Now is the time for customer service to improve to what it should be.
Inevitably, when I picked up the phone to organize parts of my upcoming vacation, I received a message that said something along the lines of “due to unprecedented call volume … longer wait times than usual … recommend you go to our website.”
With one industry provider, I waited an hour, the call on speaker-phone, and then I ended the “call,” while with another I finally got through for an electronic message to tell me I had called out-of-hours.
Consumer-facing public relations has to improve, particularly in the U.K. where it is largely rubbish, and if that cannot happen during this very weird era, I cannot see it happening at all.
Companies certainly are suffering, battered between March and July when trade was non-existent because in part hotels and restaurants were not allowed to welcome guests. Many staff have been furloughed, even made redundant, but to not have the people in place to capitalize when business does come back seems as though hands have been raised and defeats accepted.
Customers are rattled due to all of our lives having been altered—drastically so, or less drastically so, but altered nonetheless. Tiredness and mental health are huge issues, and vacations can alleviate the stress of the daily grind.
Then you pick up the phone, and the customer service is appalling.
Last year when I was in Nashville for the Hotel Data Conference, which this year is virtual, I was told at my car-rental desk that the type of car I had booked was no longer available. So, the person behind the desk said, “no worries, we’ve got you something nice,” and instead of a compact car they gave me the keys to a car that for me—we drive on the left, our roads are narrow—was a supercar.
In the U.K., I would probably have been told I could have a car now if I upgraded for an extra cost of …
I am sure there are plenty of excellent examples of U.K. best practices, but this is how I see it. In the same way that I would say U.S. dairy products are inedible, but the Brits excel in them.
Companies are scrambling for revenue and to seek some forward motion amid the chaos of COVID-19, and they should start with perfecting customer relations.
It seems so obvious, but I do not see it in practice, or least in my experience.
On 5 August, Francesca, my wife, and I did two new things for 2020—we got a haircut, and we ate at a restaurant.
Those who know me know that haircuts do not feature largely in my life, but eating does. The haircut was at the home of a professional hairdresser who we know, while the meal was at the Dulwich Wood House public house in Sydenham, South London, which has a large garden with socially-distanced tables.
It is very warm in England, so that helped, as does the government’s scheme on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for up to £10 ($13.11) off food, but not alcohol, which I had totally forgotten about when I suggested an alternative to having to cook at home.
Many hotel restaurants are taking part in the scheme, and time will tell if the scheme will be successful. I will only take part if I can eat outdoors, as I did at the Wood House.
For those of us like me who have not gone to a pub since 13 March, there were even helpful signs to show us what we needed to do (see photo above).
The sign on the glass told me that the liquid inside of it was beer. It was a Camden Brewery pale ale, and this is type of customer service that I believe should be replicated across the country.
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