First, we went into John Lewis.
John Lewis is the bastion of middle class living. Overpriced enough to make you feel special but not so expensive that you’re the only one in your circle of friends to buy stuff from there.
I was there to discuss the possibility of a BritMums meet up in May. There would be pushchairs. We would be an inconvenience. I was vaguely worried about making the booking. I first found an employee in the coffee shop. I explained it all to her and she acted really happy that I did, and then explained to me what would happen next, textbook perfect:
‘I think for this it will be best if you speak with the manager and I believe he is in the cafe so I will just go look for him and bring him to you. If he isn’t there I know he’ll be in the back and I will then go find him there and bring him out here to you.’ Or something like that. I was grateful.
I barely had time to turn and stare at the furniture behind me, picturing it in my living room, except maybe in a different colour, but actually it wouldn’t go with the coffee table in any colour and anyway I would probably prefer it if we instead added some chairs to the alcoves if we were going to add anything–when the same employee arrived back with the manager.
I explained it all to him and he nodded along then decided immediately that we might be more comfortable in the Brasserie. He showed me the area he was thinking of because it was tucked to the side and gave us plenty of room for networking. It looked perfect.
‘There will be pushchairs,‘ I added.
‘That’s great!’ he replied, excited. His eagerness to accommodate us confused me and I lost my train of thought. I hadn’t even told him who we were yet or that we would tweet about John Lewis as a thank you. I managed to make the booking first in my name, and then when I recovered I made it in BritMums’ name and that’s when I remembered to tell him about the social media aspects of the meet-up. He seemed pleased, but it would be hard to seem more pleased than he already was.
Then we hit Marks and Spencer’s.
If John Lewis is the bastion of the British Middle Class home wares, M&S is the bastion of British Middle Class food and clothes. Sort of. The sparkle has faded a bit from that title but over all it’s still there. Their knickers are still a sure bet.
It was the currency exchange we were looking for and a very nice lady explained where we had to go, a little afterthought tucked in the far back corner behind bras and kids’ clothes. This was nearing lunchtime but not too busy yet. There was a short queue and one woman serving. We waited over 30 minutes before we moved THREE spaces. We waited that long because we were flush with the success of the customer service over at John Lewis and feeling forgiving.
But I was with an American fresh off the boat, and thirty minutes in the back corner of an M&S is a long time. He was looking at me with that look you give someone just before you say, ‘I know we’re in another country and they do things differently here, but are you kidding me?’ I agreed with his look. John Lewis proved that making customers a priority is possible. I wasn’t sure where the post office was in this town or I would have said let’s go, and changed his currency somewhere else. I wandered off to find an employee.
I loitered out in the main aisle considering which way to go when I saw a slender man in a M&S suit and an internal phone pressed to his ear stride smartly past. He saw the crowd beyond the bras and kids’ clothes, the tired people focused on the Bureau de Change sign, paused a safe distance away and said conspiratorially into his phone: ‘And what about Bureau?‘ Here, I must admit, I thought was rescue. ‘Oh! It’s absolutely dismal,’ he declared into the phone and then he turned and strode off again, never to be seen again. No rescue there, then.
So I looked for another employee and then I spotted one. She saw me just after I locked on her and she suddenly had something very important to say to someone nearby and she detoured out of my path. But I was feeling tenacious.
‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt.’
‘Yes?’ She looked startled, unsure and anxious about helping. Perhaps she was new.
‘I was just wondering… the currency exchange–‘
‘I’m sorry, the what?’ she interrupted politely.
I pointed to the far corner and read the sign.
‘Bureau de change.’
I lowered my voice as if embarrassed for her: ‘We’ve been in the queue for over 30 minutes!’ I delivered the bombshell and waited for her to look shocked. She stared blankly at me.
‘And… What would you like to do? Would you like to speak with the manager?’ I blinked. No, he already knows it’s dismal and was incapable of doing anything so that’s why I’m doing something, is what I wanted to say.
‘I just want someone to come help. We’ve been there seriously nearly 40 minutes now because there’s only one woman serving and you can see how long the queue is now.’ It had grown to be many people long. I didn’t count.
‘Oh. Ok I’ll see if I can do…’ she began to say as she walked off.
I went back to stand with my companion who was next in the queue by now.
‘I spoke with someone; she’s going to do something,’ I said. He nodded but a woman a few behind him said, ‘Thank you!’ Everyone was Fed Up.
The employee I stopped appeared by my side
‘Only trained people can go on Bureau, I think someone might be coming soon,’ she explained carefully.
‘Good, thank you. I understand that only trained people can be here but at lunchtime, surely more than one trained person should be available?’ She didn’t have an answer so she just repeated what she already told me.
Just then the second trained person appeared and pushed through the door of the little Bureau de Change chamber and the queue began to move at a fast snails pace. We were served, we left and I then in a fit of defensiveness about my adopted country, I emphasised how surprisingly archaic that experience was these days in Britain. My friend was just glad to be out in the fresh air again.
Seth Godin said it so well: The purpose of Customer Service is to change feelings.
And I guess you really want to change them in a positive way, not a negative one.
A great way to measure customer service is if you would recommend the company to a friend. Sales, products, or special deals are not the thing that wins in the end; it is how well the customer has been taken care of, how they feel at the end of the exchange.
I now feel like I can walk into John Lewis and I can expect a great experience. I also know to avoid that branch of Marks and Spencer’s, or if I have to resort to it, I know to expect hassle and delay.
Where I live in Britain customer service is still hit and miss but rarely have I ever experienced it so polar opposite.
What about where you live? How’s the customer service there? Any good or bad stories? Tell us about it in a comment below, or blog about it and leave a link in the linky below!
ALSO, before you go, remember I promised a prize draw giveaway for ALL my readers in June? Today’s the day!
1. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below or a link in the linky.
2. The giveaway closes at midnight GMT on next Monday, 1 July 2013 and the winner will be drawn using Random.org.
3. I will contact the winner via email and announce it here.
4. I will post the prizes anywhere in the world.
The winner is Nappy Valley Girl!
Now here’s the linky: