Thursday 16 December 2010

Basil Fawlty's Nemesis

I was mad keen to get to see a very special exhibit. I'd also been informed that the hard-to-get-a-hold-of exhibit tickets were being sold at a bargain price that I immediately rang up XXXXXXX Museum two days ago.

I get the usual "dial 1, dial 2, dial 3" et cetera. I figure out which one I need to get through to a living person. A very nice man answers and says "XX" who is selling the tickets only works from X until X and she has left the building right now..."Do you want to leave your name and number or do you want to ring back tomorrow?" He was so nice I gaily said..."'s all right I'll ring back tomorrow."

It's after lunch time the next day (yesterday)...I only have one child with I figure out that I can just about make the call to XXXXXXX Museum (at 2.30pm) and get to be ready for school pickup time. I dial the number...I get the call answering service dial 1,2,3 et cetera. I'd forgotten which option it was and miss the numbers - I choose the wrong one so I hang up. I dial again...and my little boy is now screaming in my ear...I dialled 3 for special events...I get a long speech about XX and his exhibition (not the one I want to see) I hang up.

I dial again. This time I can listen...I choose option 4 to speak to a real person...I end up speaking to a person who turns out to be someone in the XXXXX Museum Kitchen: "When did I want to book a table?" I am losing the will to live. I explain what I really want. She suggests that I dial again. I was not keen and explained why. She says if I dial 200 I can get the museum's reception. I remember the ticket seller's name so I ask for her extension and she gives it to me. I thank her and hang up. I dial again...I dial the ticket seller's extension : "Number not recognised". I dial the 200 extension - again "not recognised". I invent a number - I get through to someone's voicemail message. I hang up. I dial again and I get to speak to the same lady in the kitchen once more. Somehow I manage to keep my temper and I ask for the ticket seller to ring me. I leave my details.

Ten minutes later the ticket seller rings me up and I start to say "I think you have a problem with your switchboard"...and she launches into a tirade about "how we are busy, how there are two people here at reception, that the line is engaged...I've got to understand that they are busy! Anyway enough of that...what is it that you want?"

I simply said "Thanks..but no thanks" very politely and hung up.

This is my impression of the XXXXXX Museum. I've never been before. I don't think I'll be going there in a hurry.

...and I'm still gobsmacked (sort of) by this wonderful example of good ol' customer service.....

Thinking about Basil Fawlty and "Fawlty Towers" has cheered me up though. Maybe the ticket seller, his Nemesis, would like to work for him..............?!!!!

Please do tell me your best/worst customer service experiences.... ;)


Maggie May said...

Oh.... tell me about it. The times I've had similar conversations with various companies..... but not yet with the museum.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi Maggie!

It was for something a tiny bit different (but at a museum). I've changed certain things to protect the innocent.

I chatted about it to Geoff Ramm, a marketing guru, who is an excellent speaker...he says the amount of companies who fail to keep things simple is unbelievable.

I also happen to think it's also when they lose sight of you as another human being. I feel like waving and saying "hello" - "I'm still here!"

Like you I've had a lot of similar conversations so for it to happen at a museum (of all things) almost takes it to another level....

...So I try and see the funny side.... :) Hadriana x

Anonymous said...

I absolutely hate those phone systems where you have to keep hanging on and making more and more choices - that is not customer service at all. The government department ones are the worst, they won't even let you hang on, they say 'sorry all lines are busy, try later' and cut you off!!

Of course, in most cases we have the alternative of taking our custom elsewhere, which I do.

the fly in the web said...

One from France...
Me, entering white goods repair shop where my fridge had been taken for repair..
Hello, I'm X...from came to collect my fridge three weeks ago.

Yes, I remember.

Have you managed to repair it, because I've heard nothing from either you or the guarentee company...?

Oh, it was too know,computers and all that...

Do you mean I have to find a repairer myself?

Him. point. It can't be repaired.

Why not?

Because I've dumped it.

The bike shed said...

Small tip - I use it all the time

The moment you get through to someone, say - oh hello, I'm hoping you can help me with a query - but before I begin can I ask that you go very slowly as I have hearing difficulties.

Just see how differently you are treated. Very seldom do they cut you off, or transfer you - often you get an offer of a call back.

It's not right to do this I know - but it doesn't half work.


Fiona said...

