Customer Services Across the Atlantic: What we can learn from each other

I spent some time traveling, working and speaking in the US recently.  This particular trip, I paid much attention to customer services and to see how different organizations do things.  Overall, I can conclude that there is much that we can learn from each other about customer services.  There are some things that the Europeans seem to be good at, and others that the Americans seem to be doing well.

Here are just a few of the examples of the type of things that come to mind:

Just about every store you walk into in the US, the employees will greet you with a ‘hi, how are you doing.’  When you purchase something, the person at the check out will always greet you with a ‘have a good day’.  While we can expect this type of friendliness at the ‘higher end’ stores in the UK and Europe, but this seems to be the trend with just about every store I went into.  From grocery stores, to clothing retailers to electronic stores, it seems to be common everywhere.  On they way back, I was skimming through Ari Weinzweig’s book, “Zingerman’s guide to giving great service”.  Right on the 1st page he starts with a Jewish saying, “If you don’t know how to smile don’t open a shop.”  I guess this is something that many of the American businesses seem to be following.

Although the US started off the Internet revolution, it appears that the Europeans are using it more wisely for people who come from other countries.  While trying to search for tourist attractions, I realized that the web sites in Europe, and more specifically in the UK are designed really well from a tourist perspective.  I supposed that is probably because the UK is visited by millions of tourists from all across the world, and hence they have some of the basic things from their perspective.

I must say that I don’t rent cars frequently in Europe, hence a comparison wouldn’t be very fair.  However, there is one company Alamo/National in the US, which really surprised me with good service.  First these guys have a kiosk for fast track check in.  Hence, if you are already registered, simply walk up to the kiosk, no waiting in line, etc.  Next, they give you an option to chose your own car!  So from a range of mid-sized cars, I could chose whichever one I wanted.  Finally, the car returns procedure was also pretty quick.  A guy comes and scans the bar-code off the windscreen, and produces a slip for you, and that’s it!  I did experience a couple of other companies, and they did not seem to be following this process.

Surprisingly there weren’t as many toll charge roads as I expected.  However, you can get a neat little device which you stick on your dashboard.  The device allows you to drive through the toll both without stopping.  It gives off a radio signal, which then charges your account.  This was really great, as it sped up the traffic around the toll areas.

While I loved the wide roads in the US, I was not too impressed with the Zip code (Post Code) system there.  After putting in your zip code into the Satellite Navigation (GPS), you still had to give the street and house number.  In contrast, here in the UK, you just need your Post Code and the house number since each post code represents one street only!  Perhaps the longer version of the zip code may be more accurate, however none of the businesses appeared to be using it.

In terms of bad service, there are plenty of examples on both sides of the Atlantic.  However, I am trying to refrain from going into those details.  Please do send me your experiences.

Customer Services Across the Atlantic

Hi folks.  I’m in the US for a two week business trip, and presenting in conferences.  Had some interesting experiences already. 
For instance, I found the Dept for Homeland Security personnel quiet friendly.  In contrast, American Airlines seems to be really unfriendly.  Perhaps AA can learn much from Homeland Security.

I’ve had a great first week here in Boston.  Sepending much time in Cambridge, which is home to both Harvard and MIT, also the place where I grew up.  There are many things which we, in Europe, can learn from the Americans.  Similarly there are things about customer services which the Americans can learn from the Europeans.  I’m off to San Diego tomorrow to present in a conference.  Will try to blog more on these topics later.

Would love to hear your stories about customer services across the atlantic (both sides).  What are things that need improvement, and what do you think we can learn from one another?

Finally, over the last month the visitors to the blog have crossed the 4,500 mark, with over 70% people returning.  Another interesting thing is that the UK has now slipped into third place, with the USA and The Netherlands taking the first two spots in terms of visitors.

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