Customer Service NZ vs Australia

Last week I spent a few days in Australia. Specifically Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast/Noosa. Several things stood out for me. The Australian economy, which will be the subject of another blog, and customer service.

This blog is about service. Customer service. Giving the customer what they want. Giving the customer more than they expected.

It seems to me that the Australian customer service ethic is not only several notches better than New Zealand’s, it almost in a different league. It started from the airport where I had my first experience of Virgin courtesy of a codeshare arrangement they have with Air New Zealand across the Tasman. When I got to the check-in counter they had twice as many check in staff as Jetstar (I know hardly a comparison) and 50% more than air new Zealand. These are not just people behind the counter but staff in front of the counter interacting with passengers and making sure that everything was running smoothly.

The experience on the ground in Australia was also startling. We stayed in a modest resort in Noosa ( ) which was superbly located, probably 20+ years old but it was spotless! All the staff were incredibly helpful, nothing was too much bother and when they weren’t servicing rooms they were cleaning; windows, walls, stairways, anything they could get their hands on. The cynics would say it was winter and they weren’t busy, both true, but it doesn’t explain the attitude the desire to help and ensure that our stay was the best it could be.

This experience was replicated in the supermarket, the coffee shop and even the ferry operator who returned to the pier to pick us up having already departed down river.

So you think this might be just because Noosa is a tourist place and they needed our custom? Then how do you explain receiving exactly the same experience in Brisbane on the way back. Same consistent customer service, sometimes unbelievable (we went to a café late one night and got in to a discussion with the chef about stock. It ended with his fantastic explanation of how to hand make the best stock and a free pouch of crab stock with a retail price of AUD $17.00).

When I returned to New Zealand we were refreshed and decided to go for a long walk on Saturday morning and meet up with friends. We ended up at one of my favourite cafes in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn. I don’t know whether my Australian experience had set the bar too high or it was a bad day, however… they made a mistake with the food order, the service was slow and the waitress passed a cup of coffee in between three people to put it down in front of the fourth person. That might sound picky but isn’t it cafeservice 101 to serve from behind the customer and not lean over everyone. We were disappointed. After a discussion in the group we decided that it has as much to do with us (the customer) as the operator.

Put simply. In New Zealand we don’t expect good service and don’t complain when we get bad service.

Even though it is June, here is my New Years resolution. I am setting the standard that I expect when I pay for service to be good, not sensational, just good. If it isn’t I will point it out to the manager. If it is better than good I will point that out to the manager as well. Not earth shattering but small steps….

I outline all this because we keep prattling on in New Zealand about wanting to increase tourist numbers, but seriously, unless we up our game in terms of service the only positive memories for tourists will be the  Southern Alps.