I agree with the views posted by several readers about improving service quality, such as:
a) better training
b) leaders to show a good example
c) create a service culture
d) instill pride in the work
e) better pay and tips
f) a better work environment
I wish to share my observation on one key practical measure that can be implemented in all service organizations, serving customers. It does not add to the cost, and make all of the above measures produce an effective outcome.
Over the years, I have seen just a few places, e.g. hotels, restaurants, with excellent customer service - and the captain or supervisor is visible. This is the person who is clearly identified and makes it a point to look around and see that all the customers are being served.
The captain does not do the work of the waiter, but is wiling to help on emergency, but the main function is to have a bird's eye view.
When the captain or supervisor is around, you can be sure that the waiters or service staff do not idle and gossip. they focus on their work.
The captain is also available to handle the difficult customer issues, so that the service staff can do their physical duties, without being distracted.
Forty years ago, I brought my guests to a restaurant in Raffles Hotel. My guest found a piece of metal in the meal and showed it to the waiter. Five minutes later, the general manager came out to explain how the metal got into the food and waive the entire bill! They have an excellent system of escalating difficult problems beyond the captain to the top.
Often, these excellent places have captains or supervisors that come from overseas. It seems that they have a better service culture and train their people better. We learn to learn from them on these skills and culture.