Editor’s Note: This is the concluding part of a two-part series. You can read part 1 here on Independence Daily.
Vaccination has been a topic of conversation not only here in the Wold but nearly everywhere else. As far as I can see, comment sections in the press have as many ‘expert opinions’ doubtful anecdotes and misinformation as do the many video channels on various social media sites.
The one thing about lockdown that you may view as a good thing, or maybe not if you have qualified professional or experience of whatever discipline, is the Twitter storm or mainstream media interest at any particular time and the amount of confusing advice available, much of it entertaining or doubtful and very little of help.
Rather like substantial areas of the broadcast and mainstream media, where it seems journalists find a subject that is trending on some social media platform or other, write it up or even worse, copy items from a rival newspaper, which is an odd concept, to say the least. Long gone are the days when journalists actually questioned the main players or researched anything. These days, and it’s getting more obvious, they report not the subject matter or the news, but the ‘narrative’ presented by various government talking heads or ‘sponsored’ government media produced articles.
Whether we all notice this is a moot point, but hearing snippets of conversations from people as we queue for this or that, it’s easy to assume many people do not. Why is it that the woolly hat puffa jacket left-wing Guardian readers are the ones that have to tell the world of their insights at the top of their voices, as if theirs, and theirs alone, is the opinion that matters and should be shared with the rest of us, who only want to queue at the takeaway for a coffee or are wondering just how long it’s going to be before that surly looking supermarket security guard allows us into the shop to spend our money. No wonder that home delivery services are so popular in these covid times.
Talking about customer service, where has it gone? It’s now almost a year since the first panic-stricken lockdown when the government policy of frightening people into complying with advice instructions and guidelines came into force. Like most, I would like to think law-abiding and reasonable people were quite willing to comply and follow the rules, for as we saw it, the safety of our families and everyone else.
However, when this turned to officious instructions often by yellow-jacketed shop salespeople giving orders to waiting customers, I, for one, started to draw the line and decided that no, I wasn’t going to be ordered to stand on the yellow spot there, give my name and address and on one occasion asked what I was ‘ wanting’ to buy. When that happens, it’s time to say goodbye to that particular emporium and find somewhere else to shop and where the staff still treat you like, well, a customer.
Now obviously, most people have no intention of putting any staff members at risk, by standing close, refusing to wear a mask, or even following those ‘one way’ systems that some stores decided for a time were a good idea, but being instructed to do this or that puts being a customer in a whole new perspective. Well, it did for me, and some of my friends have reacted in the same way, we did, as customers often do, moved to another shop or supermarket, not noisily or in an argumentative way you understand, but in the same way that much of the population has reacted to the wokeness of various institutions and charities. They have voted with their wallets, often cancelled long-term membership or donations and legacies, and turned to where they get good service: the smaller garage, the locally owned shop, the local takeaway. The private sector has been mainly superb and often working in conditions far from ideal, but they have kept going and kept their livelihoods and done this by keeping the customers happy.
One small business – a small cafe in our local town – has kept going throughout all the trials and tribulations of the last year, by adapting to takeaway, or click and collect, payment is by card. Thich has caused little problem to either customers or staff, and throughout they have remained pleasant and cheerful, even opening on Christmas Day because, as the owner said, many of our customers are elderly often living alone and come here on their daily exercise walk for a quick chat as they wait in line. We did it because we knew that we are a bit of a lifeline for them, a friendly face during these difficult times. As a result, we have seen our business increase substantially, mainly because we provide excellent customer service.
Which is more than many of the larger retailers have offered. I realise that some customers are not particularly understanding or pleasant, but that is no reason to treat the majority badly; it’s as if they are seen by some staff as a nuisance. That is not to say that covid restrictions and guidelines should be ignored, of course not, but can we please return to a situation when customers are treated with, dare I say it, a little respect.
Two organisations of which we, as a family are members, have been first class throughout the pandemic, with staff many of whom have been working from home or remotely as we are told to say these days. Still, each month a magazine has appeared albeit reduced in size, and any communication has been promptly answered.
A bit different, I’m afraid, from the large utility organisations which take days to reply to emails and even longer to respond or action remedial work. Local and government departments have often given appalling service to us, the taxpayers. The DVLA have not been particularly helpful with many aspects of their services, from vehicle change paperwork to driving test appointments. As for my bank, at one time it took two hours to actually speak to somebody at the call centre, and before you ask, it was not at a ‘peak or exceptional time’,
Local government offices near here provided computers to staff working from home last March and some offices have remained closed for months with services curtailed or very slow to react.
Most people have been very understanding during the crisis. It has not gone unnoticed that these people – usually not very well paid and at the sharp end of customer services – have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep key services running, supermarkets functioning, and often with little recognition from our politicians or the always ready to complain media. It is as if the only people that matter to the government and the media are public sector workers in the emergency services, education, and of course, the NH. The small business owner and the self-employed appear always to be below the radar – interesting as they have borne the brunt of job losses and financial hardship and will soon be if the rumours are correct be expected to find the money from somewhere as taxes and price inflation kicks in.
As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, it’s probably time to give the front-line level workers some respite and encouragement, and for the government departments and large retailers to remember that a little recognition and customer service is not remiss and will go a long way to returning the country to some sort of post covid lockdown normality.