Many people outside of the US like to criticize America for the perceived insincere customer service culture that is popular there.
You know what I mean ... the automatic "you're welcome", the banal "my pleasure" and the insufferable "those pants look fantastic on you".
Every phrase seems to come out of the mouth completely lacking any sort of authenticity or depth of meaning and leaves you feeling a bit hollow and jaded. Consider this though... is it better to have someone say nice things to you out of some false sense of duty or politeness, or is having a customer service person all but ignore you preferable?
In other words, which is better - a false service culture or none at all?
The reason I ask is because the other day I had a communication experience that made me realise just how cynical living in Australia has made me.
I landed at Auckland International Airport and as I entered the terminal was shocked to discover a member of the ground crew warmly welcoming every individual passenger to New Zealand. Now every country talks about warmly welcoming the visitors to their country but this was the first time in all my travels that I actually got to experience a genuine welcome (other than some sort of generic cultural performance). Bear in mind the sole purpose of this person was to welcome us off the flight. She wasn't there to open the door... her job was to say "hello and welcome to New Zealand".
The reason it made me realise how jaded I had become was because I didn't know how to respond. I found myself caught between a weak smile and a faint bristling at what felt like some sort of personal challenge.
So, which is better - the false service culture or none at all?
As much as I encourage honesty in all communications, I find myself starting to think that the false recognition often communicated to customers is nowhere near as damaging as no recognition at all.