Skeptical and cynical about customer service

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2019 - 12:00am

What is cynicism? What is skepticism? And what is the difference between the two?

Cambridge English Dictionary says cynicism means “not trusting or respecting the goodness of other people and their actions, but believing that people are interested only in themselves.” What about the word “skepticism?” Meriam Webster defines skepticism as “an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.”

The difference is that skepticism is associated with doubt. Therefore, a skeptic doesn’t believe anything without substantial reasons. Skepticism asks questions seeking answers to quell the doubts. Cynicism, on the other hand, believes the worst of something or someone. It has nothing to do with evidence. Therefore, cynicism asks sarcastic questions without expecting an answer. The skeptic may be on the search for truth. But the cynic has already made up his or her mind.

My client invited me to give a presentation to the medical practitioners somewhere in the northern part of this country. From the airport, I had to travel an hour to get to the city. As we travel the highway, there was not much to see except vast lands of rice fields. My host was gracious. Let’s call him Dan. Dan made the travel pleasant. Rachel and I had a few hours of sleep the night before to catch the early morning flight, so we were both sleepy and tired. Then the blooming sight of a modern hotel appears on the horizon. Dan said it was the most modern facility in town, and that is where we would spend the night.

The lady on the front desk was kind. After placing our signatures on the registration form, the lady now recites what sounds like a memorized script. To the best of my recollection, here is how it goes.

“Sir, this is your key card, and these are the stubs for your morning breakfast. However, we want to inform you that you should return the key card upon check out and should you lose your key card you will have to pay Five hundred Pesos replacement fee. I felt a tinge of skepticism welling up inside me. Why does this hotel greet me with a warning of punitive charges should I be irresponsible and lose my room key?” Did she say I was irresponsible? I don’t think so, yet she seems to imply that I am. Must be the script.

Being skeptical at that moment, I asked the lady, “Is this how you greet all of your customers as they check in your hotel?” There was no answer. It’s not in their script.

The next thing the lady said surprised me. She says, “These are your breakfast stubs, and if you lose your breakfast stub, you will not be able to have your breakfast tomorrow.”

I suddenly felt a surge of energy rising within my body, and I did not take any energy drink. This time my skepticism has grown into cynicism as I looked at the lady and said,” I am sorry, but is this the script your management has given you, and do you say the same terrible things to all your customers upon registration process?” No answer as expected. It’s not in the script. Cynicism does not expect any answer, and I have made up my mind that this hotel does not understand customer service; at least in the welcoming part.

I forced a little smile on my face. I know it is not the nice lady’s fault. She had to recite that terrible script. I said, “You might want to suggest to management that they should revise your welcome speech so as not to annoy and irritate your customers. She did not respond but continued smiling.” It’s not in the script.

After some time of reflection, I reviewed the whole mental and emotional process and here is what I came up with. Cynicism does not come from not knowing much; it comes from too much knowledge. I have been to thousands of hotels everywhere, and I know when and where there is excellent, good, average, or lousy service. Next, physical fatigue and sleep deprivation can bring out the worst in people. And so I should be careful about this and establishments should be wary about it as well. Finally, owners of businesses should invest in training their people to treat their customers as humans with needs and a memorized script does not accomplish the job.

It’s not good to be cynical. While it gave me a boost of energy at that moment, it did not give me a good feeling afterward. I have decided not to be cynical. They say that cynicism is the tool of a lazy thinker, and I don’t want to be lazy. Meanwhile, I hope that the hotel management would change their script and service delivery and help me become less cynical in the process.

(Connect with Francis Kong in or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 dzFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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