Service Excellence, or Service = Excellence?

Once in a while, beings revolutionize.

Casul (2014) once taught me about service and service excellence. ‘Service’, in its essence, is taking action to create ‘value’, while ‘service excellence’ taking the next step up to create ‘more value’ for someone else (Kaufman 2011). Theoretically.

One day, an interesting article about ‘cháo chửi Hà Nội’ – ‘Hanoi’s scolding gruel’, (in which the seller will scold at customers at their disposal) (Trang 2013; Ngoc 2013) left me wonder: isn’t this food selling offering a ‘service’, cooking gruel (taking action) to feed (create value) hungry customers? So why bother?

This lead to a morning of analysis. And this is what I came up with.

Implicitly, it seems, to return an equal amount of value is to ‘exchange’, to return ‘spare value’ ‘service’, and to return ‘very much’ ‘spare value’ ‘service excellence’. However, what can be considered ‘value’? And how much is ‘very much’? Indeed, it is very hard to measure ‘value’, one with numerous tangible and intangible interpretations.

I looked for clarification from Pham Thanh Thi – Director of Global Freight Company Limited (GFC). GFC, founded in 2001, offers goods’ global delivery service. With 13 years working in the service industry, along with 3 years at Wagon Shipping Limited, and 2 years with WAN HAI, Pham has much understanding of client servicing.
“Client retention is an art, with a combination of many other arts,” says Pham. “As far as I’m concerned, the arts include communication clarity between both clients and customers, orientation to excellent service, and competitive pricing.” The key thing, Pham says, is clear communication. “Should there be friction in the relationship, most of the time it comes from miscommunication”. This coincides with Solomon’s (2008) advice: Make No Commitment without Consultation (Chapter 40), Agree on a Strategy, Budget, and a Schedule (Chapter 4), Bring Your Clients into the Process Early (Chapter 18), and Always Manage Client Expectations from the Outset (Chapter 5).

When asked to define excellent service, Pham says “Outstandingly fulfill the promise made to the client. Give choices. Outstandingly do the extra work.” This resonates with Solomon’s (2008) tip Before You Give Clients What They Need, First Give Them What They Want (Chapter 43).

“Can a business survive with a mere ‘service’, the so-so, mundane type that normally all similar businesses can do?”, asked I. “From my experience, unfortunately, no,” says Pham. “My company focuses on the Asia sector, and most of my clients are from Japan,” continues Pham. “You know, the Japanese… Their standards and strict requirements can leave you ‘unarmed’, confused, and stressed out. Their working culture is wildly different from Vietnam’s. However

99% of my clients come back for more. Why? Because we always give clients choices and do more than are required.”

And? “No extra work. No difference. No coming back. No income. No ability to perform any more service. No chance to utter the word ‘service’. Mere service will not survive in the long run,” concludes Pham. That ‘extra work’, according to the above-mentioned theories, constitutes service excellence.

Or simply, excellence. Because mediocrity doesn’t stand a chance.
Besides, “growing friendship with clients sounds fine”. However, realistically, it should be limited and strategic, rather than intimate. “Blurring the lines between personal and business only complicates the innately complex business-to-business relationship,” says Pham firmly. By and large, in the end, it’s still business. “No Matter How Social It Becomes, Never Forget That It’s Business”, “Once a Client, Always a Client” (Solomon 2008; Chapter 54 & 55)

Back to my case of Hanoi’s scolding gruel. They merely ‘exchange’ gruel for cash. However, nothing else is offered to even make it a ‘service’, let alone ‘excellence’. Even worse, they denounced customers of getting the service they promised. All such stores are now preparing to face sanctions from the government (An 2014) and boycotting from customers (comments on Bluelight 2014).

There’s no such thing as a distinction between service and service excellence in the real world. If you want to be in the service industry, be prepared to breakthrough.

So, once in a while, standards revolutionize.

(Words count: 660)


  • An, K 2014, ‘Hà Nội tìm chế tài cho “bún mắng”, “cháo chửi”’, Lao Động, viewed 30th August 2014,
  • Armstrong, GA, Adam, S, Denize, SM & Kotler, P 2012, Principles of Marketing, 5th ed., Pearson, Australia.
  • Bluelight 2014, ‘Đây chính là sự thật về cháo chửi Hà Nội’,, viewed 30th August 2014,
  • Cambridge Dictionary
  • Casul, M 2014, ‘Client Retention (Service Excellence)’, lecture in COMM2384 Client Management, 16 July, RMIT University, Vietnam.
  • Kaufman, R 2011, ‘Five Keys to Creating an Uplifting Service Culture’, Bloomberg L.P., viewed 30th August 2014,
  • Ngoc, X, Trang, H, & Trinh, T 2013, ‘Tức mắt với những kiểu phục vụ lạ đời chỉ có ở Hà Nội’, Dan Tri, viewed 30th August 2014, <>
  • Trang, H & Ngoc, X 2013, ‘“Bún mắng, cháo chửi” đang ngày càng phổ biến ở Hà Nội’, Dan Tri, viewed 30th August 2014, <>
  • Sobel, A 2010, ‘How strong is your client relationship?’, Andrew Sobel Advisors, viewed 30th August 2014,
  • Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kaplan, New York, USA.
  • Xuan, T n.d., ‘Những địa chỉ ‘bún mắng, cháo chửi, ốc lắm mồm’ nức tiếng Hà thành’, Nhà Hàng Hà Nội, viewed 30th August 2014, <>





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