Tuesday, July 31

Too Much Customer Service?

I was traveling recently in Southeast Asia, a week long trip for a couple of key meetings in the region.  Although I didn't get a chance to stay very long, I did get a taste of the incredible culture and plan to book some extra time on my next trip.

In my travels, though, I did make a strange observation that is so counter to anything I've written in my books that I just had to point it out.  Clearly it's cultural and something that we are just not used to here in the US.  But it did get me asking myself ...

Is there such a thing as too much customer service?

I flew Cathay Pacific airline and stayed at The Mandarin Oriental hotel.  Two travel and hospitality brands known for their outstanding customer service.  Best in class and I experienced it myself.

From the first immediate interaction, everyone addressed me by name and then never stopped.  They checked in with me constantly.  On the airline, they made sure I was feeling ok and had plenty of water.  And they wanted to know why (roundtrip) I wasn't eating very much.  They wanted to know why in case it was because the food was bad or I was not well.

At the hotel, they came around from the desk to greet me, escorted me up to my room, gave me a room tour, and then proceeded to ask me my food choices for room service and news delivery.  When I hesitated a bit, they asked me again.  They wanted to know my preferences!  When I checked out, they literally walked me out the front door to my car and closed the door behind me.

Now I hope that this doesn't sound like American snobbery, but it was almost too much.  Too much customer service.  When I travel, I like to be quiet and alone.  It's a little bit of "me" time in a world where I never get any "me" time.  So I don't like a lot of questions and I don't necessarily like being followed around, as secure as that might sound when in a new location.  Ok I'll say it ... I like a little anonymity.

So is there such a thing as too much customer service?

This is obviously a personal question and one that is partly culturally based.  Clearly the teams at these two companies are trained on personal customer service, much of which comes from their deep heritage as a region and culture.  I honor that and embrace that.  And truthfully I welcome it for the next trip.  It's just a little bit outside of my comfort zone, but truthfully we can never be cared for too much.

Which is exactly why it's so cool to experience the globe, and all of its nuances, all through the various cultures and experiences.

So what do you think?  Is there such a thing as too much customer service ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU


  1. Ana Luiza AmaralJuly 31, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Yes, it is too much customer service... we might be used to a kind of passive customer service; when we need something, we request it or go after it.

    What seems strange, is that we usually think that everything that is proactive is better. However, in this case, a proactive customer service is not.

  2. Interesting point ... is there a time when proactive isn't good? Jim.

  3. Yes, there is such thing as too much customer service. The perfect customer service has to understand the needs of the customer, which for some people could mean just the right amount of attention. Too much can be anoying and, therefore, not the right service. I think psicology is very important in customer service and requires intuition and a very tailored execution. You can tell if someone just wants to have some space...

  4. i guess its a thing of choice and also place and target customer..i am sure if you were with family and they did all this things you would have loved it more especially watching them look after and care and interact with your kids and spouse but because you were alone it became a bit too intrusive ..why i said its a matter of choice and personal taste as to if its too much customer service or not i on the other hand love talking and interacting with people everywhere i go so i would have felt right at home...

  5. Well, there is indeed a so-called "too much" customer service especially in Asian countries, since they are known for their warmth and hospitality. I think they don't want to let their customers think that they are snobbish and cold even for just a bit. Perhaps you can talk to their customer relations manager or executive in order to modify some of their policies about that.

  6. Yeah, I think you can call that as “too much customer service.” I also prefer to be left alone and not be followed so constantly and asked too many questions. I agree that it takes intuition and understanding of human psychology to know which approach to use in providing customer service. However, I know they had good intentions because they want to provide the best for you, and yes, it is part of their culture.

    Ruby Chelmsford

  7. Certainly the best of intentions. Jim.