After living in America for 7 years, moving back to Finland was a shock. Not so much in respect to the schooling system, working life or even the language, but mostly due to the fundamental differences in culture and social conduct. In Finland I was quickly taught some basic, Finnish social customs:
-Do NOT sit next to a stranger on the bus, especially if there are empty rows.
- If you smile at strangers others will think you are either a) a foreigner or b) mentally unwell.
-Don’t give compliments or greet people with “How are you?”. People need their own space and being too friendly is intimidating.
These fundamental differences in social conduct also resulted in very different customer service cultures. While Americans seemed, at times, almost overly friendly and social, customer service-wise America is one of the most developed countries I know. In America, a customer is made to seem welcome in all situations: in stores and boutiques, in cafes and restaurants, etc. Being greeted with a smile and a “how do you do?” makes every customer and client feel special and unique.
After I moved back to Finland, it took me a while to get used to slightly less enthusiastic customer service. Even when I was working in sales and marketing, my American personality traits were not encouraged to be revealed. After all, being too enthusiastic and friendly could “scare customers away” or make them feel “uncomfortable”.
However, I immediately noticed that the customer service mentality is different at Fondia. When I started work as Fondia’s barista I was finally not only able to, but finally encouraged, to use and even embrace my American customer service qualities. I realized some important similarities between Fondian and American customer service:
-Everyone is greeted with a smile and a coffee when entering the welcoming Fondia café, regardless of status and hierarchical position. Just as in America, good customer service is not only entitled for the wealthy, “important” people.
-One of the most frequently used phrases in daily American rapport, “How are you?” is also widely used in Fondia. People are genuinely interested in each other, and that’s ok. Showing interest is a sign of caring.
-At Fondia, people come first. There is no hurry big enough to permit unfriendly or unrespectable behavior, and there is always time for a bit of chit-chat or a mutual coffee break to gain some perspective on matters. Americans are very talented at eradicating the feeling of hurry in this efficiency-centered world, and we strive to do the same.
All in all, American and Fondian customer service have the same objectives: to make everyone feel welcome and at ease. When unnecessary tension is removed from the start, everyone is happier and thus work goes more smoothly.
Being a true Fondian means smiling at strangers and asking about someone’s weekend plans. How hard is that?