Almost every time buy food from hawkers in Singapore, I think their goal is to be so rude that I will never come back! The few that are polite get my return business. The ones that are friendly and sell decent food get my business and recommendations. They stand out among the many that treat their customers like cattle!
The lesson here is that some of the most important things one can do to differentiate from the competition are cheap and easy to do. Having a positive emotional connection with your customers is a powerful way to keep them returning. It is cheap and easy to do, if you hire the right people!
However, this not commonly done! Most companies hire service personal at the lowest cost and then are surprised when their employees are not motivated to give good customer service. The result is consistently poor customer service and unhappy customers who will go somewhere else if given a choice. In the hawker business and many others, there are lots of choices!
Consider the following truths. First, you cannot train someone to like people, it is part of their personality! Second, the best people are NEVER attracted to jobs with the lowest pay! Therefore, attract and keep the best service staff with higher wages and then fine turn their behavior with training specific to your business. This is far easier than frequently replacing alienated customers and employees who cannot perform. The result will be happier employees and customers, less managerial stress and best of all … competitive advantage! Google Pike’s Place Fish Market for an example of a commodity service business (similar to hawkers) that is world famous due to outstanding customer service. If they can differentiate with excellent customer service, anyone can!