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Balaji's smile

The work out session this morning was set for 7.30 with the new trainer and when the session got over, I was extremely hungry having had just an apple at 6 am. I was hungry enough to devour an elephant if it came my way but decided to ignore the pangs and also not to find some food at the food court on the same level as the gym. I waited until I reached Komala Vilas on Buffalo Road where Balaji might probably serve my break fast. Balaji is one reason why I frequent that restaurant. Sure enough Balaji was there and he greeted me with a big grin. He shook my hands and questioned why I was not seen for the last few weeks. “So sir .. where is M’am?” was the next question. We chatted about the weather, how the other branches of Komala Vilas were different in terms of seating etc..

He knew what would be my menu choice and simply asked “usual sir?’. I nodded and was served quickly. The coffee was a special strong concoction and he had to ask “How is the coffee sir?”. He was not satisfied with my evasive answer about how coffee taste changes every time I have one in different restaurants and persisted with the question “How is it today sir.. I made it for you..”. I had to concede that the coffee was indeed good and Balaji once again displayed his trade mark smile.

Balaji enhances the value of his service with much more than a smile. Depending on the time of my visit he would guess what exactly would be my order so much so that he also knew my preference about the way the various vegetables were placed on the banana leaf! My insistence on some protocol being followed was always responded to instinctively without fail. Often I would find an extra serving of my favorite item on the leaf even before I asked for it. Where the meals came with unlimited supply, what he did was not favouritism but just that bit of extra care as he knew I would ask for additional supply.

What marks him out is his sensitivity to the customer needs. There was an occasion when I took a business visitor to the same restaurant and was luckily served by Balaji. The food was as usual served quickly but what took the cake was Balaji’s action standing behind the visitor and asking me how the bill should be prepared so that the visitor would not see him. He was clearly trying to save me the embarrassment of having to take a position as to how the bill would be paid whether by me or the visitor or share? His action was very touching and demonstrated how he was keen to take care of my interests.

Though I had known him for only about a year, I had grown fond of Balaji so much so that my wife started teasing me if I had fallen in love with Balaji! But when we landed up at that joint after several weeks, her first question, even before asking for the menu card, was “where is Balaji .. I don’t see him..?”. Perhaps she too was impressed by this boy. Once she enquired what brand of rice was being used by the hotel and no clear answer was forthcoming . But before we finished our meal, Balaji was there with an answer. He had rushed to their store room upstairs and had taken a picture of the rice bag showing the name and phone number of the supplier! I call that smart thinking in responding to a customer query?

There have been more such instances where our friend demonstrated high degree of hospitality in making our visit to the hotel a comfortable and enjoyable one. Would you blame me if I run to Komala Vilas as often as I could just to say hello to Balaji and to enjoy that pleasant and endearing smile along with good food. More importantly, Balaji is a living example of customer service and efficiency in customer interface. His ability to remember the customer need including the whimsical peculiarities and attempt to satisfy the customer is indeed extraordinary. His smile and speed of service can be taken for granted.

Now if one were to make a case study of Balaji, it would be interesting to see how any customer oriented organization can take home few lessons from Balaji. And this applies to a bank, retail shop, a dispensary or even a cigarette vendor kiosk. Service with a smile, pleasant and alert disposition, ability to anticipate customer needs and striving to fulfill them are just few of those lessons.

The end result is also that I consider myself a part of Komala Vilas and do not try to find fault with the food. I am not any more inclined to take a critical perspective! The superlative quality of the service by this one person simply outweighs any negativity on the part of the customer.
That is perhaps the secret of winning a life long customer.

17 June 2013

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About The Author

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Ganesh - R

Corporate/Business/Professional

SINGAPORE

A corporate manager for over 40  years with an all round exposure. Have had the good fortune of great bosses who unfailingly took the risk of trying me out with  new functional responsibilities  that I was neither qualified to handle nor had any prior exposure. This served as an excellent opportunity for learning and  the exciting process continues even as I am ready to retire! 

 Have bid adieu to formal learning process long ago but the quest  continues.

"Human beings" interest me the most .. the curiosity at observing and learning from fellow beings appears to be a key  driver at this stage of life. Would like to spend the rest of the days in making a difference to them.

Other interests include gymming, music, etc..  

Blogging seems to be a god sent opportunity to laugh at oneself freely and without any pretensions. It also provides an excellent route to introspection albeit a bit loudly!


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