Customer Service, London style

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“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”

This is the mission statement of an international coffee house chain based in Seattle.

09:58 hrs

Here we were in Old London town; ‘the home of The Beatles’ as I overheard one American tourist stating the day before. It was a crisp, sunny September morning with the muffled sounds of traffic on the Thames and on the nearby streets. People were gathering around the doorway to one of London’s coffee houses, close to Tower Bridge. The shop was due to open at 10am and because it was England, people were beginning to form an unofficial queue.

The small group of coffee enthusiasts included a couple of joggers, a man walking his dog (I presume it was his) and an elderly couple who had probably been up for 5 hours already, gasping for some fresh coffee. It was the nearest thing to a ‘community’ you’re likely to see in central London.

10:05

Things were getting abit tense because the coffee shop remained unopened. The queue of coffee drinkers became a little agitated as people began to purse their lips and check timepieces while nodding their heads. It was a massive mistake to make people wait for coffee in the morning but I was certain common sense and good service would prevail…

A good first impression creates rapport and trust

10:06

An employee popped his head up from under the counter inside the shop, where employees can hide if they’re having a bad day. He noticed the queue outside and rolled his eyes, his body language betrayed him saying, “Bloody customers, they’re here again!” He gave a stern, dismissive look at the small gathering awaiting their morning pints of latte.

You choose to give great service

10:08

When he eventually deemed us worthy to let us in, to our disbelief, he walked to another door (a 2nd entrance at the other end of the shop for invisible customers) and opened that one first! Having executed part one of the opening up process he strolled over towards us, head down, and opened ‘our’ door like he was doing us a massive favour; like letting the dog out for a run in the garden. I was at least expecting a, “Good morning everyone! Sorry about the wait, I’ll be as quick as I can!” He didn’t say a word and he didn’t make eye contact with us.

Positive Attitude, Courtesy, Timeliness, Trust, Reliability, Quality…

These are just some of the values and emotions that companies want their clients to experience.

In a world in which companies compete fiercely to offer very similar products, customer service will make the difference. That’s why organisations spend so much time and money recruiting and training the right people.  Our man failed to provide a basic level of service on this occasion. I’ll call him Derek because it’s not one of my favourite names.

So what happens when a service provider fails us? As consumers we can simply choose to move on to the next one.

10:10

Some people get more offended than others and when we got inside the shop, I overheard one of the joggers threaten to his partner, “I’m gonna buy two coffees and tip one of ’em over that guy!” (then run, presumably).

The human spirit, eh? One person, one cup, and one neighbourhood at a time, tipping their coffee all over Derek. That’s what bad service can do for you.

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