Friday, 3 April 2015

Customer services

The day kicked off at the Apple Store in Covent Garden, which is always a pleasurable experience. I was returning a broken cable and they couldn't have been any more charming or helpful. I do think many businesses could learn a great deal about customer service simply by visiting an Apple Store and finding out why staff seem so universally happy to be working there.

The same can be said for the Sainsbury's Local on the Archway Road and the Starbucks opposite Borough tube, where staff are always keen to smile and help. I wonder why certain places generate happy staff? Is it good bosses? Or is it places where employees genuinely have enough flexibility in their roles to actually make a difference and help people? In my view a great deal of bad customer service happens as a result of customer-facing staff not being able to authorise the little protocol-busting manoeuvres which brighten a troubled customer's day.

I went from Covent Garden to Earl's Court to meet Abbie. We had tea and brownies in the upstairs room of the cafe in that giant Tesco hypermarket on the A4. It's actually unexpectedly cozy up there, with leather sofas and brilliant light fittings which sit in bowler hats.

Abbie was sad and I felt sad because she was sad. There was very little I could say other than that I was there for her. We all are. As I rushed across London to be with her this morning, I remembered that we'd returned from our San Franciscan pneumonia crisis to find some potatoes, a tin of beans and a packet of cheese from Abbie waiting on our doorstep. It was one of the most touching things anyone's ever done for us, so Abbie, if you're reading this, if there's anything you need, just ask.

I grabbed lunch back in Highgate, measured Nathan's shawl for reasons unexplained, dashed to the post office to send Jo's phone charger back to Portsmouth, and then drove down into Kentish Town to replace the tyre which had exploded on the M25 on Saturday.

The mellow men at Kwik Fit predicted an hour's wait, so I went into Kentish Town to do some more errands.

I sat on the floor in Barclays Bank for what felt like most of the afternoon. I might not have minded but the man sitting on the chair to my left had such bad BO that even my burgeoning cold couldn't offer protection.

I was in the bank to get a form stamped for my Arts Council grant and there weren't enough staff in the branch to help me, particularly once the manager had decided it was a form he'd need to "look over thoroughly" himself. After an hour's wait for him, on the floor, I was dealt with by someone who wasn't the manager, who plainly hadn't read the information on my form before stamping it. The manager reappeared and I asked why it hadn't been a job that his counter staff could have done a minute after I'd arrived. "This was a form which needed to be read carefully," he said. I looked at the woman who'd stamped it; "did you read this carefully? What is this document about?" "You want to pay money to a company called Brass" she said. I laughed, "that couldn't be further from the truth!" Her eyes narrowed in a "don't criticise me, I'm a nondescript Eastern European and I know people who could make you disappear" kind of way. I left feeling violated by her icy blue eyes and strong jawline.

I returned to Kwik Fit, paid for the new tyre they'd fitted, and drove the car out of the garage. I'm not altogether sure what made me think twice, but as I reached the end of the street I thought I ought to just check they'd put the spare wheel back in the boot. Imagine my surprise therefore when I opened the back door to find nothing! Of course they were hugely apologetic when I returned and told them they'd not actually changed the tyre I'd been charged for, and they got the job done at a suitably Kwik fit fitter speed, but I can't think how horrifying it would have been if we'd got a flat tyre on the way up North tonight and thought "thank God we changed the tyre" to discover an empty boot!

Speaking of which, we're currently half way up the M6 on our way to Wales where we're staying with Nathan's sister on the way to Llandudno for the weekend, where Brother Tim and John are getting married. We've listened to rough mixes of all of the Pepys Motet, Oranges and Lemons, and Billy Whistle from Brass. It's odd to think I'm going to be unleashing two hours of Till on the world in June! Two whole hours of recorded music. It's very exciting. There must be something in the air: Fiona is presently mixing two albums as well...

We're much later than we thought we'd be. Nathan was forced to get off the tube at Camden and take a bus the rest of the way home, which delayed him by an hour, partly because he got into an argument with an incredibly rude Underground staff member at Camden station. I note today that LU have launched a campaign which attempts to stop people shouting at their staff. The poster slogan runs something along the lines of, "my Mum got shouted at today by a customer. I thought she was crying, but she told me there was just something in her eye." I get it; LU staff put up with a hell of a lot of nonsense. But some of them are right arsey so and sos with serious lip-sucking attitudes, so from time to time we must all reserve our right to vent!

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