Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks for waiting

As if by magic, about 18 months ago Marks and Spencer checkout staff started each customer with the phrase "thanks for waiting" a nice enough gesture if there had been something of a wait, a bit pointless when you were buying one sandwich and there was no one in front of you and you hadn't been waiting. The next words in the one sandwich situation, "do you need any help with your packing?", "not unless both my arms have just fallen off".

So it would appear that the pointlessness of apologising to someone for waiting when they haven't been waiting has not been lost and now they have stopped saying it, altogether. They now don't say it when you've been waiting for 20 minutes because they can't work out if the coupon to save 20p is a valid one or not and spend ten minutes checking it out.

It's a customer service dilemma in the UK, we really don't know how to be nice to customers, that's not to say service is inherently bad, an average shop assistant is generally helpful and polite, even in the US they aren't always tip top. Yet the culture between the US and the UK is totally different. In a US supermarket I was politely reprimanded for packing a shopping bag myself, I've never known of anyone in the UK voluntarily packing groceries, "do you need any help with your packing?", should be rephrased as "you DON'T need help with your packing, do you? if you do I may be able to find someone who will grudgingly do it, whilst staring at you wondering why you can't do it yourself, sir".

With the advent of the internet and review websites, customer service in general is starting to improve, whether we can get it as a culture will probably take a few more generations. Basil Fawlty was written as a man who was happier when he didn't have any guests staying at his hotel, the guests were always a hindrance, we seem to have moved a bit on that, perhaps we could start to teach staff to use stock phrases at appropriate times rather than learning them and saying them every time or not at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment