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What happened to good old fashioned customer service?

 Published on: 7th May 2013   |   By: Nik Allen

Waiter-taking-order-006There are many things about the United States I do admire, and after a disastrous pub meal at the weekend I have to say when it comes to customer service the Americans have got it right.

I don’t want to generalise, I know not all restaurants and retailers in this country offer bad service. In fact many do a very good job. But when it goes wrong, it goes very wrong indeed.

The problem started on Sunday when a group of six of us decided to make the most of the sunny weather and dine out in a pub beer garden. We ordered our food and were told by a sullen-faced member of the waiting staff there would be a 30 minute wait.

The menu was pretty basic – no gastro pub fare on offer here – so we figured how hard can it be to churn out a few chickenburgers and chips?

We got our answer about two hours later when our food finally arrived. There was no apology and not even a hint of embarrassment on the face of the waitress who delivered our (very average) food.

While waiting for our order to arrive we had contemplated getting our money back and leaving (about 20 other punters did). But for one reason or another we stuck it out and what a waste of our time it was.

With so many pubs in the UK closing each year, I wonder how such an attitude can survive. Sometimes I think businesses get away with bad customer service by hiding behind the excuse that we Brits are more reserved than our counterparts across the Atlantic and don’t like “in your face” interaction.

But it is possible to offer good service without suffocating the customer with fake smiles and rehearsed lines. In the States, even a short delay for food would have been partnered with a round of free drinks. In the UK, the wait was accompanied with sheer apathy.

I should have left the pub happy (it was after all the hottest day of the year so far). Instead I was furious.

I know some places that get it right – John Lewis with its partnership structure for instance. But unfortunately I can think of many others where customer service is non-existent.

I think if things are to ever improve, we Brits need to stop being polite and get a little bit more demanding. We need to speak up with service is shoddy and refuse to accept being treated poorly.

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