Monday, 15 March 2010


Two things about the founder of Walmart.

Firstly it took him seven years to launch the second Walmart store – a tribute to being patient and getting your prototype absolutely right.

Secondly his view on customer service.

“It takes a week for an employee to treat their customer like their employer treats them.”

So my two stories of the week.

First, Home House (a club in London) where I’ve been a member for 10 years.

Thursday – they didn’t recognise me on reception, not surprisingly – they were new (again). Then all the loos were out of action with only the unisex loos working (excuse me). My guest commented on his dismissive welcome by reception. And my complaint about a feather exuding cushion having smothered my jacket and no one having a clothes brush met with a fatalistic shrug.

The point is this was a succession of “and another thing” which made me unreasonable and grumpy. What is management doing? See what Sam said or, alternately, was it me in a bad mood attracting negative service? Home House can be so brilliant….

Second, the new Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

They’ve spent £60 million on refurbishing it. Great ambience, signage and displays. Wonderful staff. When did a museum attendant last smile at you and say “hi, great isn’t it?” They were bright partners in the joy of the place not the normal prison warders. And then technology stepped in. The devices for securing one’s coat – insert a pound, replace lock – remove key…key was stuck (stiff they agreed later – no not stiff, stuck) reduced me to rage. As did the ludicrously small café and restaurant. Full. Unwelcoming. Sort of urbane unspoken “bugger off”. So we did. To the Randolph opposite which, since Macdonald Hotels have owned it, has been great -especially the smiling, helpful staff. Great lunch. Great staff. Great atmosphere.

The key to customer service is all in the face.

Does it smile? Does it listen? Is it watching? Is the memory switched on? Is the brain working out how to make the customer really happy?

This is a game of winning brownie points and using them. Home House last week was overdrawn and then carried on spending. The Ashmolean was in credit so I forgave them my lack of lunch (just) but I’d assassinate the designers of those eating places.

And I love the Randolph…something I never thought I’d say given its bad old days.

I am still smiling thinking about it.

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