And now for something completely different

[ learning the intricacies of life in the UK, and British customer service ]    •

 

Have you ever asked yourself if everything that happens around you, which doesn’t go off with flying colours, is actually entirely your fault? Have you ever reprimanded yourself for the mistakes of others?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those … first, jeez, consider giving yourself some more credit! Also, you may be prepared to live in London.

Nobody prepared me for just how patronising (“you must have meant *pah-tronising, sir.”) customer service in this country can be.

This doesn’t apply across the board. I’ve found face-to-face time and, to a lesser extent, phone conversations to be entirely different animals. Overall, dealing with service folks in the Big Smoke is quite pleasant. I actually end up feeling bad for them as many seem to be genuinely taken aback when encountering something I’d characterise as, ‘typical Canadian interpersonal behaviour.’ One fellow, in particular, who’d rung me up in regards to a utility service, nearly fell over himself being friendly after I’d wished him a ‘good day, as well.’

As for face-to-face, most service people are very friendly. In fact, the biggest difference I’ve found is that they don’t tend to put on a show for customers. They’re generally pleasant, occasionally exceptional, but usually somewhere in between. The customer isn’t always right over here, and those who deal with them don’t usually feel the need to treat them as such.

It’s fine. Really. I’ve run into few terrible experiences, and some of those were likely of my own doing. Sometimes I’m just an asshole. It’s cathartic.

A little bit of Canuck charm never fails to diffuse a situation.

However, it’s when a person can hide themselves behind an anonymous email that things get snipey. The kid gloves not only come off, but they’re weighted and used to bludgeon the child from whose tear-stained hands they were wrenched.

A recent clerical error with my bank kicked off a chain of shame which began with a phone call. This call went quite well and I disconnected with the satisfaction of an issue cleanly resolved.

However, this would not be the end. Over the next few weeks my card would be locked and an insultingly low daily transaction limit would be instated. This lead to a phone call which implied strongly that I should clean up my act if I wanted access to my money … money whose access had been denied due to the bank’s (*acknowledged) mistake. Not stopping there, by week 2 a letter found it’s way to me further implying my lack of responsibility, as well as offering many debt management courses and options.

So… perhaps this is an extreme example. Nevertheless, pleasantries of written communications seem to escape the grasp of many organisations in the UK. If you find yourself living in London, be prepared to be talked down to. Don’t worry, it will happen.

 

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