Monday, 7 July 2014


Rachel Bell who founded and runs a rather successful PR company called Shine Communications told me she insisted on good manners from her people. One of the first characteristics of someone who shines is that they must be well mannered.

Gosh. How old fashioned is that? “Good morning Sir…. Welcome Madam”…. And opening doors for people. They’ll have us saying “thank you” next.

Yet as formal courtesy has edged its way out of our culture, and gone the same way as ties and shiny shoes, it’s had a knock-on effect on customer service. And without great customer service our nation of shopkeepers has some pretty serious problems.

Chris Rendel used to run an advertising agency. He was, by training, an account man whose job was to look after clients, anticipate their needs, advise them fearlessly on the right thing to do and generally keep them happy. He was very good at what he did, so when he recently lamented the casual indifference of most people he encountered today in customer service, I listened.

Listening, it would seem by the way, is something a lot of people in customer service today don’t do. Nor do they charm people. They take an order for something and if it’s available arrange its delivery. But they neither seem to respect, like or care about their customers. And Chris is on a mission to change this.

Of course it isn’t always like this. As part of my rediscovery of brilliance in Brighton I discovered that a new bar has opened at Brighton Station called “The Cyclist”. It has brightly coloured beach type chairs, a counter resting on old suitcases, an ambience of silliness and holiday fun…Donald McGill of postcard fame would have approved.

But most of all “The Cyclist” has great service. “Hi guys what would you like - please sit wherever you’d like and I’ll bring it to you.”  He was Australian and was (or seemed) genuinely pleased when we told him how great the place looked. Do they send all Australians on “I’m so happy just to be alive” courses?

But the fact is good manners need to come from customers too. If they’re nice so will their waiter be.

It was one of the best clients whom I ever met in advertising, Bruce Purgavie of Heinz, who said “I always say ‘thank you’ and try to make constructive comments because I know how hard people work trying to find a solution to my problems. It’s my job to encourage them”.

Good manners alone are not enough as anyone who’s been charmingly served food in a restaurant that’s disgusting will tell you. It’s good manners allied to intelligent, self-critical pride in product which creates the kind of customer service that makes a real difference. And not good manners that are grovelingly servile, just the sort of good manners that come from the sheer pleasure of making other people happy.

If in doubt ask an Australian.

1 comment:

Ian Wilson said...

Even in everyday life, let alone the 'service professions', manners and the courtesy and consideration they imply cost nothing and make the world a nicer place.