How rude! I so would not have hung up. I enjoying eating people like that! Clearly someone who needs to go back to school to learn a little bit about customer service! If you ever have dealings with her again consider asking if she has a brother called Basil? Fiona xx

Expat mum said...

I must admit the apathy and outright rudeness I encounter in England every year (not by everyone of course) sometimes astounds me. Customer service is appaling at times and people fail to make the connection between the bad service and them actually having a job. The fact that I probably won't shop there again which might put you out of a job just seems completely alien.

My best one ever was at a rugby club Sunday lunch years ago, when I asked what the soup special was, and the waitress said she didn't know - and just stood there. When I asked if she could go and find out, she sighed very loudly and acted as if I'd sent her to her execution. Best of all was that my family thought I was being "demanding".

Hadriana's Treasures said... are so right about the government ones. I'm thinking of one in particular where the recorded voice says "all right then" several sounds over familiar and completely patronising. I yell at it every single time!

I have learned that pressing the wrong choice sometimes short circuits the system but it doesn't always work!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Fly...I shouldn't say this...the way you delivered that...I had to laugh! Ever thought of writing comedy sketches for TV? You are made for it!

Sorry I haven't been over to yours. With luck I'll have more time for blogging this next week. There's been a frantic whirl of writing out cards, wrapping presents and goodness knows what! Hope la vida en CR is requete bien! I'm sure it is!

Mark - thanks for that. I'll try and use that in the very near future. ;)

Fiona - normally I would have gone for the full throttle but something held me back. I'd love to sit and listen to you. For once it would not be me! I'd had arguments with cashiers in Aldi, Waitrose and elsewhere so I'm experimenting with the laidback approach. Thank you for becoming my 70th follower. It's a delight to Tweet with you and to see you here as well. :)

BTW - I'd love to know more about the Reivers. They are my next project.

Expatmum - yes...agree with you wholeheartedly about the connection about jobs being linked with good customer service. Absolutely absolutely. I've heard a lot about American levels of customer service so must go Stateside some time to witness it. There are so many museums these days living with a sword of Damocles hanging over them...that's probably why I was so gobsmacked by her attitude....I was left completely speechless. What I should have done was hung up as soon as she started. I was being too British! Mind you I was curious to hear what she was ranting....I wonder whether anyone overheard her?!?

the fly in the web said...

I now have customer service from Costa Rica-

The Alliance Francaise...which has a library...had a notice up to tell users that it would be closing for the holidays on December 18th.
So I went to return my books on the 17th...
The doorman told me it was closed, but when I explained that I wanted to return my books he said that was fine and let me in.
Doorman is Costa Rican.

Toddle up to the library which is undergoing major refurbishment.
The librarian takes my books and ticks them off on a handwritten list.
She'll put it into the system after the holidays.
Librarian is Costa Rican.

Snappish woman - the administrator - then addresses me in French.

Why had I brought my books back when the place was closed?

Because the notice...which is still in the entrance...says that you close tomorrow.

Why couldn't I have kept the books until they reopen in February?

Repeat of first response plus I don't want to pay an overdue fine of two months!

This is a shouldn't abuse it...

No it's not, it is a French propaganda outlet and I have to pay to use the library...oh, and if I had kept the books until February would you have waived the fine?

Of course not. Rules are rules...and made in the interests of everyone.

I see you have managed to import a true picture of France to Costa Rica. Congratulations.
Administrator is French

Hadriana's Treasures said...


It does not surprise me - I like France and I like certain French people. You know I worked for a state run French bank for three years in London.

The things that went on in that bank were amazing. It was a parallel universe...

I was "invited" to go and work for a department for them in Paris. I knew that I would get no help in relocating or accommodation or anything. I would then be disappearing into the bowels of a basement of a huge French banking building...never to be seen again. Jamais! Jamais!

It was an experience though....unforgettable in more ways than one!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Off to the school coffee morning this morning to see the little bairns singing. Then it is the Christingle Service tomorrow. No time off for the wicked! ;)

Vale for now! Hadriana xx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Benvenuta Susy, un altra follower! Mi dispiace non so la parola per "follower" ma vado a cercarla presto!

