TWENTY CONVERSATIONS - Number 2

By Two Legs Good

Lots of places these days have signs that say something along the lines of:

"VIOLENCE, VERBAL ABUSE OR THREATENING BEHAVIOUR
TOWARDS OUR STAFF WILL NOT BE TOLERATED."


You see these signs in doctor's surgeries, in hospitals, in banks, in Post Offices, in Job Centres, and so on.

Now, in general, what they're stating is reasonable. Obviously people have a right to work without worrying if they're going to be harrangued unneccessarily, or worse, assaulted. We have laws against that sort of thing, by Jove, and most people are sensible and reasonable enough that they wouldn't behave like that anyway.

However, The Blog With Two Legs has noticed a distinct similarity in most of the places that show these signs. They're mainly in places that we, the general public, don't have much choice about. If we want to get a medical problem fixed, in general most of us need to go to a surgery or a hospital. If we want to post a letter or parcel, in general most of us need to go to a Post Office, and so on.

That gives the staff in these places a great deal of power - they know we don't have much option other than to use them if we want our service. Unfortunately, that also means that they don't have any competition, and so have no real incentive towards providing decent customer service. After all, where else can we go?

If we went to a restaurant or a pub and the waiter was slow, inefficient and rude, we'd never go back a second time. We might even walk out and take our custom elsewhere straight away. That's not really much of an option if you're in pain. That's not an option when there's something wrong with your benefits payment.

So we're trapped - and what happens when someone that's trapped gets provoked? What happens when they're pushed too far by the stupidity or ignorance or rudeness of the staff? We get upset. Voices get raised.

And then the finger points at the sign...

The problem with a sign like that is that it's only directed in one way - it doesn't take into account that the staff can actually provoke such bad behaviour with rampant stupidity or downright aggressive rudeness.

It's like the little brat that would annoy the other kids, knowing that if any of them finally had enough and said or did anything back he could call on his big brothers to come and sort them out. It's a licence to bully - and worse than that, it's a licence to bully us, the public!

I have a suggestion, a challenge to any and every place in the UK that has such a sign. GET RID OF THEM!

Replace them with proper, good, old-fashioned customer service. Make sure your staff are bright, polite and knowledgeable. Make sure they understand the language they use to talk with us, and don't expect us to understand your jargon. Don't have them stick to scripts, make them use their brains, and if they don't have any, get some staff that do!

It's not rocket science. Just treat us with some courtesy and politeness and be helpful, and maybe, just maybe, you'll find that you don't need the signs any more. You didn't used to, after all.


Now here's a conversation The Blog With Two Legs could have done without...


Number 2: Mayday University Hospital Outpatients Reception


"Hi, my name's Bill Smith, and I have an appointment at 10:00 to see Dr Jones. Here's the appointment letter."


* hands letter to receptionist *


"And you are....?"

"Pardon?"

"And you are....?"

"And I am...what?"

"What is your name?"

"Bill Smith - I just told you, and it's on the letter I just handed you."

"And can you confirm your correct address?"

"Yes, certainly."



{ PAUSE }



"I asked if you could confirm your correct address."

"And I said 'yes'. Of course I can."



{ PAUSE }



"Will you confirm your correct address please?"

"Of course I will. Fire away."



{ PAUSE }



"You need to tell me your address!"

"Oh... but you were asking ME to CONFIRM my address. I can't confirm my address is correct if you don't tell me what you think it is. If I tell you my address that'll be YOU confirming my address. So which is it that you want, YOU to confirm my address or ME to confirm my address?"

"I need you to confirm your address."

"Well that's what I thought! OK then, fire away!"

"So what is your address?"

"I thought you wanted ME to confirm it?"

"I need to check we have your address"

"Well, of course you have my address - you sent me the letter I just handed to you, didn't you?"

"So what is your address?"

"That's it there at the top of the letter you're holding."

"And what is that?"

"What is what?"



* points at letter *



"What is that?"

"That? That's my appointment letter. I just told you that."



* stabs finger angrily at address on letter *



"And what is that?"

"That? That's my address. I just told you that as well."

"And what is that?"



* leans over and takes letter from receptionist *



"It says: 42 Lemon Street, Croydon."



* hands letter back to receptionist *



"And is that your address?"

"Obviously."

"And can you confirm your doctor to me?"

"Are you SURE that's what you really want to do?"

"Can you confirm your doctor to me please?"

"Well, OK, sure."



{ PAUSE }



"Who is your doctor?"



* points at letter *



"Dr Jones. It says so in the letter you have in your hands. I mentioned that when I came in, too."

"No, not here - your GP!"

"You want to know who my GP is now, as well?"

"YES!"

"Oh, my GP is Dr Singh."

"We have here that it's The Addingscombe Road Practice."

"No, my GP is definitely Dr Singh."



* typing *
{ PAUSE }



"And what's his address?"

"It's not 'his address', it's 'her address', and I don't know offhand - just send it care of The Addingscombe Road Practice, I presume you have their address since you just mentioned them."

"I thought you said your doctor was Dr Singh?"

"No, I said my GP was Dr Singh."

"So not The Addingscombe Road Practice?"

"No - how can a practice be my GP? A GP's a person, not a practice! You asked who my GP is, and my GP is Dr Singh."

"So what is Dr Singh's address?"

"Care of The Addingscombe Road Practice."

"But you said your GP was Dr Singh!"

"My GP IS Dr Singh!"

"Then why is The Addingscombe Road Practice involved?"

"Because you want to know her address! You asked for it!"

"So Dr Singh is The Addingscombe Road Practice?"

"No - Dr Singh is Dr Singh! She's a member of The Addingscombe Road Practice, but she is not The Addingscombe Road Practice. Sort of like all salmon are fish, but not all fish are salmon. There are other GPs in The Addingscombe Road Practice."



* typing *
{ PAUSE }



"Now can you confirm your Date of Birth?"



* sigh *



"Here we go again..."


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