Scene: a supermarket customer service desk

Me: Do you have change for the photo booth please?

CSA (customer service assistant): I suggest you go to Timpson’s

Walk to in-store Timpson’s, which (coincidentally as it turns out) is adjacent to photo booth

Me: Do you have change etc etc.

Timpson’s: We only take photos

Me: You don’t own the booth then?

Timpson’s: No

Return to customer service desk

Me: You told me to go to Timpson’s but they don’t give change and only take photos themselves

CSA: Yes, well there’s lots of harassment with the photo booth

Me (unthinkingly facetious because frustrated):  Harassment?  Does it leap out and hit people?

CSA (doubtless calling on reserves of customer training to avoid facetiousness in return):  No, er er…

Me: It causes problems?

CSA: Er, yes…

Me: Then why do you have it here?  Can you just change the money for me please?

CSA provides requisite change

(The photo booth worked fine – a bit of a fiddle but that was due more to the rigorous requirements of the Identity and Passport Service)

Old hands will know that when I have a go at private companies I usually try and draw lessons for the public sector.  So…

  • Don’t send out ambiguous messages – like placing two conflicting services adjacent to each other – it suggests you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Don’t set up a situation in which, in trying to be helpful to a customer, your staff subvert a service you provide
  • Encourage your staff to give feedback about something that isn’t working – and act on it.