Recently, I visited the High St branch of my bank to cash a cheque. As I walked in I could see one of the people employed to hover round the lobby greeting people as they come in to offer help. Good customer service right?

The lady in front of me was stopped in her tracks and asked why she had come to the bank today? Now I could see she was a little hesitant about accepting this offer as she pointed out she wanted to pay in some cheques and pay some bills. No problems said the helpful assistant you don’t have to queue you can do that with me at the counter over here and save time. She was a little reluctant and refused.

I dodged round and made my way to the queue. The lady was now behind me and was again approached by the determined assistant who once again tried to convince her she could help. This time after asking her if she could definitely help with the two things she needed to do she accepted.

When I got to the front the lady at the counter said why didn’t you go with “X” who offered to help save you time queuing up. I politely pointed out that it wasn’t actually me she had offered to help and anyway I didn’t mind standing in the queue.

As I left the building I noticed the lady who had been “helped” was complaining to the member of staff who had offered to help her – it was obvious from the conversation that the staff member had not been able to help her complete all the things she wanted to do and that she would now have to go and queue up and she had wasted 5 minutes.

I had a lot of sympathy for the customer. This promise of a better service as a way to make her day better had actually been a mirage. My experience was that the other staff actively encouraged this to move people away from their expected experience of being in the counter queue.

It seemed like a parable for bad customer service – the intention was to improve customer service but to actually fail to do so was the worst of all possible worlds. The customer had fully expected to come in and queue but now had the double disappointment of frustration at having been promised a better experience but actually having the disappointment of being let down and having to queue all over again. Lose/Lose

What lessons could we learn?

If we are promising a better experience we need to deliver it or we are actually potentially damaging the customer relationship.

Like all businesses we try to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes but ultimately only they can be the true judge of the quality of their experience.

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