Help!

I have a friend who makes a very successful living teaching people how to be nice.

It sounds simple doesn’t it? Common sense? Yet Nicky travels all over the world working for large retail outlets in order to show their staff how to respect the public and increase sales by being helpful and thinking of what the customer expects.

And there are no prizes for guessing what it is that the public actually does want, because we just need sales assistants who are actually pleasant, honest, who like their job and offer a smile. It’s hardly up there on the difficulty scale with landing a probe on a comet after ten years and billions of miles in space, is it? It’s simple and logical, but for some reason customer service in this country still sucks.

I’ve written before about how the manageress of a local Costa coffee branch shouted at me and called me a liar when she accused me of complaining to her head office about her. It wasn’t me, although I can see why someone would go out of their way to make their feelings known about her. She has all the warmth of a polar bear’s bum. When I correctly denied it she shouted in front of other customers, calling me a liar. Nice. And yes, she still has her job.

At my sports club, The David Lloyd, the receptionists would rather talk to each other than say hello or welcome any member arriving at the door. They recently lulled members in to a false sense of security by spending a few weeks making eye contact with us (perhaps they’d been on a course) but now they’re back to normal. Looking at them and offering a cheery hello is to feel that you’re spoiling their day.

Is this universal or is it just a ‘cool’ London thing to give the impression that your customer showered in cat’s wee before coming in to your place? I’ve noticed security people in most other British airports have discovered something called a smile, but not here in the capital.

I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve embarrassed sales people in shops by saying a loud and pointed “thank you” when they hand over my change while talking to their colleagues and ignoring me, and yesterday I also shouted “you’re welcome” after I held a shop door open for some assistant who wafted through as if I were her personal doorman. She looked flustered, then offered a quiet and insincere thanks. Her husband must have a miserable life.

But credit where credit’s due. This week I found some helpful and polite service, and it stood out for me from the usual grunts who refuse to accept that customer and service are two things that don’t have to be kept apart.

My shower thermostat stopped working, so I rang the manufacturer and spoke to a very polite lady who said they needed a part number. But the number had been rubbed off over the years, making identification of the exact model impossible. “Why don’t you take a photo of it on your ‘phone and email it to me?” said Jodie at Hansgrohe. I did, and within two minutes she replied with the part number and a link to the web site page where I could order it. Now that’s service.

Will I recommend the company to anyone putting in a new shower? You bet. Will they make more money out of me because of repeat business? Obviously, yes. As I said, it’s simple.

So, sales people, here’s some advice for free. You don’t need my mate Nicky to fly to see you and charge you fortunes. Just be like Jodie. Be helpful and be nice. You won’t die of it.