Service is an interesting concept to many people in Britain. Whether it be staff in shops, waiters and waitresses in bars and restaurants through to individuals in call centres or receptionists on service desks we almost expect curt responses and bad manners. There always seems to be something else more important to do or some excuse to treat customers with contempt.
When we go abroad, especially to the United States, we often sneer at the service culture we find there. It's as if it is a reflex action to hide our embarrassment at seeing ordinary men and women offer genuine service as a matter of course.
For sure, these are generalisations - not everyone in the UK is guilty, and not everyone in the US is a shining example of service excellence. But I recently made a purchases in the UK and US where this divide was clearly highlighted. In both cases, these were on-line purchases, so there was no face to face contact. In fact in both cases all communication was done by e-mail.
I had ordered my Dell Mini 9 from an on-line store in the UK offering next day delivery. After a few days there was no sign of a delivery, and the order status on the web site had not changed from "ordered". I sent an e-mail to the store, and received a prompt reply saying that they would look into it. After a further four days I had heard nothing else, and so cancelled the order. Almost before I'd pressed the send button, I received notification that the netbook would be delivered the following day. Too little, too late. I still cancelled the order, and took my business elsewhere.
Last week I read an article in MacFormat which mentioned a piece of software to teach yourself to speed read. I placed an order on-line through the US web site, downloaded the software and installed it on my iMac desktop. I then tried to install the software onto my MacBook Pro but was unsuccessful because of an activation problem. At no time did the web site, license agreement or installation process mention any such restriction, so I wrote to the US developer asking if there was any solution.
Within a few minutes I received a reply saying that the developer was out of town (it was a Friday afternoon) but that he would send me a coupon. The following day I received a coupon enabling me to install the software on my laptop. Gratis, free, no charge and no questions asked.
So, to Vince at iVerbum, developers of iSpeedRead, my sincere thanks. I'll post a review of the software on the blog at a later date. In the meantime, let it not be said that us Brits don't recognise excellent service when we encounter it.
As for the UK company, I'm not going to name them in the hope that it was a one off communications breakdown and I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. But of course, I'll never really know because I won't be using them again.