Customer Service – Australia versus the World!

Hi all. In today’s blog I thought I’d address a topic that often has me thinking, and often has me rather annoyed. I spent two years living in Japan, and whilst it had its minuses (ie WINTER) one thing I couldn’t fault for the entire time I was there, was the customer service. It was flawless, but then again everyone in the country is ultra-polite and it’s drilled into people. In a world where standards feel like they are falling, Japan sets the bar extremely high.

The only place that comes close is the USA. In the USA they might not go quite as out of their way to please the customer, but they are always friendly and cheerful. Which is great because a bad experience in customer service can really put me in a bad mood for hours. Of course though, in the USA tipping is basically compulsory, and so they are working to give good customer service so they receive a good tip. Because in hospitality, the wages in the US generally are really low. Which I guess makes it a slightly different beast to the rest of the world.

In Japan, try and tip and they will run down the street after you trying to give the money back. Well maybe not quite – but then again I did hear a story… Most of the Americas have tipping as generally expected. But look at Europe or Australia, and that’s not exactly the case. Then again, tips are usually happily received in Europe or Australia.

I often wonder how visitors from say Japan and the US deal with poor service elsewhere. It must really be a shock. I mean let’s be honest, even us Aussies expect a minimum level of service as a customer. And when that expectation is not met, well, we can get pretty annoyed to say the least.

I am reminded of my experience in Dubrovnik. Stony faced young woman behind the counter clearly not impressed with anyone who stayed there, driving people to scream at her as I entered. In this circumstance I was ready to 100% blame the guy who she wouldn’t give his passport back to, but after observing and interacting with her, I changed my mind. ‘Do you want bed or not?’ Still, after working reception for any length of time at a backpackers, I think that could turn anyone stony faced. People coming in at all times of day or night, wanting this and that, sometimes drunk, not speaking your language almost ever, then probably having to clean up after them. It takes a certain youthful energy melded with a sense of ridiculous optimism to deal with that. And also – pay probably not great.

In Australia customer service ranges the whole spectrum of good to very bad. Many people just don’t care about their job here, even getting paid is not enough incentive to do it as well as possible. Like many places in Europe, and particularly Eastern Europe, sometimes people are just plain rude. Sometimes so rude that it’s actually funny.

And you have to empathise too, don’t you. Not everyone in the world works their dream job. In fact, most people working are in the job they fell into, or had to take. And then everyone has a bad day now and then. And really, it’s just a job and as long as it’s done efficiently, isn’t that what matters? On the other hand, of you are in hospitality, depending on your role, you are dealing with people regularly and need to have those ‘people skills’.

So, as far as I’m concerned I can empathise with people stuck in jobs they dislike, and I understand that sometimes people have a bad day. What I don’t really like (which I find happens quite a bit here in Australia) is two people working together talking when one of them is ‘serving’ me – to the point where I feel ignored. I don’t like this, just as I don’t like customers who conduct a transaction whilst talking to someone else on their phone. If as a customer we want to be treated a certain way, then we need to acknowledge that this is a two-way street and not be rude to the person serving us. Equally, you get back (usually) what you give – and certainly if you treat someone poorly, you should expect the same in return.

I’m not in favour of being nice to the point of fakeness – and I think we all need to be as genuine as we can regardless of which side of the counter we sit/stand, but I don’t believe the ‘customer is always right’. All this leads to us the customer feeling entitled. Respect is important.

I think in Australia, we can do better over all not just at customer service, but as being a customer too. I think people from all parts of the world, including myself, need to work on not expecting too much as a customer. As I said it’s all a two-way street. What do you think? Do you have any examples of either really good examples of customer service or really bad? Please do comment below.

Thanks for reading today, and May the Journey Never End!

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6 Comments

  1. An interesting topic! As someone who’s had 17 jobs, many of them in customer service, I always pay attention to the service I’m getting or not getting. When I lived in France a decade ago, I used to think Finland had great customer service (compared to France), but nowadays I’m not so sure anymore. I recently changed banks because I couldn’t get in touch with a real live human being, they only had chat-bots that copy-pasted text from the website, utterly unhelpful in my situation. There’s also a lack of sales-mindedness here: we wanted to buy a car, we were there at the car dealers ready and able, and they told us to go away and send them an email later!!! Also, during Midsummer, one of the year’s biggest events in a particular park stretch downtown, all the cafes closed early, leaving thousands of thirsty customers hanging. Entrepreneurs close their shops when shoppers aren’t at their office jobs, ie weekends and evenings. Etc etc, the list goes on. It annoys me! 🤣😂

  2. “I think in Australia, we can do better over all not just at customer service, but as being a customer too. I think people from all parts of the world, including myself, need to work on not expecting too much as a customer. As I said it’s all a two-way street.”

    I agree with this. Australian customer service isn’t the worst I’ve ever had (that was in Austria or Germany, or in some Arab countries), but nowhere near the best either (which was in southeast Asia, Japan, or Dubai).

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