Every since the industrial heart was ripped out of Britain as a manufacturing nation and the Great was dropped off the front, we have been repeatedly told we are a nation dedicated to the 'service industry'
My response to this is; where is it then? Where is the service?
As both a private and a business consumer, my experience of at least 70% of British suppliers and services has been that their idea of service is an insult to the word!
Take my trade account with Laura Ashley (home furnishings store) for example. Great products, mouthwatering catalogues. However try and buy a 5L tin of their paint to cover a medium-sized room and it was 'Oh we don't do 5L tins' And they didn't have it in stock in larger than 750ml tin size either! The latest LA catalogue would come out and you would bound to your local branch for samples of their exciting new fabrics, but they wouldn't be there. You'd ring to order them but half still wouldn't be available 'yet'! If you ordered anything - a well-priced reproduction clock for a formal reception room example - which you wouldn't expect to be a made-to-order item like a sofa, it would take weeks, even months to arrive, yet every time you telephoned to chase it, not only would the person at the other end of the phone sound suspiciously like they hadn't a clue, but they couldn't even give you an ETA of when you might see it, as if the concept of stockcheck/delivery screens on their computers was entirely alien to them! Finally I gave up trying to order anything from them as I was so sick of having to shop for last minute stop-gaps while I waited for the real thing (aka their products) to arrive.
Some while later I received a letter from Laura Ashley saying regrettably they were closing the Trade Account arm of their business. I replied with a long letter saying why I had ceased to use it anyway and it was a shame they had such desirable products they didn't seem to want to sell to me!
Time and time again I have noticed this. A British company would rather chase after new customers offering incentive after incentive - expensive for them both in marketing and advertising (and the incentives) you would have thought - rather than pursue the saner and more cost-effective solution of keeping their existing customers happy and harnessing that wonderful phenomenon known as 'repeat business' and that other knock-on side effect, 'word-of-mouth' advertising by their impressed clientele. Customer loyalty is not only unrewarded these days, it is positively spat on by the likes of banks and insurance companies in particular who lower their interest rates and hoik their premiums up respectively to the poor sap who is foolish enough to remain doggedly faithful to them.
I recently lunched in a funky café in the heart of a busy city centre and was surprised to find myself the only diner there. After a while I realised why the café was so quiet. Every time a potential customer came in, they found out the café didn't take credit or debit cards. And yet they had the customer footfall outside that many a business would die for!
Die is probably the word though, with an expensive refurbishment, four staff to pay and NO customers, I'd give it about four months and deservedly so if it is that dumb. Not that most British restaurants/cafes like or wish to serve customers anyway of course.
On a business level I can find no one to repair aluminium sash windows and patio doors locally, yet every second sales rep phonecall seems to be from a company trying to hard-sell me Plant Hire. Everyone and their dog is doing Plant Hire in Oxford, yet I can count on one hand the number of times we need to hire equipment in each year, let alone would I open a dozen accounts with a dozen suppliers for the privilege.
The worst businesses bombard you with customer feedback forms as if you have nothing else to do, (no mention of remuneration for the 'free consultancy' you're giving by indulging them), then completely ignore every word of their customer feedback until the next customer feedback form or glossy catalogue arrives.
As for all the business websites that still annoy with pointless floating graphics (and an elusive 'Skip Intro' button) or making you sign up your entire personal details down to your shoe-size merely in order to browse lighting products etc, well they don't get many orders from me either!
On the rare occasions I find a company that a. sells the perfect product at reasonable price and b. makes it easy to order and obtain said product, I could kiss them. And if they also turn out to have decent after-sales service, I want to marry them as well!