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“Are we too picky?” is a question I sometimes ask myself when at the other end of mediocre or bad service.

Is it that, because of my trade, I am more difficult than the average John or Jane Doe in a restaurant a hotel or in any kind of business?

Of late, we’re delivering a lot of trainings centred around customer service excellence for customers not in the hospitality industry, as we are convinced that customer service is paramount in any trade, be it your local grocery shop or indeed the specialist doctor that you’re seeing, who considers his patients more as “cases” than as human beings. And we can genuinely see that customer service is making a huge difference. Unfortunately, as you cannot readily measure “good service” most companies do not track this or don’t know how to track this.

Sadly, we notice over the years and pushed by, amongst others cheaper airlines, that customers tend to lower their expectations. They will not complain because they give up against the mammoth companies that do no listen to them as customers. These companies are happy to take the money, but they tell you to not expect any service.

So it is we who accept bad service, promises that are not kept, faulty information, no personal attention and many more.

Not so long ago, I decided to definitely walk away from a very famous brand because the service delivery in one of their sales points was far below (my standards) : bad service delivery on first occasion , upon complaint unrealistic servicing deadlines were given – explanation was never the same depending whom you talked to – when yet another problem arose, unwillingness to accept this and provide for immediate solution – not providing realistic deadlines – not delivering on promise of given deadline and when challenged on this deadline, almost calling me, the customer, a liar…. Ultimately relying on me to provide the solution (the world upside down). All in the course of 3 days interaction… So it wasn’t the product, because similar products from other brands can also develop problems.

But me walking away was definitely the result of bad customer service, not the price, not the product, the Service !

In our interactions, we notice people behaving differently when they are customers themselves as to when they are working. They inform us that they appreciate politeness, respect, helpfulness, timely information, respect of given promises and the like, as this, for them, equals moments of happiness.

But when they are at work, they sometimes, conveniently, forget these noble principles.

So am I too picky? The answer is definitely no.

The customer should not accept to be treated below his expectations.

One could argue that you can debate what someone’s expectations are, but there are a number of basics, we should not compromise on:

  • Recognition for me as the customer, the one at the receiving end of customer service ; this comes with proper greeting and genuine gratitude, but also empathy and willingness to help but above all, everything starts with a radiant smile
  • Cleanliness of the premises
  • Respect regardless of race, religion, gender, age, social background, nationality
  • Politeness
  • Value for money

We have said before, that being in the service industry is not a curse, nor is it slavery. When you decide to go into this industry, any industry, it is because you genuinely want to provide people with a moment of happiness, whether it’s by providing them with a great coffee (experience) or with an exceptional car (experience). I mention experience because we all know that you don’t just buy a coffee, but you buy the whole experience, take-away of not.

We must address training as a tool that can help staff hone their skills in hospitality, in delivering customer service. A lot of companies concentrate on skill-based trainings and they are right to do so, as you cannot deliver excellent service if you do not know what you’re talking about. Training on the soft skills however is a challenge for most because it’s very difficult to quantify. Also it’s more about developing the person than telling them how to do the thing they are supposed to do. But guess what, most customers will accept a product not being 100% but they will all object to bad service, or impolite service or service without a smile. We must also accept that it’s also to do with personality: some people are good at certain things, some are better at others. So if you don’t like to help people, stay away from customer service.

The motto could be : everyone can smile but you need to want to smile

I liked a word from an employer who asked me to look again at people delivering bad service and asking myself if these people were happy or not. And yes it’s true, unhappy people cannot deliver good service.

But being a customer comes with responsibility too of showing respect and gratitude to the person delivering service to you, of not shooting the messenger as I see too often in problem situations like airports or hotels.


Photo P.Verbeke 4×6

Pierre Verbeke Senior Consultant

With a passion for hotel operations, Pierre, as Senior Consultant, will add his know-how in hotel openings and project management to the experience of the team.  Pierre has an extensive career in hotel operations, pre-openings and rebrandings. He is first and foremost an operational person having managed several hotels in Belgium and having set up many pre-opening teams in different countries.  He also has gained a wealth of experience opening hotels for a large Hotel Operator in various European, North African and Eastern Europe countries. He is particularly at ease with project management and knows how to deliver the highest quality of service within the agreed timeframe.  Pierre has experience with leased, managed and franchise properties and understands the various demands from owners, investors, operators within the different projects.

Pierre is an alumnus of Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. He speaks Dutch, French, German and English, with some notions of Spanish.  Pierre likes to spend time with his two children and his wife, he also appreciates good food, good wine and the outdoors. But above all, Pierre likes to travel and discover new people and new situations.