The process cannot be changed

It's common for people to blindly work according to the processes which they have been instructed to follow.

I bought a cake a Coffee Bean joint. I was the only customer ordering. Off-peak hour. No queue. The cashier asked me for my initials. Writing customers' initials on the drink container is a good process for their kind of business. But I felt insulted that my name was needed to serve me my cake. I was the only customer. In between the few seconds when I place my order till she serves me my cake, she would forget how I look. Was I merely a customer without a face, just another statistic in their cash register? I know that's the process but I was the only customer. Was she going to write my initials on the cake? No. Did she later address me by my name? No. So what was the point of asking for my initials? It was a waste of my time and hers. (Furthermore, I had to ask her to repeat all her questions because I couldn't understand her accent.)

When working with people for process design, people who have been doing the job for many years often do not know the reasons why things are done in a certain way. They are resistant to change although they have no idea why the old way is better.

On the other hand, there are people who demand that you change the process and make exceptions specially for them even when you can explain why things must be done a certain way. They would accuse you of being inflexible and difficult if you refuse. They are prepared to spend days debating it even for a one-off 10-minute task.

In some situations, it makes sense to skip parts of the process but not for others. People need to use their brains more often and think of the company goals instead of personal ego and convenience.


parry said...

do you recall ever hearing " its not my job to think , i only following instructions "

Anonymous said...

You are really amazing Yu-Kym.

You make a lot of intelligent sense in what you advocate in this blog.

But in certain ways you dont practice what you preach. Some principles are universal.

Lets take this eg:

"People need to use their brains more often and think of the company goals instead of personal ego and convenience."

Transpose it to:

"Both the husband and wife need to use their brains more often and think of the goals of the marriage or the family instead of personal ego and convenience."

You get my drift? lol

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

parry, not exactly those words but yes that's what they mean to say!

curious cat, please point out where I'm being inconsistent or not practising what I preach?

kumar said...

Personally, I wouldn't expect a normal CB employee to get creative. I'm more than happy if he/she follows the processes in place and serves my order quickly and correctly.

Life is too complicated as it is to worry about the petty stuff. Just my 2 cents' worth.

David said...


You are on a hot streak. So many thought provoking post as of late! ! !

I am way out on a limb here since I have never been to SG and only blogs and a handful of websites to glean societal and cultural knowledge. I do than Yu-Kym for being patient and answering my many questions about SG's culture.

One would have to be aware of Coffee Bean's policy, if any, regarding employee empowerment. Some companies encourage staff to take extra steps to deliver a high level of customer satisfaction.

Never forget that some workers will always perform at the minimum level of customer service. I believe the word lazy applies to such workers.

Coffee Bean may not be such a company. The owners of that shop may not care about true customer service so long at the profits are good.

Most establishments like Coffee Bean, here in the States think Starbucks's, Caribou Coffer, Tim Horton's or Dunkin Donuts, the level of service even within a chain varies greatly. I believe it is the nature of coffee shops. Such shops are not noted for service. The product is the star, location and convenience are close seconds.

Other influences might be the background of the staff on the individual level.

For Ms. Loh would have to interview Coffee shop workers from a variety of locations to get any idea regarding what type of customer service such workers are either trained to deliver, or willing to deliver.

Yu-Kym will have to let me know is any of the above comments apply in SG's marketplace.


Wisdom is, and starts with, the humility to accept the fact that you don't have all the right answers, and the courage to learn to ask the right questions.

-- Author Unknown

Anonymous said...

Ok let me one last time Yu-Kym.

If you practise what you preach by using more of your brains instead of your ego, you will appreciate that in a relationship worth your while to protect and nurture, it's a give and take. It's not a loss of face to you if you take the first initiative to let your man have a final say in the family. It's not a matter of playing a secondary role. It's being realistic that in a union, you must trust the one you marry if he is a capable and reliable man. You cannot have a stalemate just because you are also his equal.

curious cat

Jyoan said...

That's the super weird thing... ... I don't understand why my name is needed to identify my drink as mine given that it's not in their SOP to call me. At least, none of the outlets of both Starbucks and Coffee Bean ever did.

Anonymous said...

A process has to be designed in a generic fashion such that given any customer, any service personal, the desired outcome can be achieved. If the desired outcome is simply to the bring the cake/cup to the correct customer with a zero-low margin for mistake, then requesting for initial markings is a clever process to ensure this.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Kumar. Sometimes I will think that, if he/she is creative enough, he/she will not be doing the job already but instead becoming a boss. I'll be happy too if they have a good system to follow get the job done efficiently and effectively.

When I was asked about my initial in such situation and I was reluctant to tell my initial, I will just say anything like Alex, William, AB, CD, or XY. If they are not creative, you can be creative. :)

Rock Hard said...

The worst part about asking for initial is..
I have to spell it out to them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i agree with this piece of blog.
Employees, especially those who has already lost their motivation in works often blindly follow instructions set by company policies without knowing their necessity.

