As an Englishman living in the US I notice differences between the two countries on a daily basis. The money over here is green and made from paper, there are guns (more guns than I think anyone ever needs) and people in general are a lot more polite. Americans might call you every name under the sun and tell you where to stick it, but they’ll always wish you a nice day as you’re running away into the sunset.
It’s during customer service interactions that I notice some major differences. Seriously, people will treat you like royalty over a five dollar sale and it’s simultaneously pleasant and sickening. But I’ll get to that.
When I used to work in a coffee shop back in the UK, I’d be short and to the point with customers. I was always polite but I valued bluntness over flattery, in order to increase the speed of sales.
Speaking for my people (which I really shouldn’t be), most British citizens want to get in, get the product and get out as fast as possible. We don’t want to be pampered and pruned, or offered too much of a choice. We want the same grey sludge all day, every day. So that we can go home, watch some crappy television and then eventually die in order to finally get some damn peace and quiet.
I should really stop speaking on behalf of Britain. The optimists are starting to complain.
Anyway, my blunt service got me a gig as manager for a while, and the majority of regular customers clicked with me. So I must’ve been doing something right. In the North East of England in particular, customers want exactly what they came in for and they’d rather you didn’t wish them a good day. Because, speaking from experience, they’re probably not going to have one, and so you’d just be lying to their kind faces.
Oh but in America…
Here in the land of the free and the home of the bountiful beverage, you’re treated like a God simply for owning a membership card. Or if they can sense you’ve got more than a hundred dollars in your checking account. Hard-grafting customer service workers have a rough time of it over here. They have to fuss and fawn over each and every person who steps through the doors of their store, cafe or restaurant, and I can see them dying behind their eyes but they carry on anyway. No matter what.
It’s the constant asking that they’re told they must do.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Is everything okay sir?”
“Can I get you anything else?”
It depends, are you a therapist?
With my meal? Absolutely! But in the grand scheme of the universe I don’t think anyone is truly okay.
The knowledge that everyone I’ve ever loved or cared about will be okay. Then I can die.
For whatever reason, they never like my answers.
I don’t really say these words, but it’s typically what I’m thinking and subsequently what I have to stop myself from saying. I’m used to questions like this in a setting where something substantial is on the line, but not in a situation where I must decide if a six dollar burger and fries are passable.
It’s too much, it really is. Most people, I would hope, are capable of continuing on with their day if a meal was unsatisfactory. Most people should be able to look at an experience that they made the free choice to pay money for and not take it out on the service worker.
Oh wait. I know people. Well, I know some people and that’s usually enough. I’ve seen people flip their ever loving shit over slightly below average customer service. I mean, some pockets of the internet are even dedicated for providing reviews for goods and services that ultimately do not matter.
Yes mister GunBanger69, I’m sure in the grand scheme of things your review for the Budget Motel is really going to matter. I’m certain that when you’re about to pass from this realm of existence, you’ll be thinking about that terrible stay in a forty dollar a night hotel. Screw your loved ones and the memories you’ve built up over time. Balls to finding comfort and peace with your contribution to the fabric of human society. Those don’t matter! What really matters is spending well-earned anger and energy on something that’s entirely out of your control.
Yeah, that’s it, that’s exactly why customer service is so star-spangled awesome over here. It’s because of the reaction that employees will get from customers when things go slightly wrong. Every customer service worker has a war-story flashback to when a fellow member of the same species decided to unleash months of pent up anger onto them. Like a hot jet of angry red liquid. Anger sauce.
That’s gross. Forget I said that.
I just want everyone to give up on this whole song and dance, en-masse. For every customer service worker and every reasonable consumer (most of the time these people are one and the same) in the country to decide that we’ve had enough of the unnecessary stress caused by disgruntled, angered and infuriated customers.
Their money isn’t worth the hassle, and if we create a culture of respecting one another by acknowledging the fact that perspectives other than our own exist, then things can only get better.
Then, once we’ve perfected the system and every consumer is a kind and polite individual, then we can drop this whole act on the other end. Customer service workers can stop with the faux-worshiping at the feet of everyone who crosses their threshold. We can all get back to being medium to one another, and the balance of power will be equalised.
But what do I know? I’m just a commie Brit who thinks that fairness and equality in every aspect of our collective lives might actually be a good idea.
It’s Saturday, May 12th and I’m heading out to a bonfire to talk to people who I may or may not know.