Language part of service excellence

Speaking good English and/or any other language is an obvious advantage for anyone who aspires to be in the front line, such as in a retail job.
Speaking good English and/or any other language is an obvious advantage for anyone who aspires to be in the front line, such as in a retail job. PHOTO: ST FILE

With the upcoming opening of Jewel Changi Airport, it is time that retailers did more to improve the human element of service excellence.

Whenever we speak of service excellence, we often look at a narrow aspect of service attitude.

We frequently overlook an important and integral part of service - language.

According to psychologists and language experts, the ability to speak well reflects the quality of an organisation's service staff.

Speaking well is akin to wearing nice attire: it projects a good and lasting impression to visitors.

This is the first touch point to impress customers and make a positive difference to their experience.

Often, the emotional bond is forged at this very first encounter.

Hence, speaking good English and/or any other language is an obvious advantage for anyone who aspires to be in the front line, such as in a retail job.

For practical reasons, it may be near impossible for any company to have every worker be proficient in languages.

But at the very least, companies need to make sure that the "people greeters", or the staff that customers are likely to come into contact with first, speak well.

Some retailers employ greeters. Walmart is an example of a retail company that has it as a tradition at its stores in the United States.

Slowly, companies should start putting aside some funds as an investment to train their staff to attain higher levels of language ability, to widen this group of service ambassadors.

Customers, on the other hand, will surely feel that they receive "first class" service when they encounter well-spoken service personnel, compared with someone who struggles to put thoughts into words.

This will also project a professional image for the organisation.

Melvin Nicholas Tang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'Language part of service excellence'. Print Edition | Subscribe