There are things that happen every day, that spoil a mood, unbalance a relationship and damage mutual confidence. Worse, these little things usually pass by with neither side deliberately making an effort to understand the damage caused. They sit in the unconscious mind and fester.

It’s sometimes worth stopping and thinking about them properly so something can be done to learn from them.  Did you ever try to find an organisation that admits that it offers poor service?  It’s a rare admission of weakness if you managed.  Almost every organisation I have ever come across has assured me that it normally provides its customers with fantastic service. However, we all know it isn’t always true.  Take two personal and irritating examples:

Unexpected Stops on the Line

I was recently left infuriated that for the second time in two weeks a train, advertised 10 minutes earlier as going to Gatwick Airport, terminated two stations early. It was the fact that the train driver only made the announcement after the train had come to its final stop that really took to the edge of my tolerance zone.  To those in the know: my inner chimp began to gibber.

No-one changed the electronic signs in the coaches. No-one told passengers they needed to get off. And then, when a little man did eventually walk down the corridor, evicting surprised passengers from their seats, he could offer no advice.

“Congestion mate” was all he would say.

It was never entirely clear if this was a statement of railway policy or a medical reality. The result was that I struggled with baggage and stairs to find somewhere on the station where an official might point me in the direction of Gatwick and a flight. Eventually, a passing Japanese tourist kindly helped me off the platform and shared an Uber to the airport.

Twenty minutes later, I had arrived at the airport. A bit happier now and eager to drop off my luggage and relax before my flight. The airline website had helpfully informed me that I could drop my bags off three hours before the flight. Don’t ask why I had arrived at the airport early; it’s a tragic tale of brothers, sisters-in-law and sundry animals. Suffice to say I wanted to be at the airport early.

Just let me drop my bag

Arriving at the bag-drop, there are signs on display saying bags may be dropped 2 and a half hours before departure. After waiting 25 minutes I entered the queue that allows you to join a queue for a machine.

“Can’t drop that off earlier than 2 hours before your flight Sir” comes the helpful advice from the “lady” at the barrier.

Note the careful use of the word “Sir” here; at the managerial level it is intended to demonstrate respect and care; at the floor level it carries a snarl of assumed equality that says “in a different life, I could have been flying one of these things you bastard, not standing at the door counting suitcases.”

“Really?” I replied. “Why do the signs say 2½ hours before? And why don’t you get them changed?” I asked politely.

“Can’t” came the answer; “They belong to the airport.”

At that point and pretty fed up with my journey so far, I seriously thought of taking a bus to Scotland, but luckily or unluckily for me, the National Express Bus website was down. Another option was closed to me.

Service should never stop

Two companies. Two failures of service, together compounding the foul temper of one increasingly grumpy middle-aged bloke who had started the day in quite a good mood.

However, the failures were such simple things to fix. So easy to spot and mend. There is virtually no cost. It just needs people to care a little and to bother to notice.

I think it is Facebook (whatever you may think of the company) that uses a strapline for employees that goes something like:

“No problem at Facebook is someone else’s problem”

Simple phrase. A bit trite for British tastes maybe. But it’s a great point. If you can see something going wrong then, please, make it your problem to fix it. If you cannot do it personally find the person who can. Explain, cajole, bully but – get it fixed.

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