Customer service: has the UK overtaken the US?
I’ve been meaning to read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” for years. A couple of weeks ago I had an hour to kill and found myself at the doors of Waterstones in London. So I popped in and started fiddling around in search of the iconic masterpiece. After a few minutes, a young lady politely asked if she could help me. I asked her where I would find Paulo Coelho’s books and she directed my downstairs. Five minutes later I was at the till and about to pay for the book. The young lady walked past me and commended me on my choice. She said the ending was very moving and that the book remains one of her all-time favourites.
I read the book in less than 10 hours and loved it.
The following week I was in New York and was eulogising to a colleague about The Alchemist. Purely by chance, we were walking past Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue at the very moment that I was praising the book. So we popped in and did another impression of a man lost in a bookshop. And then, as if by magic, a young lady came up to me and asked if she could help. I explained what I was looking for and she pointed me in the direction of Paulo Coelho’s books. Five minutes later I was at the till, where the same young lady was waiting to serve me. “Awesome choice!” she said as I fumbled for my credit card. “Yep – it really is a great book, isn’t it. What was your favourite part?” I asked. “Oh, ummmm…” she stammered as she went red and looked at the till “I haven’t actually read it, I just know that it’s supposed to be great”.
Now we all know that sincerity is the new black when it comes to customer service. And we all know that when Americans say “have a nice day” it is more through Pavlovian habit than authenticity. So is the UK now setting the standard for genuine, heart-felt, properly sincere service?
Ok – you might think that I’ve taken one small coincidence and blown it into a bigger story for a blog. Wrong. The (English) lady at the check-in area at Heathrow was truly outstanding, whereas the (American) chap who sold me a ticket for the bus into Manhattan was a scoundrel. The waitress at the restaurant in Time Square cared more about her nails than my food, whereas the waitress at Veritas wine bar in Banbury was the equal of the lady at Heathrow. And so on, and so on…
What’s your experience? Do you think that the advent of authentic service sounds the death knell to the days of American service dominance? Or am I being a hopelessly jingoistic Brit?!
Posted by Stuart Miller on May 8, 2012 | Comments Off