Thank you, Susy for becoming my 71st follower! I love your webpage and "Susy's Cottage". Anyone who is learning Italian - go and have a look at her webpage. The best way to learn a language is to dive straight into it! Don't have any hangups.....99.9% of the people you will be speaking the language to - will be over the moon that you are trying to communicate with them. Learning languages is is primarily about other people.....! :)

the fly in the web said...

How right you are about learning a language...just plunge in and get on with it.
Mr. Fly has Spanish Spanish...I am learning Costa Rican Spanish on my feet...and I want to know why no history book has wondered how the Conquistadors managed to take Glaswegians with them to introduce the glottal stop to the language .

ADDY said...

I wish these organisations would realise how counterproductive these press 1, press 2, press 3 options are. Why can't they go back to the old-fashioned idea of an operator who listens to what you want and puts you through to the right department and a real person. I sympathise.

Nota Bene said...

Spill the beans...xxxxxx?

Janet said...

Many years ago, needing a pair of easy on-easy off warm winter boots - plain and flat heeled - I wandered into the shoe department of my local version of the upmarket National Canadian store which will remain nameless. They actually still had an area where you could sit and be fitted and the store was not busy. There were two salesladies chatting in a corner of the shoe store space so I thought I'd soon be served and on my way. The ladies did not stop their conversation - I waited - I engaged them with eye contact - they ignored me - this went on for some 5 to 10 minutes. Getting annoyed, I wandered over to the area where the lady's boots were stored and proceeded to select suitable models in the approximate size without reboxing the discards or putting them back on the shelves - it took quite a few opened boxes of boots strewn on the floor before I finally found what I wanted - maybe 50 or 60 pairs. I then waltzed out of the area with my purchase and went to the cash registers at the entrance to the store leaving the ladies to deal with the mess their lack of customer service had left them with! I have never shopped there again, but the boots are still serving me well twenty years later, so they definitely were an upmarket store!!

Nota Bene said...

Oh dear. Oh dear. Here's my experience:

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you, ADDY. How right you are! Janet - thank you for popping by and leaving your "great" account of customer service. It is SO irritating when the serving staff ignore you/us and concentrate on themselves. It drives me mad and it is SO rude! Equally if I get a mobile phone call when I am paying for something...I try to give priority to the staff rather than the phone unless it is something absolutely urgent....

Hi NB, Very glad that your complaining worked. I say - pull every string you can. (It's a small world out here and everything has to be weighed up - the pros and cons.) In this particular case I didn't want to make a fuss about it. It was just not worth the bother....

Thank you SO much for linking to this post! :)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

As I've twittered - I've been up and cleaning, organising,blah,blah,blah for almost 12 hours non-stop today. Time to step away from the computer and lie down. Ta ra for now. Hadriana xx

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I had hoped to go and visit a few blogs today (Wed 22nd Dec) but we've run out of LPGas and we only have small electric heaters to heat this big house. Delivery has been promised for tomorrow now.
So we are decamping to our other house I think.
Bye for now! Hadriana xx xx

pottedhistory said...

As someone who runs a small business in the UK, and like most who do, try to ensure that all my customers are happy with the service they get, I am always horrified by the generalisation of British Business giving bad service. I spent many years living in Africa and have many a story I could relate, one of which involved a 2000 mile round trip just to get what I had paid for. As I said on Twitter a few days ago; I firmly believe that if you give someone service that far exceeds their expectations, they may, if you are very lucky go and tell someone, if you give them bad service they will go and tell everyone they know and, in these days of world wide connectivity, they'll tell lots of people they don't know! Unfortunately with museums, as their funds get cut and they use more and more poorly trained volunteers, this sort of situation can only get worse. If we want good service from commercial businesses, use smaller companies where you're closer to the owner and wont get put on hold by an operator in the Far East. In the case of non commercial concerns like Museums, complain.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thanks for that Potted History/Graham. Will definitely do it next time and may well do it this time too!

I enjoyed your input and thanks for writing that. We too, in Egypt, used to go to tremedous lengths to get things. Companies (all shapes and sizes, commercial and non-commercial) ought to get a grip. I agree with you wholeheartedly. :)

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

I think these messages are a nightmare. I have a friend who says "push 1 if you want to be p***** off and 2 if you want to be realy p****** off amd I think that just about sums it up!

I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas Hadriana and send you very best wishes for the coming year. A x

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you SO much, SJA! A very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2011 to you and your family too. Hugs Hadriana xx xx