Little did they realize that sometimes, skipping through some dummy procedures could ease lots of their work load too...

Unfortunately, no one seems to understand that and i don't see any future in changing that attitude...don't u agree?


Yu-Kym said...

kumar, the service was not quick. It could have been quicker.

Rock Hard, ya, I have to spell it out... and they'll repeat it back...

Jyoan and CH, they dumped my cake at the collection counter instead of giving it to me. I didn't see any name written on the plate or my cake.

David, the mid-range coffee joints here are supposed to be noted for their service but personally I find the service at the low-end coffee shops tend to be better! The shop owners and even the workers recognise regular customers and remember which drinks they prefer and how they like their drinks made (e.g. without/less milk, without/less sugar, "half hot", replace condensed milk with evaporated milk, iced/hot). Owners of mid-range coffee joints care only about the profit while workers only care about receiving their hourly wage.

Pat, I agree. "If it aint broke, don't fix it" mentality.

Anonymous said...

Many customers are also equally to be blamed for the relatively unsatisfactory state of service culture in Singapore. We Singaporeans are mostly unappreciative of good service and even less... show proper recognition or acknowledgement of good service.

But where it comes to bad service, Singaporeans are no. 1 to criticise but never ever impose the same standards of courtesy upon themselves.

Caucasians from the western and southern hemisphere are in general better in their social graces.

curious cat

Anonymous said...

Sorry guys, I thought I would just leave my two cents worth.

I work as a supervisor in a similar cafe governed by the same marketing strategy as implied by many cafe chains around the world. I have worked long enough to know what should or should not be done and I know most of the times, I don't follow the normal procedures laid out by management.
Truth be told, I understand what yu kym is trying to imply and I don't take names when only one order goes through the system.

However, many juniors who have no experience whatsoever get nervous during the first few months at work. Thus, they are blindly following whatever rules are laid out by the employer. In my shoes, I have also been spot checked by people from Head Office of the franchise to ensure that we follow company's policy.

I'm not saying that whoever served you has the lack of common sense, but they could be under pressure to perform according to the management's requirements. So give them a break and just enjoy your cake and coffee. =)

Anonymous said...

Whoever you are Anonymous, Bravo to you!

For speaking up for those trying to do the best job they can but for some valid reasons couldnt do it as well as others.

But because of customers who are ignorant of the situation or circumstances and only watching from the outside.... they judge, criticise and condemn. Be a little bit more forgiving for the little shortfalls, be a little more understanding and when it's your turn in the pressure cooker, someone else will return the favour.

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

curious cat, you sound like someone from the government - blaming customers for the behaviour of the service staff! Good service starts with the service staff not the customers.

Anon, I certainly agree with you that employees would rather do whatever their management tells them to do. It happens in office work environments too!

Anonymous said...


I am not blaming only the customers and letting the service staff off the hook. I am only saying that we should not nick pick on the little service staff coz these poor fellas in the front line do have their problems as explained by the Anonymous supervisor in the service industry.

Of course there are black sheeps on both sides. But little things like asking for your initials even when there is no real usefulness to do so may have its underlying explanation which we viewing from the outside may not be aware of.

Give these poor guys who work long hours including weekends and public holidays and actually earn comparatively so very little a little break pls?

But if there are good grounds to complain about poor service, by all means do so or these black sheeps will perpetuate the repugnant culture.

It takes two to tango. Good service starts with both the customers and the service staff! You wait for one to take the lead, you are going to wait long long.

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

I didn't say that the service is bad. I only questioned whether employees think about the reason behind why things are done. This applies also to those who work in offices.

Anonymous said...


Ok understood but your post certainly didnt come out that way..but there is a message behind the Anonymous supervisor's post...and that is...there may be valid reasons why your server did what she did or did not think about the reason behind why things are done.

Or it could be too that server is an experienced staff but exhibiting all the hallmarks of indifference couldnt care less, minimum work, customer go suck your @^##* attitude!

But unless we know the real reason for such minor service failings, the service staff should be given the benefit of the doubt.

curious cat

Anonymous said...

Oh, i have ommitted something in my last comment, less I'm misunderstood.

"Or it could be too that server is an experienced staff but exhibiting all the hallmarks of indifference couldnt care less, minimum work, customer go suck your @^##* attitude!"

This server should be reported to Yu-Kym to name and announce to the world, held up for scrutiny by us all here and literally shot to pieces and banished forever from the hospitality trade.

No benefit of the doubt here.

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

This post is more about the bigger picture of people's unwillingness to change the process or ask why the process is such, than the minor irritation I experienced.

Anonymous said...

Oh ok Yu-Kym. I guess I went "astray"! keke

So hey you ppl!.. be like me...always curious and always questioning why not, why must like that, why cannot like this, go find out more, I want to know, something is not right!

But be careful if you get carried "away" in the business world with such spunkiness, remember you dont have my nine lives! lol

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

We have to have EQ and foresight, know the value, and how to prioritise to succeed. We can't go around trying to change and question everything all at once!