The perils of insincere service

On a group blog recently we were asked this question: What really irritates you as a consumer? As we were in a hurry we answered, in a word, insincerity. With the benefit of thought we realize this is so true. Let us give you a few examples of insincere service — not to find fault, but to demonstrate the importance and damaging effect when sincerity is absent in product and delivery.

While checking in on a flight recently we were forced to put carry-on luggage in business class because it was fractionally overweight at a tiny decimal point of a kilo. The same airline gave us the same seat as economy and served a minute lunch very similar to coach. On the flight we did not have our coats taken and had to store our own topcoats. Getting a juice was a major issue, and cabin staff was very skilled at hide-and-seek. At the airport of boarding the business class access to security merged into the economy line. This meant there was no value added unless you were prepared to be unfairly rude to merging economy traffic.

More and more we are traveling economy and booking the safety seat rows and using private lounge cards. The value is far better, and the airlines are losing the revenue. Similar frustrations exist in hotels with upgrade charges that do not provide value, and if these are forced upon you because of efficient yield management the frustration is intensified, and daylight robbery comes to mind!

Does all this sound familiar? The issue is, we stress, not to criticize but to make the point that it is insincere to charge a higher price for a service and then seriously compromise it. The culprits are not only in the aviation and hotel industry. Events sell upgraded seats with little advantage, and VIP packages sometimes offer little more than an upmarket badge or unwanted souvenirs.

Here is an alternative experience as business class passengers. In the middle of writing this blog we passed through Frankfurt airport on a cold dismal winter day in transit to St Petersburg — not the easiest of airports, often being refurbished and always busy. It was a delight. The desk assistant could not have been more helpful ensuring our luggage made it. The lounge host bid us to enjoy the lounge, and inside was the usual brilliantly designed Lufthansa lounge with seats for all. To top it off there were Lufthansa’s succulent frankfurters with the best pickles and mustard money can buy. Worth every penny of the business upgrade. It is so easy to get it right if the effort is put in, the product is defined and the operators motivated and trained.

As competition increases, economies become tougher and customers become more discerning, all of these insincere activities will eat into market share, repeat business and reputation, not to mention brand integrity.

We always thought a good definition of quality was that which makes a product or service do what it is meant to do. That is why we often consider limited-service companies to be sincere if they are what they are meant to be and the clients get what they are paying for. It also happens to drive greater sales and loyalty. Maybe there is room for limited-service products, at a premium price, that deliver a certain level of service on a consistent and attractive basis?

If sincerity is present in the definition of a product and in the delivery, and that is combined with world-class service, the organization is approaching being great. If it engages those attributes consistently it becomes awesome. What do you think?