Are we being served?

So you’ve decided to come to our restaurant. We’re delighted and hope that you’ll leave happy at the end of your visit.
Of course, the food has to be good. It helps if it’s as least as good as expected and is a definite positive contribution if it exceeds expectations. However, if the service is poor, product quality counts for nothing – or so I believe, with absolute conviction. It’s something I’ve believed in ever since I started my professional career – any part of it, be it as an engineer or restaurateur.
So, isn’t it an absolute shame that so many products these days are backed by little or no respect for the person that pays the wages? That’s you, that is; the customer.
While writing this I’ve my phone on speaker setting while I wait in a queue for customer service with one of the nation’s favourite, or at least largest, communications companies. Luckily I got them to call me at first because for the last 45 minutes I’ve had to put up with a repeated message that my call is important to them and it’ll be answered as soon as possible.
Now, there are at least three lies in that last paragraph. First, that my call is important to them – it obviously isn’t. Second, that the call will be answered as soon as possible – it’s well within the realms of possibility that my call could be answered much more quickly if they put more, and better trained, staff on. And third, that I’m actually on hold waiting for customer service – which by definition is patently not so.
If I hadn’t been able to put the phone on speaker and spend the time that I’m on hold writing this column, it’d have cost me a fortune in respect of how else I could have been earning money for our business plus the cost of my mobile phone call.
It’s coincidental that this battle has coincided with the column because I was about to write about how many things require less customer service these days because we often do the service bit ourselves. Obviously, some decades ago we were introduced to the concept of self-service by the supermarkets. But nowadays, it’s the more specialised areas where service is less likely needed.
Once, if you’d needed a new telly, you’d take the advice of the expert in the TV shop. But now, one Wakamachi HD 32” plasma TV bought over the internet from an online supplier is just the same as another Wakamachi HD 32” plasma TV from another. As long as you’re confident that it’s going to be delivered on time and largely unbroken, you’re going to buy the cheapest, aren’t you? Actually, when searching online for something, I’m frequently surprised that some sites get any business at all when, immediately next to them in the search engine listings, there’s another company selling the same thing for less. But it seems that some people actually like paying more than they need to.
However, if we ever come to decide that, when we’re out for a meal, service is unimportant, I guess that it’ll be the end of the restaurant industry. It’s the service that makes the icing on the cake of the food so to speak and is generally the real reason why people go out to restaurants.
It’s obviously not why they buy their services from telephone companies. There’s no icing on the product from them so it all comes down to price, right?
Well not in this case. I’ve just cancelled the contract and gone to someone more expensive. Now I need to go out for a meal and be looked after so as to lower my blood pressure.
September 2010

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