I’ve blogged before about the odious quality of what is laughingly known as ‘customer service’ in this dour country of ours. I’ve said that I prefer American schmalz to European laissez-faire anytime, although many masochists disagree. Apparently some of you out there enjoy being ignored, patronised, disrespected, insulted, and ripped-off on a fairly regular basis.
Not me. Not anymore. As Peter Finch screamed in the film Network, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Ever! The older I get, the more I suspect Faulty Towers was less a comedy creation, more a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the customer interaction of an average UK service provider. (Wasn’t it inspired by a real life hotel owner?) Really, you readers from across the Atlantic need to give thanks for what you’ve got, big time.
But why is there such a marked difference between the customer service standards of the two cultures? I’ve thought about this for a while and I’ve come to a one word answer: socialism. It works in two ways.
Firstly, imagine a member of staff who deals with the public in any capacity. Imagine they do a sloppy job. (Not a big feat of imagination, I realise.) Imagine their manager has the guts and integrity to fire them. Here, its no big deal, they go on the dole and the tax-payer forks out for their little holiday until they’re forced to try it again. In the US, they starve, they’re out on the streets. You want to discover a motivation as to why you should put forth some effort? Suddenly you’ve got all sorts of motivation!
But let’s take it a little deeper. In this country, we have a massive wodge of the workforce employed directly by the state. (This serves two purposes: it keeps the unemployment figures artificially low, and it spreads the tentacles of the state artificially wide. But that’s another story.) Appreciate that these people are bureaucrats, paper-pushers, box-tickers. Their work is not creative or productive in any economic sense. Appreciate also that their unions are strong, their jobs are for life, their pensions are golden, and that they are virtually unsackable. So what motivation do they have to provide quality customer service (or even value for money)? None. None whatsoever.
I’ve been working for myself for a few years now, and I’m still learning a lot. (A bonus, not a drawback!) But I know one thing. My ability to pay my mortgage is directly dependent on the quality of the service I provide to my customers. I can think of no greater motivation than that… except if a gun were put to my head.
Guns aye? That gives me an idea for what to do the next time some jobsworth says to me, “That’s not my department, you should try the massive queue over there instead. I want to get back to my chewing gum and vacant expression as soon as possible, and you’re interfering.”
Training can help such morons. So can starvation. Of the two, starvation is the more cost-effective.