someone asks if I know a place that serves great lamb shank biryani, or the best steaks in town, or the best Japanese cuisine, I tell them I don’t have a clue because I only dine on cup noodles at home.

I can’t afford to keep losing face. And I don’t want some boor to undo relationships I have painstakingly spent years building.