Australian Service Gets Hopping, But Customer Service Excellence Doesn’t Last

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Australia welcomed the world for an Olympic extravaganza in 2000. This international event galvanized the nation to provide customer service excellence.

When the Olympics ended, the world went back home. Australians continued serving one another, but the customer service excellence did not keep pace.

I toured the nation on a book promotion tour and discovered that “complaining about lousy service” had become a national pastime. Every media interviewer focused on “service horror stories.” Every call-in radio listener had an axe to grind, a tale of woe, a complaint to groan about.

The national language is peppered with phrases that acknowledge this unique situation and speak to a lack of customer service excellence:

“The Tall Poppy Syndrome” refers to how those who stand out by trying harder, get cut down by others instead.

“Bundee On/Bundee Off” means working when you’re on the clock, but not a moment after.

“A fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage” says you only work as hard as you’re paid for, but not a dollar more.

“She’ll be right” means take it easy, don’t hustle too hard, everything will work out over time.

One workshop participant raised eyebrows and concern when he said, “Australia needs a recession. Only then will we understand the importance of giving our customers excellent service.”

He may have a point about developing customer service excellence.

Customer service in Hong Kong was notoriously unfriendly … until the 1997 financial crisis dropped retail spending to the floor.

Overnight, shop assistants and restaurant waiters learned how to smile and say a sincere “Thank you!” to their customers. Hong Kong people learn and adapt very quickly.

The Asian economy bounced back a few years later, and that was good news for Hong Kong. The improved level of customer service continued. Good news for customers, too!

I don’t think Australia needs (or wants) an economic recession, but the country could benefit from a clear statement of service intention and direction. Here’s one suggestion:

Australian service – with a smile.

We’re ready to go the extra mile!

Key Learning Point For Customer Service Excellence

Common language is often encumbered with negative words and phrases that don’t promote customer service excellence. Many are historical and deeply embedded in the culture. Don’t let them dictate the quality of your future or your commitment to customer service excellence. Individuals, departments, companies – even countries – need an uplifting way of speaking about ever-improving service.

Action Steps For Customer Service Excellence

Review the sayings and slogans you use each day. Keep those that align you towards the goal of customer service excellence. Change those that take you off the track.


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” books and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit

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