My post is a bit on the late side (hoping to make it before Autumn officially starts here when the Sun hits Libra at 3:09 GMT on September 23rd. Spring starting for you lucky southern hemispherites!) as I have been attending a conference in the US. It was a wonderful experience – adding a knowledge of the stars to my astrology. Most astrologers use only the planets, leaving out the rest of the sky because we know precious little about astronomy. So I am trying to rectify that for myself at least and learn new things along the way.
I was mulling over the idea of service, as when you are in a different environment, you notice things that locals take for granted. Virgo is about service, among other things, and so I will try to put my experience into a Virgo context and hopefully suggest ways to look at this topic in both your company and your life in a new light.
Virgo vs. Pisces
Virgo is opposite Pisces as a constellation in the sky. This axis is often thought of having Order vs. Chaos as a theme. Pisces goes with the flow, Virgo wants to give everything an order. Notice I did not say tidy. In my experience the sign of Virgo does not denote tidiness or even fastidiousness. But Virgo energy does want a nice list that you can tick off, if only in your head.
A productive Summer
During our summer I had two friends from New Zealand staying to help me do a lot of tasks in the house. (Thanks Cath and Bernie!) Bernie is a Virgo so I knew he was the right person to ask for help! After all it is the sign of the artisan. His approach was to take the jobs one at a time and finish each one. Do the big one first and then see what else there was time for. So focus on something we could tick off as we went. That worked well although Cath and I did some other tidying up when he wasn’t looking! Bernie’s idea of service was to have something finished. Then he could rest (not that he did.)
I think that Virgo energy is really good at this, a routine, an order of doing things so that chaos doesn’t reign. Pisces on the other hand finds creativity in chaos. In a company you probably need a balance of both. And you need to get the right people in the right job.
That oh so efficient United States
But back to the matter at hand, my trip and service. What I noticed is that we all have different ideas of service. Some like to be talked to, some like speed, some like efficiency, some informality, some not. A company has certain values and a style and so does a country. As I am used to Holland (mostly non-service in my NZ view!) and I have not been to the States for a while, I was horrified at some of the service there. It is all about efficiency. And rules. And, of course, making money. It seems now to me to be geared to order and making it easy for companies, not for clients. No cafes at many of the tourist spots but always a shop. Cafes with ‘open’ signs that were closed. No place to post a letter at the airport except a place outside that the van could reach easily – a long walk in the full sun. There used to be more heart from what I remember. Now, the “have a nice day and how are we doing today and what can I get for you hon?” come across as rote. Just what you have to say. No interest in what is being offered.
A story of restaurants and buses
Two things horrified me the most, so much that I had to laugh. In every restaurant I went to in Santa Fe, we were more or less asked to leave. It was, after all, after 9pm. So we were given the bill and had plates whisked away as soon as we were finished (or in some cases not). On one occasion in a good restaurant we were given the bill while we were still eating. This would be unheard of here. It was obvious that it was accepted there and that staff finish and have to have the job done before they leave (and are presumably are only paid for that time). It is efficient but it doesn’t lend itself to an enjoyment of eating. But that’s another whole topic. Is this service? It beats Holland in the speed of getting a meal but I know which I prefer.
Another example of service was the bus that takes you around Grand Canyon. Free – yes! And a good idea. But rules are rules. ‘The bus must go at set times’ even though there was a huge queue. The bus drivers have speakers for inside and outside the bus. Mostly telling you to sit down and move down and leave by the back door. And for yelling at people trying to board to ONLY get on at the front and to growl at you if you don’t keep your group together. Now I understand the problems of an unruly mob waiting in the very hot sun for a bus that only comes about every 15 minutes. But really. These two examples show what happens in practice.
One: Going to Hermit’s Rest
On the outward journey, there was another bus in the bus stop space – oh dear! Chaos – that shouldn’t happen. Great discussions while we waited in the middle of the road (only used by buses and handicapped people with a pass). The upshot was we needed to move to the first empty bus so that the right bus was on the right schedule. Was I the only one that found this laughable? Our original bus could then have the right people on it that were waiting at that stop to board – once the front bus had moved of course! Everyone happy again. The bus driver even commented (with a sigh) on the fact that it used to be more chaotic but rules are rules. You could tell his creativity was being stifled by this. But at least the view from the stopped bus was worth it!
Two: Coming back from Yaki Point
Very early in the morning – yes I got up to see the sunrise! There was one person waiting to board the bus at one stop but – heaven forbid – there was a car parked at the bus stop. We sat, again in the middle of the road, while the bus driver, a woman this time with a love of the loud speaker I would guess, tooted loudly and asked “Where is the driver… Move your car…and to the waiting passenger “Do you know whose car this is?” in a threatening tone. (This is Arizona after all, the state of tough laws.) More asking and gesticulating and finally to the passenger, “I’m sorry I can’t stop here. You’ll have to wait for the next bus”. I seemed to be the only one looking amazed in the bus. In the time we had been stopped in the middle of the road with not a soul in sight or any other traffic, or even any wildlife, he could have boarded the bus 10 times! But no, rules are rules.
Service to the people paying large amounts to stay in the park? I think not although the intentions are good.
Are you shooting yourself in the foot with your ideas of service? Do you ever ask your customers what they find important? Remember chaos is sometimes creative and the most successful companies these days are ones that provide a service that clients want. Grand Canyon can get away with it, the scenery makes anything worth it.
But perhaps you can’t. Maybe it is time you asked your customers what they see as service! And asked yourself what service you actually want to provide – it should match the heart of the company not to mention the norms and style. And what they are, you can find in a horoscope.
Website of the Month
A clear article on 8 rules for good customer service that I think a lot of businesses ignore.
At least one American agrees with me!
“It’s sad that we have become so accustomed to bad service that we’re shocked when we get good service.
Neil Cavuto – American Journalist
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
Douglas Adams – English Author