I have mellowed considerably over the years during my time living in the UK with regards to customer service. When I first moved here I was shocked and appalled by the lack of good service and ‘friendliness’ in stores, cafes and restaurants. In stores, customers are made to feel guilty and rushed at the checkout counter if they do not pack their bags in a timely manner and vacate the checkout spot before the next customer is ready to pack their bags. The checkout person is already ringing up the next person’s goods and glaring at you to get out of the way. I remember once when I was pregnant and struggling to pack my bags quickly enough due to being literally hugely encombered and making sure my small child didn’t wander off. The checkout lady just sat there (not helping me pack the bags) and stared at me with a look of utter contempt on her face. The next person in line looked like they were going to explode with impatience. Clearly I was inconveniencing everyone around me. I was both outraged and embarrassed.

Rule of thumb for store owners and store assistants: Make sure your customers are neither outraged or embarassed or else they will never spend money in your store again.

Well I am used to this checkout procedure now and it doesn’t really phase me any more although I still chuckle and can’t really see the point. When I tell my kids about how different this is in America they are amazed. But they have different opinions – my son loves the idea of someone helping you pack your bags and my daughter thinks it’s a waste of resources.

Anyways, I have generally kept my opinion of bad customer service in England to myself but a recent event which made me really mad has sparked this rant. My main hates about bad customer service in England:

  • Checkout people rushing you to pack your bags and leave as fast as possible so as not to slow them down
  • Checkout people glaring at you and sighing loudly when you do not pack your bags and leave as fast as they want you to
  • Surly and sloppy manner of waiters and waitresses makes you feel unwelcome
  • No eye contact or nice greetings in stores and cafes on buses and in train stations
  • No help or assistance in general
  • Rudeness in general
  • Rude and incompassionate manner in which staff inform you of things
  • Shop and store people being rude with regards to my children (ie., looking at them like they are unwelcome when they are doing nothing wrong) Their attitude towards me and my children suggests they do not want me in their establishment even though we are doing nothing wrong.

I think what it comes down to is attitude. If I am requesting something that is out of stock or unavailable or whatever the case may be then that’s fine, I need to be told that. But it is the manner in which staff inform customers of these things needs to change. Often they are impolite, curt and make you feel like you are inconveniencing them! When I complain about something it only makes it worse. I have mortified my husband on serveral occassions when I have made complaints and simarlarly when I have complimented or thanked someone for their help. I think it’s important for people to know when they are providing good customer service. My poor long-suffering children will definitely grow up knowing the difference between good and bad customer service!

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