What's the Latest Development?
Thanks largely to increased demand from Russia's middle class, service businesses are putting their employees through elaborate training designed to give them something often taken for granted in other countries: friendliness. For example, this year air survey company Skytrax voted Aeroflot best in customer service of all Eastern European airlines, no doubt because of flight attendant training that includes reinforced rules on smiling and memorizing pleasant dialogues. One trainee says the lessons "[teach] people to be happy, to enjoy what they are doing and to have a positive outlook."
What's the Big Idea?
Particularly during its Soviet days, Russian customer service was chilly at best. Turning frowns upside-down "is a really hot topic in Russian companies," says McKinsey & Co. partner Alex Sukharevsky, who has helped bring several businesses through what he describes as "consumer experience transformation." Not surprisingly, organizers for the 2014 Winter Olympics are getting in on the act, organizing huge training courses for the thousands of volunteers who will greet visitors from all over the world. "The main message: Smile, be friendly."
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