CUSTOMER SERVICE IN FINLAND IS NOT SO BAD, BUT TOO OFTEN THE SENTENCE STARTS WITH NO
I have been thinking about the discourse hold by John Swarbrooke couple of months ago in Jyväskylä, in central Finland. John Swarbrooke´s book Sustainable Tourism Management is one of the few books I had time to read from the beginning to end during my studies in ”Finnish University Network for Tourism studies” in early 2000´s. As I have special interest in Sustainable and Responsible Tourism in my academic studies I was so happy to meet mr. Swarbrooke.
So I did have the oportunity to meet him, but he didn´t say a word about Sustainable Tourism. He was talking about changes in Global Tourism business which was pretty interesting too.
He also talked about customer service in general and in particular in Finland. He has visited Finland so many times that he is quite experienced tourist in Finland. He shared his experiencies with us; he said we have no, no – culture in Finnish customer service.
IT´S NOT ABOUT OFFERING SERVICE FOR FREE; TOURISTS ARE READY TO PAY FOR IT
One example Mr. Swarbrooke gave us was about getting the shirt ironed at the hotel. He has asked in many hotels if he could get his shirt ironed; not for free but paying for that service. And he has always got the same answer; no – we don´t have a service like that. Of course he could have sent the shirt to laundry but it had taken more time and would have been useless as the shirt was clean.
Sounds familiar – if we ask something out of the normal service the answer is very often NO. Well, I have to say, it´s not only in Finland, I have heard that word in some other countries as well.
FINLAND DECLAIRS TO BE THE COUNTRY WHERE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED
The brand of Finland says it is the country of problem-solving. Tourists want the problems to be solved and have fun! It´s easier to convince tourists that the problems are solved if we start with YES instead of NO. Sometimes we really can´t solve the problem, but at least we can say yes, we do our best. Let´s be active in this process! In Finland we should be very good at starting with YES.
I HAVE BEEN DOING EMPIRICAL RESEARCH SINCE I MET MR. SWARBROOKE
We went with my colleagues to have a lunch in a restaurant operated by students. It was five minutes before the closing time ( time till when one can enter to have the lunch) and the students were already collecting food away. So I asked if we still could have the lunch. The students didn´t say anything but were looking around a bit confused.
So the teacher came and told us that ”NO, you can´t” because we have started to take everything away”. Now I was confused but accepted the answer. When going out of the restaurant I said to my colleagues that it´s a pity that written principles and reality don´t meet; that school (as almost all schools in Finland) declairs to be proud of the sustainable development programme – but they prefer throw the food away instead of selling it to us.
The teacher heard my comment, asked us to come back and told the students to serve the lunch. She acted in correct way; she admitted in front of the students that she was wrong and then gave them a good example how to solve the problem and be kind to customers.
Next step could be that the students (future professionals) dare to make the decisions by themselves, without any doubt, by a smile on the face.
I have learnt that we shouldn´t so easily accept ”NO” – answers but try to negotiate in a positive way. It probably helps – maybe not always but in many cases.
WE HAD GREAT TIME WITH KIDS IN PLAYGROUND TILL ONE LADY SAID NO – NOT FOR ADULTS
I had a very good friend of mine from Sweden visiting us with her 8 year old son. We had great time with kids enjoying the snow and walking in forest. As well we had a nice stop in a playground which has three different parts; one for very small children, one for those of school age and the third one for kids from +12 years where we stopped. It was the most normal thing for us to play with kids and not just stand and look at them playing – we were having fun together!
But then one lady started to shout us from the dog park next to the playground. She said ”hey – no, no.. you are not allowed to use it, it´s only for kids.” I tried to tell her that well.. I´m quite sure that the Finnish quality ensures that the park can be used by adults as well ( equipment made by Lappset) and there might be children who weight more than us…. but NO – she told us not to be there.
We didn´t want to irritate the lady and went to play to a forest nearby. The kids didn´t care and me either. But afterwards I went to the website of Lappset; fortunately they have been thinking of adults; they seem to understand that there are plenty of adults who want to join the joy of playing with the kids. It doesn´t make sense to have playgrounds where adults stay passive!
SANTA CLAUS SAYS YES!
During my empirical research and in my everyday life I hear YES as well, of course! I would say Customer Service is a huge potential when making Finland known as attractive tourist destination and we are good in many senses. By the way, Mr Swarbrooke also asked us to be proud of our odd way of being and not to apologize the originality.
I hope Finland is soon known as a country of YES – YES – attitude. At least there is one who said Yes to me! I wrote an article about climate change and Santa Claus: Will climate change kill Santa Claus. Santa Claus had read it – or the representative of his did and then they contacted me.
It took only one week for Santa Claus to say YES. Santa Claus said YES to the idea of being a goodwill ambassador when talking about climate change. He also told that he already has started to act in this theme.
Hopefully we find the way to collaborate! The Finnish Fair Tourism Association is interested in to be involved. Would you like to join us as well?
I keep you informed!
I´ll write soon about Finnish Tourism Trade hold in Helsinki in January 2015.