THE LAST WORD

With Neil Haver­son

Let's Talk - - CONTENTS - by Neil Haver­son

W e’ve all had bol­shy sales as­sis­tants serve us, been promised a call back that never comes or gone into the bank to find the per­son at the head of the queue is pay­ing in his tak­ings in sev­eral bags of coins. We whinge, but then we get served and for­get about it.

Well I’m ex­pect­ing things to im­prove. Sit­ting in my in­box are no less than six emails from peo­ple I have dealt with in the past fort­night al­most beg­ging me for feed­back on my ex­pe­ri­ence with their com­pany.

“What could have been bet­ter?” asks one. “Let us know so we can fix it.”

An­other pledges: “We’ll use your feed­back to help us im­prove your ex­pe­ri­ence and to make sure we’re fo­cused on the things that mat­ter to you!” Re­ally? Just for me? All of them asked me to fill in an on­line sur­vey. As a re­ward one of­fered to put me in a draw for £1,000 if I an­swered their ques­tions – and, as an added in­cen­tive, I could take the prize in Euros.

My bank named the teller that dealt with me and wanted to know if she was help­ful and friendly; did she make things easy and did she un­der­stand my needs?

My needs? If she took note of my bank bal­ance she’d have been in no doubt.

In fact, she was a lovely girl but she did have to check some­thing with a col­league. But I didn’t put that in the com­ments panel in the sur­vey.

I mean, can you imag­ine it? The email said: “The in­for­ma­tion you pro­vide will help us im­prove our ser­vice,” so I could see her be­ing sum­moned to the man­ager’s of­fice.

“Mr Haver­son has been in touch. He tells us you had to ask Cynthia how long his cheque would take to clear. I’m afraid we’re go­ing to have to let you go.”

The sur­veys only took three or four min­utes – ex­cept one. It was from a well-knowm high street store that’s never know­ingly un­der­sold. Its sur­vey would take 15 min­utes, but it re­ferred to cloth­ing pur­chased by Mrs H. I aborted. That’s some­thing I am wholly un­qual­i­fied to com­ment on.

And they all wanted to know which age bracket I was in. Surely the stan­dard of ser­vice should ap­ply what­ever age. Or did they think: “Oh he’s a moan­ing old codger, we can ig­nore him.”

Fi­nally I got one from a ho­tel we stayed at re­cently. How, they wanted to know, could they im­prove my stay? I let them have it.

“Please, please,” I wrote, “let’s have some real ale in­stead of the weak, taste­less, gassy stuff.”

So, next time you stay at one of the ho­tels where Lenny Henry prom­ises you a good night’s sleep, check out the bar and let me know if they’ve taken heed of my words.

I no­ticed in these sur­veys com­pa­nies no longer have staff. They have teams. Most of the emails came from “The Cus­tomer Ser­vices Team”. I re­mem­bered see­ing ev­i­dence of this all around the ho­tel we stayed at.

Doors, in­stead of be­ing mar­ket “Pri­vate” or “Staff Only”, were la­belled “Team Mem­bers Only.” I half ex­pected the door to burst open and a squad of uni­formed cham­ber­maids clutch­ing their dusters jog out to the theme tune of Match of the Day.

It was even on the menu in the restau­rant. If I wanted a boiled egg for break­fast I was urged to ask “one of the team”. Did this mean they have a boiled egg team? If I wanted my ba­con crispy should I find a mem­ber of the ba­con team?

Maybe it’s just me that’s scep­ti­cal about this. Per­haps I should find out. I’ll con­duct a sur­vey.

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