A credible role model?
Brian Cranston won this year’s Best Actor Olivier Award for his role of Howard Beale in Network. In recognition, I thought his infamous mantra, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” should fire us up not to accept poor customer service. Otherwise, you have to bite your tongue and meekly walk away.
Rant and rave
Not long after his appointment as CEO of Barclays Bank, the “Montreal Marauder” to give Matthew Barrett his sobriquet, remarked in an interview with the Independent newspaper in August 2001, “The consumer, whatever they are buying, is long suffering. A service revolution is a little overdue. I find the legendary politeness of the English to be not in their self-interest. I think they should be ranting and raving at the service they get, wherever they are getting it, banks included. The consumer cuts business too much slack in this country.”
Why did Matt mention only the English? Why didn’t he include the other home nations? From Scotland, if speaking today, he could have chosen the Simpsons characterisation of a Scot in the form of Orkney-born “Groundskeeper Willie”.
Alternatively, that of Robert Carlyle’s foul-mouthed, violent Begbie in Trainspotting. I’ll leave you to search Google for comparable examples from Wales and Northern Ireland.
Seventeen years later from Matt’s interview, we see a proliferation of notices stating, “Our staff have the right to work in a safe environment and we will not tolerate abuse, threat or intimidation”, which is fair dos. However, as a customer, it now seems that as soon as you express your frustration in anything more than a dull monotone, you are accused of being threatening. Is that fair?
Personally, I always found it amusing as Barclays Customer Relations Director to start a phone call with a customer who was justifiably irate whose first words were not entirely dissimilar to the opening line of Ian Dury and the Blockheads’s song, Plaistow Patricia.
Did I feel threatened? No! Having spat out their pent-up lexical bile, they were spent. It was then far easier to have a grown-up, relatively amicable conversation with them. The problem could be properly defined and understood; a solution could be devised, negotiated and agreed.
The use of a legal parry
In 2018, how do you not take it anymore? How can you convey your annoyance without being accused of being threatening and intimidating? How far are you prepared to take your fight?
The story of one customer who took his fight the full 12-rounds has garnered considerable publicity. Seph Pochin sued Greater Anglia railway for its lousy service, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-43310621. Having been awarded compensation, Pochin had to send in the bailiffs to claim assets to the value of court order when the railway company declined to abide by the court’s ruling. In a local TV news bulletin, Greater Anglia’s spokesperson said the firm was “disappointed” Pochin took his action. Not half as disappointed as Pochin who had to endure the all too frequent service failures.
Disclosure: Greater Anglia is my local train operating company and I admire Pochin for what he did, particularly the extensive fact and evidence he collected and presented to underpin his claim. He remained cool, calm and collected.
He took his grievance to the head of the organisation rather than “take it out” on the front-line service providers; that is commendable. After all, that business head is accountable for the quality of service to their firm’s Board. Let them know (s)he has failed.
Recall the lessons of your childhood; they stand the passage of time
When you’re promised something wonderful by a firm through its marketing and advertising, and the experience doesn’t match-up, don’t take it anymore. Complain! But recall Aesop’s fables; the steady and persistent tortoise always beats the impatient hare.
And it is the gentle warmth of the sun that persuades the man to remove his coat, not the Begbie-like fierce, north wind.
This book is on my bookshelf.
Its vintage is evident by virtue of the foreword being written by Sir Colin Marshall in his then role of Chairman, British Airways, which at that time was regarded as the ‘world’s favourite airline’; see my blog about BA at https://www.tsp-uk.co.uk/general-leadership/british-airways-can-ever-worlds-favourite-airline/. I notice that in the revised edition the foreword is written by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, now owned by Amazon from where the book may be bought.
I intend to be generous this year and give lots of gifts (hopefully, they won’t need to be wrapped in the paper of litigation). Are you also going to be generous, too?