A friend of mine (no, not me, really) was hosting a black tie event for a couple of hundred luminaries of his industry (house building since you ask) and turned up at his several-star city centre hotel in need of an iron to take the creases out of his dress-shirt.
Two hours before the event started, so no particular rush, but when nothing appeared in the first hour, he rang down to remind them.
Half an hour later and getting just a mite twitchy, an iron finally arrived at the door. All good - except it didn't work. It's now a quarter of an hour to go to kick-off (or drink-off in this case), and he's now getting mighty pissed.
Cue a frank discussion on the phone with the Hotel Manager on the meaning of life, not to mention what the ramifications of a non-iron appearance in the next two minutes might be.
Five minutes later, enter stage left said Manager, bearing (finally) an iron that developed heat when activated.
At bloody last, thought my friend. "Thank you," he actually said.
To which the Manager responded, "No problem." Luckily he left promptly and got away without a flattened nose.
So what is the problem? He got his iron. His shirt got ironed. The event proceeded as planned. No harm done, apart froma litlle fraying round the edges. Or is there?
HOW TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY
Maybe it's a generational thing. Like inflecting every sentence upwards at the end, as if you're asking a question (thanks, "Neighbours," inter alia) when you're actually making a statement.
But when I've just had a problem with the service (or product, or anything else), and I've had a to and fro with various members of staff - some of whom appear to be barely out of nappies and speak at best broken English - once it is resolved, the last phrase I want or expect to hear is, "No problem."
Because all I'm hearing is a ritual exchange of platitudes which does nothing to pour oil on troubled waters. In fact it makes you tell all your mates about the rotten experience you've had. Which will make all of them think twice about using the Midland Hotel, the next time they're in Manchester, and particularly if booking a special event.
There. Now another 800 or so know about it. And think less of the place.
Like the waitress who asks, "How was your meal?" and looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights when you reply, "The beef was tough and the Yorkshire puddings had the consistency of cardboard": the phrase, "Oh, thanks" is not going to do anything for customer loyalty and retention. I myself experienced that farrago of customer service at a local hostelry.
Where do they get the training from? The casual waitress I can just about forgive and understand, even though she does just as much long-term damage to her employer's business as the Manager, who should definitely know (and do) better.
Saying "No problem is a glib knee-jerk reaction that the speaker has no real understanding of and cares less about his or her customers' needs and concerns.
Poor communication is at the root of many commercial ills, but many of them could be mitigated, if not cured entirely, by learning the simple art of saying "Sorry" in a tone of sincerity. (Not the Nick Clegg version either: two years too late and more about saving his own skin than any real contrition.)
If your communications could do with a make-over, I'd be more than happy to give you a free consultation. I do know how to write in styles other than the chatty, cor-blimey vernacular you've got used to in these monthly missives.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org