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Customer Care - British Style.

February 27th, 2017

Since I am now over the age of 50, I am now part of the army of grumpy old men and bear my responsibility to complain with all that great British fortitude. Several incidents in the last few weeks have left me feeling that I need to have have a word about British customer care, so don't scroll past. I know that dealing with the public can be trying at the best of times – see this post Nightmare Clients And Customers about the matter but I digress.

Grumpy WaiterThere are two areas where I feel there is a growing lack of customer care in British, or maybe I should say, English society – taxi drivers and pub staff. Of the two, the worst are taxis and I am kind of pleased Uber has made an appearance, it might wake some people up! For those outside the UK, we have two types of taxi services – well three with Uber if we separate them – the black cabs that operate similar to taxis all over the world and 'private hire' – ordinary cars which you should only phone the official number to hire. I have issues with both types so no difference - lot of these drivers think that they are doing their customers a favour! Two recent incidents are a point in case.

Last week I had to remind my private hire driver that the reason I had called for a taxi to the tram station in Wolverhampton was not to be dropped of two streets up the road. He was trying it on because he was in a hurry to get to another job he had just accepted as soon as we had jumped into his car and he found out about our relatively short journey. He still had the audacity to be sarcastic after he finally dropped us of at the tram stop after negotiating the one way system that he got himself into.

Another recent example was with a black cab driver. When I told a driver where we were going, I mentioned landmark that would help him determine which end of the street we wanted. When we got there he began pulling up and I asked him to carry a little further on and he nearly caught a fit! I had to advise him that since his meter was still on, I could at any time ask him to drive for another mile!

I will now leave the taxi drivers alone except to say that the situation outside Coventry Railway station is a national disgrace. The black cab drivers behave like vultures when picking up passengers from late busy services. Someone is going to get hurt and they should – if they were trying to provide some descent customer care – organise themselves properly. Even a small station like Telford has this sussed.

Now on to bar staff – including the market leading Wetherspoons, but first, the The Fox at ExCel , a pub serving attendees to shows at the ExCeL in London. Now I know that some pubs get very busy but you would think one that does get busy, management will have found a way to 'manage' the situation especially since it is a regular occurrence. I mention this pub by name because I was really disappointed by the service I received and the general state of the place. International visitors attend shows at the ExCeL venue for chrissake, so at least keep tables clean!

To cut a long story short because I could do a whole post on my experience really. Attempting to order fish and chips at the very busy bar for lunch, I was informed it was not available but I was not offered a menu to attempt to find an alternative. I just 'guessed' a burger was at least an option and order it from the same bar server who was having so much of a conversation with his colleagues that I had to call out for my receipt when he just walked away after taking payment. After waiting 30 minutes at a dirty table, I had to return to the bar to find out where my order which I was told was ready and would be brought out straight away. A little over 5 minutes later my food made an appearance with cutlery but no condiment basket – had to relieve another table of one.

Now back to my biggest gripe at British pubs. When did it become the customer's responsibility to keep track of which one of us got the bar first? A well trained bar server keeps his eye on the bar and serves people in order. I might understand when the bar is three deep but not before! A well trained bar server does not leave his post while people are at the bar to go collect glasses, talk to serving staff or generally avoid serving. Weatherspoons staff are particularly good at these things especially in the bigger establishments.

Then there is KFC!!! Or no, not that KFC in Bull Street, Birmingham? Yes, the very one, no more needs to be said.

The point I would like to make to any of you who work in 'public' service. Provide the service, it is the customer that pays your wages – not the company you work for. No customers, no company, no job. Many of you would complain if you were at the end of bad customer care so if its too hot, too much trouble, get out the kitchen!