There's a common saying in the US: "You can't get good service anymore!". Everyone complains about they service they get (and don't get) in the US. The food servers are surly and lackadaisical. You walk up to someone at a counter anywhere and they make you feel as if you're interrupting something important... A lot of times they're just chatting with a co-worker and you're spoiling their good time.
Bad service is everywhere. In the US. Not here.
In India, it's like walking out of a stuffy, smoke-filled room that's full of loud, obnoxious people into bright sunshine and a clear warm breeze! The service here is unbelievably good. People fall over each other to give you the best service they possibly can. It seems to be engrained into their psyche.
It's a little intimidating at first but I like it.
Yesterday, my first day here, I needed to sleep in for a while so Mahendra took the cab to work at 8:30 a.m. I wanted one at 10:00 No problem. The cabby was waiting for me precisely at 10:00. I got a call in my hotel room that he'd arrived. When he dropped me off at the office I asked to sign the chit to validate his time (it's billed directly to Brooks) but he smiled, shook his head and said "No, I'll wait for you." (?!) I was a little confused by that but didn't ask questions.
It turns out that this driver is "our" driver. He's assigned to Mahendra and me. He was there to take us out to lunch. He brought us back to the hotel that night. He picked us up this morning. When he's not driving us, he's sitting in his cab... waiting. Nice life. Good service too, he helps us with our bags, runs around and opens the doors. I just can't imagine anyone in the US behaving this way. He seems proud of his job and anxious to do it well. That is so refreshing! In the US, a guy in his position would be grumbling about not being able to get a better job. In India, a guy with a job like his is doing a bit better than average... It shows in his attitude.
One thing that struck me as a little odd: He's dressed well in his cabby's uniform but he's barefoot.
In the restaurants and the hotel I am treated very well. It's little things that make the big difference. For instance, the spicy food makes my eyes water and my nose runs a little. (I love it though!) I pulled a paper towel out of my pocket to blow my nose... one minute later a plate appeared at my elbow with two paper napkins printed with the hotel's logo... nice.
I like cream in my coffee and I like a lot of coffee. I only have to ask for the cream for the first cup. They're sure to remember to bring the cream pitcher every time thereafter. I'm tellin' ya, they work hard at this service thing!
They also work hard at remembering my room number. Breakfast is complimentary, all I they need is my room number. They asked for it on Wednesday but not Thursday. They remembered it.
A long time ago, I read a few books by Napoleon Hill. "Think and Grow Rich" and "The Science of Personal Achievement". A lot of the principles he states could have come straight out of the Bible. Principles like the Law of Increasing Returns and a whole lot of other things. He advises that if you're working for a greedy, miserly boss, be good to him and do your best! Protect your attitude because you're getting yourself ready for your next boss. Things like that...
I agreed with many of the things he said in those books and incorporated them into my personal philosophy. It's helped me stay employed.
One thing he said is pertinent to this essay: "Your space in this life will be measured by the quantity and quality of the service you render to others." He was speaking about the fact that it's not the things you acquire that make you successful. It's not the number of people you control, the size of your organization, the size of your paycheck. When it's all said and done: did you serve others well?
The people in India are leveraging that attitude of service. Chennai is a city that is humming along toward a brighter future because of IT and IT-enabled services. All that has to do with service. Help hotlines, computer support services, on and on.
I hope American catches on... and up!