Thursday, January 03, 2008

Service with a smile?.....You'll be lucky!!!!

Why is it that people who work in 'service' industries (shop assistants, restaurant staff, helplines, etc.) find it so difficult to actually give a service? Or if they do fulfil their obligations, as described in their job description, they do so with such bad grace and, sometimes, downright rudeness. Examples follow:

  • On Christmas Eve I was shopping for a few last minute things in Tesco when I needed to be directed to wherever it was they kept the tomato juice. I'd looked in all the (to me) obvious places (mixers, fruit juices) but couldn't find it. Now, I know that I'm past my best and my brain isn't quite as sharp as it used to be and I knew that this elusive juice would be in a pretty obvious place (obvious, that is, to everyone except me) but I did expect a more 'helping old ladies across the road' attitude than the one I got, which was aggressive, rude and totally uncalled for. It's not as if it was halfway through the day and the store was extremely busy (this was approximately 5.30am and not all that many customers around) and I didn't interrupt this individual from building a festive pyramid of Christmas puddings in order to take me by the hand and lead me around the store. I just asked, very politely, 'Excuse me, please could you tell me where the tomato juice is?' His response was to roar 'WHAAAT??' whereupon I meekly repeated my request. With much eye rolling and waving of fingers he replied 'Over there' in a tone that indicated he was obviously dealing with a moron. Put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
  • During my enforced absence from blogging I had the misfortune to lose my internet connection . All of the hardware, etc seemed to be in good working order so I assumed that the problem was with my service provider, (oh no, not again) Tesco. Obviously Tesco have a central charm training school to which they send all of their employees regardless of their role in that great and glorious conglomerate. However, in this section of their world domination, they charge you 50p/minute for their employees to be rude and unhelpful. The very lovely Pete was my advisor and mentor for this unwanted, hugely inconvenient disruption to my life (bills to be paid, emails and blogs to read) and he had spent 30 minutes talking to them without a result so add to it the 20 minutes or so that it took me to work out that they didn't intend to be of any use and there's £25's worth of no help and frustration. Anyway, it got fixed in the end (thanks, Pete) but don't it make you mad.
  • Yesterday went out to lunch with Jo and Thomas. Ok, so it was a Harvester but it's only up the road and they have a 'help yourself' salad bar and Thomas likes it. All was reasonably OK (apart from the waitress dropping a knife on David's beer thereby depositing huge chunks of glass in it and then having to be asked to replace the drink) but then I thought I'd finish on a nice cup of coffee. Costa coffee was the brand advertised in the menu so I was envisaging a good rich, dark brown, aromatic drink. When it came the 'rich, dark brown' part wasn't obvious and a small doubt began to creep into my head. It was too hot to taste, right then, so I watched Thomas devour his double chocolate brownie sundae, relishing every morsel with him, whilst I waited for it to cool. When I eventually brought the cup to my lips the first thing that struck me was that it didn't actually smell of anything. So that was the 'aromatic' bit gone. Then I sipped it; I swear that if it was Costa coffee it was diluted with about 2 gallons of hot water! The manager happened to be passing so I explained my problem and he carried it off muttering something about it all coming out of the same pot but soon returned with a fresh cup. This, I'm sorry to say, looked very similar to the previous one and, on tasting, tasted exactly the same. We weren't charged but there was no apology just the the assumption that I was being unreasonable for not liking their undrinkable coffee.
So..... why can't these people be trained to say 'sorry' to the customer, even if they think they are right. It defuses any potential confrontation and costs nothing. More importantly, why can't companies INSIST that their employees are polite. Would make life so much more pleasant.


PT said...

Why? Well, because they're all bastards. That's why!

MaryB said...

Yeah. What pt said. How dare they treat our Chris that way! Alas, your stories were oh, so familiar. Surliness seems to be the order of the day. Where did it all go wrong?

Tuscan Tony said...

Shop local, Chris, if you can - proprietors can't afford to be rude to you! As for coffee, I always find the best to be in the (incrasingly hard to find) Italian run privately owned cafes. Else get yourself a Nespresso machine.

Chris said...

Thanks for your comments, PT & Mary. Seems I'm not alone.

I think you've inspired another subject for a post, Tony!

Globus said...

long have we suffered shit service in this country. many decry the yanks' 'have a nice day' exuberance but with waiting staff relying on tips, at least you get a better level of service - sincerity aside.

chux said...

I'm sure we've banded this subject around a few times over the recent year!

In my opinion this is where the almighty Tesco is going to come up short and start to lose their tight hold on UK househoolds, unless they do something about it.

There is no excuse for rudeness on this scale I agree.

btw....surely Pete didnt recommend Tesco for your internet connection?
These guys dont have a clue of IT so we shouldnt trust them to supply our internet in my opinion. For an alternative i'd suggest using BT on a BT line, as these other suppliers always blame the others people involved. Otherwise after reading 'Which' magazine over the last few years. They have extolled the virtues of Waitrose as a broadband supplier. The monthly fee may be higher but they do not charge heavily for support. Although they are another supermarket, at least you can be sure they understand customer service!

All the best

Delmonti said...

What a bunch of hateful people.

I wont go to a Harvester anymore, they are ALWAYS surprised by customers turning up for a meal... You get the... "a table for 4?..... errrm, well, it's very very busy, I dont know if I can fit you in..... YOU WANT A MEAL?"

It's at this point I look round just to check I havnt walked into a smelting works by accident, then leave.

Liz said...

I find Tesco staff to generally be less helpful and friendly than the Sainsbury staff.

I agree with Chux, we use BT for our internet and find it good, though more expensive than some.