x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

High-quality service creates long-term customer loyalty

Providing great service is related to much more than call centres, the latest technological gadgets or fancy decor. It is a strategic endeavour that combines innovation and operational excellence, as well as positively influencing people's experience and attitudes towards a brand or a company, writes Manar Al Hinai

Manar Al Hinai will never forget the customer service at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. AFP Photo
Manar Al Hinai will never forget the customer service at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. AFP Photo

If you ask me what the best hospital is, I will instantly reply, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Why is that? Because during one of the worst times of my life, they provided me with the greatest hospital service ever. For that I will be forever grateful.

My admiration for this hospital began six years ago, when I contracted food poisoning after dining in a franchise of a famous international fast-food chain in Bangkok. Within two hours after I swallowed the last bite of my fish fillet sandwich, my health began to deteriorate. It became worse overnight. My family was in a panic, and at one point I thought I might lose my life, given the danger of seafood-related poisoning.

At about 7am the following day, I was admitted to the hospital's emergency room, which was crowded with GCC nationals and other foreign patients. The hospital had the latest technological and medical equipment, and their awareness of the latest trends in medicine and treatment relieved me during my tough time.

However, what I appreciated the most was my supervising doctor's empathy. His genuine concern, encouraging comments and numerous personal checks on me over the course of two days comforted me. In addition, seeing the terrible shape I was in, he offered to help me if I considered suing the famous chain restaurant. At that point, I wanted only to get back home and did not wish to be bothered with a legal hassle, but I will always remember his effort.

On the basis of my personal experience, the hospital nailed the essence of excellence in patient care. Providing great service is related to much more than call centres, the latest technological gadgets or fancy decor. It is a strategic endeavour that combines innovation and operational excellence, as well as positively influencing people's experience and attitudes towards a brand or a company. It leaves a permanent mark in their minds.

In an age of plenty, and with the rise of companies and products overnight, great customer service is the key to standing out in the crowd and maintaining customer loyalty. It all boils down to three core elements: awareness, empathy and honesty.

Awareness is a key element for customer service success. Just like the hospital, great service providers are attuned to the latest trends and changes in the market. They also stay tuned to customers' problems and find ways to address them. When I went to the hospital, I was surprised to see that almost every Arab or other foreign family had a translator - dressed in a special uniform. The assistance of these translators came free of charge. Communication is a vital problem for many travellers, especially when they become sick.

Great customer service providers also strive to demonstrate that they care about their customers' experiences, as well as express empathy no matter how simple their customers' concerns are. They do not make their customers feel dumb or belittle them but instead aim to relate to their experience as much as possible.

Finally, honesty - perhaps the most important part of outstanding customer service. With numerous media campaigns and thousands of service providers, one cannot easily distinguish which company is genuine and which is just after one's money. Successful service providers are honest and admit to their limitations and mistakes, even though it might cost them money. To illustrate, one of my close friends went to a hair-removal clinic in Abu Dhabi. The consultant was honest and told her that laser treatment would not be beneficial in her case as she has very thin hair on her arms. My friend respected that honesty, and now frequently recommends the clinic. The clinic may have lost a customer but gained several others because of its honesty. Bottom line: Great customer service helps us enjoy life altogether.

Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai