I don't think that anyone can argue with the fact that the US has the edge over us where service is concerned. I've visited the 'states many times, and I really can't think of any occasion when the service wasn't excellent and by excellent I mean just that, from New Orleans to Napa.
For some reason, in the UK (and much of Europe, for that matter) there seems to be a train of thought that it doesn't matter, which is crazy when you think that there's a limited market anywhere, and whatever the product there's huge competition.
The larger online retailers, probably having learnt from those across the pond, have certainly, on the whole, got the message, although they too are only as good as the girl/guy who answers the phone at the end of the day. Something they need to take more into account, as boy do we remember bad service!
Today I was up in London, erroneously, as it turned out, because the person I was meeting and I had different days in our diaries, so I decided to get a couple of those things done I for one am always putting off, such as getting a new battery put in my watch and fixing my Blackberry because I thought I'd done something wrong with the new memory card I'd put in in order to take huge amounts of music with me to Switzerland tomorrow.
I'm one of those people who cause lots of shop staff to duck, because I will want them to smile at me, I'll try and engage (because I may be asking them to do something special, or something for nothing) and I may also ask their name.
I started off in John Lewis to invest in a new Nano (because I was in a panic about my Blackberry) and that went without a hitch, probably because I was just about the first person in the Oxford Street store, either way, I was met with smiles and intelligence, which is, after all, what we expect from JL.
Then I left to visit the o2 store just a bit further along. If you're thinking of going there, don't bother. They were my big score in terms of bad service. The girl who was running the store opened late, despite the freezing cold, and when I showed her my o2 Bberry she said I'd have to make an appointment to have someone look at the memory card. They should wake up. There was no smile, no apology for the lack of available service, just rather autocratic bad temper. I'll leave that one there, I think, before I say what I really think.
Of to Selfridges who, in case you don't know, have what I think is the best watch repair service in London. Amina (yes I got her name) was charming to a fault, laughed when I tried to look up the time on a wrist that was now watchless and said that my watch with its fully tested battery would be ready by mid-day.
Then downstairs in Selfridges to the Micro Anvica store where I had the best moment of the day. I had no intention of buying anything, the man who served me knew that I had no intention of buying anything and yet he spent a good 20 minutes trying to sort out my Blackberry before one of his colleagues suggested that a re-start might be a good idea. Oh how we laughed (not, well sort of). Now there's somewhere I will go back, again and again. Truly epic service with great good humour and willingness to help. I'm sorry I didn't get his name. He's probably not sorry...
My watch was ready on time with a smile (go use the repair service there, it's just where the entrance to the car park is) and I headed for home thinking three scores and one clanger.
Service, great or terrible, stays in our minds for a huge amount of time, and although I don't go literally with the 'the customer is always right' philosophy, because it doesn't necessary follow, if you want a customer to stay loyal to you you have to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to make them think of you with a smile, which means they'll probably praise you to their friends. Believe me there is no better recommendation than word of mouth. And I know these things.
Tomorrow I'm off to Switzerland, for I hope not too much skiing (because I'm a seriously lousy skier) and lots of fun with great friends. Provided I get access to my friend's pc, I'll be back to you shortly.
ps. My friend Tom Jeffries at Spoonfed has asked me to let you know that Spoonfed have just launched a London Fashion Week Homepage - sponsored by French e-tail giant Vente-Privee (who have the best designer brand closed sales on the web, just in case you didn't already know).
Keep an eye on this, the combination of Spoonfed and Vente-Privee is not to be missed. Expect amazing imagery and loads of information.