While visiting the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia (in Moscow) yesterday, President Andrew Sommers told our group a wonderful story that really captures the old Soviet-era mentality towards customer service.
When McDonald's opened its first restaurant in the Soviet Union in 1990 near Moscow's Pushkin Square (pictured above, still the largest McDonald's in the world, with 27 cash registers and seating capacity of 700), it went through an extensive training program for the new workers. Of course, customer service, which was a brand new concept for the Soviets, was extensively emphasized for the new McDonald's employees.
After several days of training about customer service at McDonald's, a young Soviet teenager asked the McDonald's trainer a very serious question: "Why do we have to be so nice to the customers? After all, WE have the hamburgers, and they don't!"
There's still a little bit of that mentality left in Russia, and although customer service here is still not up to US standards, it's gotten much better than my last visit in 2003.