The Good Service Awards
By Richard Milecki
Good service in Israel is as elusive as regional peace. This is a high pressure country where crisis chases crisis and even when there are no crises the media and the public trump up every situation into a frenzy. Service is not part of the national ethos. In Australia, the country I grew up in, service was also not considered good in a place where egalitarianism was the dominant myth and no one leaves tips for the waiters as their wages are protected by law. In Australia though, this is compensated by the laid back and friendly attitude to everything. Israel was built on “it is not what you know it is who you know”. The high pressure atmosphere and the lowly pay that service providers are paid make service improvement an uphill battle in spite of the huge amounts spent on training workshops, advertising campaigns and the ubiquitous “some of your calls are being recorded in order to improve service” message when you are waiting to be answered. At least the call centres are here and not in Bangalore.
What makes or breaks service for me?
Speed – Much of the service we need answers a need that we want attended to as soon as possible. There is nothing more impressive than quick service that makes you feel that you are really important to the service provider.
The Experience – Good service experiences are often the result of careful thinking, planning and learning by the service provider with regard to what will make the customer say “that was great”. E.g., there are two banks I use in Karmiel. One has an amazing electronic queue management system and the other you take one of those paper tickets. Guess which one is more fun to wait in line for?
The Personal Touch – Even when I buy something on line I like to know who is serving me. I am from the old school and will stay more loyal if I have a personal connection with the vendor…unless they mess me up and then I move on.
So instead of moaning and pointing out what is bad in Israeli service, here are some awards for my top service providers. I am sure you must have yours as well.
The Restaurant Waiter in Karmiel
I am not a very picky eater and I do not have many demands when I go out to eat. I love reading nasty restaurant reviews as entertainment but a food aficionado I am not. I do have the odd food idiosyncrasy though. For example, growing up in a commonwealth country makes me particular about the way tea is served. At a restaurant that opened in Karmiel recently I as usual explained this to the waiter. “Don’t worry, I will put the bag on the side”, he said. “No, no, no!” I countered, “You need to put the bag in the cup and pour the boiling water over it. Then add one mint leaf. If it is too complicated then put the leaves on the side.” My children thought that this request was hilarious. The waiter, recognizing the comedy potential said “in that case tea is off the menu” but added that he will do his best. The restaurant was busy and the tea and dessert took their time. “There is a delay due to the tea”, he said, sending my family into fits of laughter. How the tea came in the end does not really matter. The short exchanges with the waiter and his cheeky smile made our night and his tip.
The Telephone Company Technician
One of the remaining jobs I have kept after being the Kibbutz Community manager is having responsibility for all the telephone land lines on Tuval. This is an unusual job for someone with no technical training and a first degree in drama education. I admit – it is fun to work the system of the various departments, call centers sales people and technicians and every time I succeed in helping the locals to get connected I feel a small buzz of joy.
I needed a new office to be connected quickly to a new line. A new line usually takes at least a week if not longer depending on the queue and the amount of religious festivals in the way. I made the order late on a Sunday. The connection was set for a week ahead. I had a technical question and the call center receptionist put me through directly to a field technician. He said that he would try and come the next day. The following afternoon, whilst on my way to a funeral, the technician called. I gave him a few instructions on the phone and thought he would only report back with what needed to be done. When I was freed up I called the technician who said he had already completed the job which included threading about 30 meters of cable through a channel and drilling a hole in the wall for the socket. The result – a new phone connection in 24 hours. This must be a world record!
Everyone loves to hate garage service. It is expensive and most of us have no idea what we are paying for or why it has to cost so much. So this is not a story about a great deal but still noteworthy. Our car was stalling on low revs. It was left to me, the man of the house to get it fixed, expert that I am. I spoke to the garage first thing in the morning. The receptionist said come at 12:30 after the morning rush is over. I set out at lunch time and nearly had to turn back as I thought that the car would not make it. I arrived at 12:50. The service manager looked stressed as he was not told by the receptionist that the car was on its way. He turned to me and said with a smile that it may take a while but he would make an effort to fix it as soon as possible. I settled in to coffee and the newspaper. When I lifted my head I saw that the car was already in the garage and being attended to. After a few minutes a mechanic called me in, showed me the faulty hose and presented me with the quote. I was out of the garage by 13:20, 30 minutes after it was admitted. Another world record!
My Travel Agent
Here is a profession that everyone predicts to be doomed. Everything can today be booked online so all that remains for travel agents is to give impeccable service and the feeling that you are not alone when plying the high seas of international travel. A few years ago I was slowly being messed around by an agent that could not get us on a particular flight to South Africa months in advance. When speaking to a friend she suggested that I try a particular agent in Haifa. I called him and bingo, the desired ticket was found in an instant. Since then our Haifa agent has become a trusted partner and friend, patiently dealing with our whims and emergencies, getting us out of trouble and always with patience and friendliness. This summer, two days before departure our booked airline ceased operations. Within hours we had a new route and hire car. Web sites still can not beat human service.
So there – almost all positive words. Give a good word to your good service providers,They have a huge impact on the quality of our daily life.
The stars of this blog were: The waiters from the Basarelah Restaurant in Karmiel, Yuri the Bezeq Technician, Meir from the Gesher garage in Karmiel and Shachar from Diesenhaus Haifa.