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A Customer service Story from Thailand by Coles International Training and a special interview


Untitled‘Conversations with Leaders’ interview between Rick Coles and Jan Carlzon, former President and CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System

In March I went on another business trip to deliver training courses. I always come back with new stories – customer service stories and at times good ones and sometimes some terrible ones!

This latest one to Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai / Muscat was the same. Let me share with you a good story.

Greeting a customer the Thai Way

I’ve traveled to many countries and received greetings in a variety of ways but the Thai Smile is one of the best natural welcomes a customer can ever receive.Untitled1

They meet basic requirements of always make eye contact with the customer the first second they come in. Even if you are with another customer or on the phone, make eye contact and acknowledge that they are there immediately. A simple gesture tells the new person that you see them and will be right with them.

Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! From the moment I arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, and received my first greeting with a smile and “Sawasdee Krab”. I felt welcome. There is even an airline called the THAI Smile! “Travel with THAI Smile is designed to be vibrant, fun, speedy, trendy and friendly the moment you step onboard. The smile of Thais is legendary and emblematic around the world of the welcoming nature of the Thai people.” “The name THAI Smile was chosen to reflect this, along with the warm and friendly attitude of the crew and all those associated with THAI Smile service.”

In Thailand, the Land of Smiles, a smile is a very important form of communication. A smile has much more meaning than in the West, and it takes some time for one to be able to interpret them. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles because as you meet Thai people, you see a Thai smile almost wherever you go. Thais smile when they are happy, they also smile when they are feeling a variety of negative emotions such as embarrassment, regret, confusion and even anger. Understanding that “Thais place a high value on avoiding conflict and maintaining social harmony” and you’ll begin to understand the reason why Thai’s smile even in negative situations. This can cause confusion in a compliant situation.

Now the smile alone does not constitute great customer service, it has to be accompanied with an assortment of customer centric activity that says we really value your business, want to help you, and we are going to show our appreciation by looking after you.


Your greeting should tell the customer, “I am glad you’re here!”

Companies spend huge amounts of money on marketing and advertising their products and services with the intention of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. This money is wasted if staff fails to give a level of service required to encourage purchase, and ultimately a decision to return to your company. We cannot compete solely on the basis of product or price. Increasingly, a company is judged on its attention to the customer.

What makes service truly remarkable? Great service is not an event, it is a process that requires active, willing and competent participation of all employees.

The Rationale:

Service must be customer – driven so their satisfaction is the ultimate measure of our success. Customers want to do business with people who make them feel good about themselves and their decisions. How we say good bye is as important as how we say hello. The way we help to solve a dilemma is just as important as its outcome because it will determine the outcome.

We all have important roles in a sequence of events that culminate in a positive customer service experience. Each job is a part of the chain reaction with our co-workers which impacts upon the response of our customers – this linkage is what remarkable service is all about.

We make choices every day about our customers. We make the choice when we say, “This customer is taking up my valuable time” or by saying, “This customer makes my job possible!”

In the book Moments of Truth, it speaks about the quality of contact between an individual customer and the employee that serves the customer directly. There are so many contacts that occur each day, month, year between the staff and the customers. Cumulatively they are in the thousands or even millions. These are called by author Jan Carlzon, “moments of truth”. They ultimately determine whether a company will succeed or fail as a company. They are the special moments when we must prove to our customers that your company is the best alternative to do business with.

Perceptions are everything and during each moment you are in contact with a customer, you are the organisation. Make the most of that moment, that opportunity. Remember the smile is only the start.

“Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression” – Jan Carlzon

At Coles International Training we understand the travel industry well and the importance of customer service. Rick Coles has worked with the best airlines and trained the best in many sectors. Differentiate yourself – place yourself above your competition in every way you can. Customer service is one of the most important ways. It will ultimately contribute to your bottom line.

Ask me how we do it in our training and consulting. It’s called maximizing your “Moments of Truth”. If you would like a quote on our training and consulting, please contact me.

All the best!

Written by : Richard Coles



+61 4341 52545

Rick Coles with “Moments of Truth” author Jan Carlzon, in Stockholm Sweden

Rick Coles with “Moments of Truth”

Excerpts from ‘Conversations with Leaders’ interview between Rick Coles and Jan Carlzon, former President and CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System. To hear Rick’s interview with Jan see: