Was grocery shopping at Jason's supermarket today. Something that I had pretty much taken for granted suddenly became acutely obvious today. I just realise how much more pleasant it is to shop in HK supermarket than in Singapore (barring Wellcome since I dont shop there enough to pass any judgement)
In Singapore, both NTUC and cold storage are the primarily supermarket. Personally, I had always prefered Cold Storage to NTUC because historically they stocked a wider variety than NTUC though on my recent trip, this difference seemed to be disappearing and they could have jolly well be run by the same management and buyers judging from the display shelves.
The point to note is how in HK, may it be Jasons Market place, or Gourmet supermarket or even Park and Shop, I always get greeted by any passing supermarket staff. They would always say "thank you for shopping" or "feel free to look around" something to that effect. When I asked for help, I am ALWAYS greeted with a PATIENT staff who will normally attend to my queries politely and unhurriedly. It doesnt matter if I speak cantonese or English, I get same treatment.
In Singapore, the experience was a little less than desirable. Forget the customer greeting. I will be lucky if I can find any available staff to help with my queries, and hoping not answering me in a sullen looking face, or impatient note. It's something about their tone and volume that is quite unappealing. Once in a while, I will get a nice gentle auntie who is not acting like she needs to talk in such great speed because she is dying or something.
Take a comparison. In Singapore supermarkets, I was asking if they have other Twinning Tea flavours and all I got was a snappy "No, dont have.", in some places, I get some clueless look, mumbles and then finally "No."
Today in Jasons in HK, I was asking a staff who was doing stocking and inventory check. He paused his work immediately, stood up and face me with a smile asking how he could be of help. There was no pissed off scowl for disturbing him or taking him away from what he was focusing on. Instead, he patiently listened to me and when he finally understood what I was looking for (he wasnt versed in knowing what Milo was called in English and I didnt know the Cantonese way of saying) , he told me apologetically that they dont stock in. He didnt just stop there. He went the extra mile, suggesting other possible options of packet drinks. I declined politely explaining they taste different and he politely apologise again for not having the item I needed.
THIS, what I experience today, this is service. It is not the first time I had such polite replies when I did item enquires in Hk. I just didnt notice how polite they were because I had forgotten how brusque Singaporean staff are when interrupted. This is what Singapore service industry is missing in our franchise and corporate chains.
We really have a long long long way to go and improve. Is it the training department at fault, the staff we employed at fault or just the whole Singapore culture at fault? Until we find out the root cause, we will never surpass HK in their service industry.