Monday, 7 September 2015

Customer Service vs Greek Hospitality

I’ve just come back from spending some time at my little slice of Greek paradise in Koroni in the Southern Peloponnese.  We’ve been coming here for years and aside from the fact that summer really is summer there, one of the draws is Greek hospitality.

Of course there must be plenty of places in Greece where there’s a grumpy shop-keeper, shoddy work, incompetence or complete disinterest, but our experience contains few of those.  As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite.

Given the difficult economic situation in Greece I did wonder what might be different during our visits in terms of attitude, optimism, outlook and we have had many chats with taverna owners, wait staff, shop keepers – people we have got to know over the years.

Everyone has an opinion about the current financial and political climate, and mostly it’s quite pessimistic and at times filled with resignation and regret (“we should have pulled out of the Euro when we had a chance.”).  Unfailingly, though, everyone has been as welcoming as they have ever been; as caring and attentive, kind and generous.

Perhaps in the cities the issue of Customer Service might be something that people talk about, but in Koroni there would only be puzzled stares about what that meant.  It feels from years of experiencing Greek hospitality that it is part of the DNA of the culture to be warm and welcoming.

I paid particular attention this trip because we had our six year old twin grandchildren on their annual visit and having experienced the attitude of British shops, restaurants, etc. when children appear on the horizon, I am always delighted at how differently children are treated in Greece.

Here are some of the ‘customer service’ niceties I have noted over the years that seem a natural extension of Greek culture:

No one has to look at a computer to welcome me back.  Even if I haven’t been to a shop or taverna for quite a while, everyone always remembers me and I am greeted with smiles, handshakes or hugs and kisses. Because people are treated as friends or family, it isn’t a huge effort to be remembered or to remember who everyone is. 

There’s always something extra. Generosity is a by-word and a little extra is added wherever you go – a dish you didn’t order ‘on the house’, a dessert of whatever fruit might be in season (lots of figs this trip!), extra biscuits added to the bag from the bakery and one of our favourite bakers gave us a loaf our favourite bread to welcome us back. 

A ‘Greek Solution’ is always to hand.  We’ve noticed this a lot over the years – when there’s a problem, difficulty or even something that seems impossible, instead of walking away or saying, sorry, there’s nothing we can do, there is a steely determination to find a solution to the problem.  Sometimes the solutions seem a bit extreme or outlandish, but more often than not, they work. 

Children.  It’s a known fact that hot countries do seem to like having children around.  No one seems put out or bothered if there are tears or tantrums (aside from other British tourists!) and people genuinely take delight in having small people come into their shops and restaurants.  It’s not that children are spoiled or given into excessively; it’s that they are regarded as important members of the family and community and are treated as such.

Accommodating.  All in all, I would summarise Greek hospitality as accommodating – people find a way to take care of others in a big-hearted, open way that makes being there such an enriching experience.

As I said earlier, of course, there will be nasty people wherever you go and I’m sure Greece has it’s fair share of unaccommodating, unfriendly, even hostile people who couldn’t care two hoots if a customer was satisfied or not.

However, there are a lot of places here in the UK that could benefit mightily from taking on the ‘Greek way’ of kindness and generosity.


Check out Impact Factory’s range of Customer Service and Communication Skills courses.


By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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