Monday, 2 February 2015


I recently have gone on about customer service, the lack of it and the need to improve it. I hear no dissent. Tiers of corporate executives are all out there benchmarking and establishing robust measurement processes of their own customer satisfaction.

But what about the complainers - are they always justified and when did that world weary “can’t complain love” disappear from our language? For years I associated this with our putting up with overcooked food and weak tea, an era of laughable cuisine and public sector attitudes to service.

Inflation record 1956 - 2013

It changed in the 1970s. In 1975 inflation was nearly 25% and getting worse. Businesses would merrily inflate their prices twice a year. Britain was a basket case. And customer service hit an all-time low. Thatcher’s wagging finger symbolised the change. And her intolerance towards shabby standards was given daily articulation by the Sun and the Daily Mail.

We created a new generation of people. In Network (1976) Peter Finch playing Howard Beale said:   “I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'”

This was a time when we were sold the Austin Allegro, Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite (renamed the Triumph Sodomite by Robert Robinson BBC broadcaster). These were the worst cars ever built (if such a sturdy word as “built” is appropriate.)

A friend of mine claims around this time he had a made-to-measure suit created for him by a Soho tailor. When he first wore it a sleeve came off. The tailor looked at him suspiciously when he went back to ask for an explanation. “You’ve been wearing it haven’t you?”

In those days we didn’t really complain….we prefaced our “observations” with phrase like “I’m sorry to bother you but”…

Last week I saw that Southern Rail had been taken to task for standards of punctuality and heartstrings had been tugged by a “handwritten” letter).

I personally think the service from Southern is remarkably good.  You could argue that they should just put their foot down and overtake or ram the wretched First Capital Connect laggard trains dawdling ahead of them. Or being pessimistic about the timetables they could say “expected arrival time …whenever” and offer free G&Ts to every customer to quieten them.

Things always swing from one extreme to another and I think we’re becoming a nation of complainers quite often without real justification. From the NHS to education to all the institutions there’s an increasing sense of discontent.

Yet the optimist in me wants to shout - things are so much better than they were. All that currently happens is the exception always proves the rule. One botched operation typifies a NHS breakdown, A few late(ish) trains demonstrate the wicked ineptitude of the provider.

Not so. Stop grumbling.

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