Is customer service bad in the UK and is it a class thing?


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Is customer service bad in the UK and is it a class thing?

A shorter post today as I wanted to ask your advice and opinion on something.

A couple of days ago I saw an article: Why is service still so bad in the UK? on the BBC website, which is linked to a new reality/documentary series that has just started in the UK. The series features Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr and is about his quest to train eight young people to be front-of-house (restaurant service) superstars. He believes that service is as important as the food in the restaurant business. I agree with him and think that this applies to most, if not all, industries.

You can find out more about the show here. I was able to catch up on an episode last night and think that I will be tuning in again given my interest in customer service.

However, what really interested me was what he was quoted as saying in the article. First, he said:

“It’s not just in restaurants, you get bad service anywhere. Even buying a newspaper you can find that you’re not even acknowledged. There’s no eye contact, no greeting or anything. Bad service is unforgivable and it’s everywhere in the UK.”

and then went onto say:

“The issue of service in Britain is, maybe, a class problem with service seen as subservient. The old Upstairs-Downstairs syndrome, where it is only for the lower classes.”

His claims are partly backed up by a recent survey from the Nation Brand Index, where the UK came 14th in the 2010 international customer service rankings and was ranked 13th for its “welcome” by visitors. Top is Canada, followed by Italy and Australia.

This raises some interesting questions about customer service in the UK and if true have huge implications for how businesses develop their customer service strategy and then get their employees to engage with it.

If true, then this adds weight to the idea that if we are create lasting change in our business we have to start at a deeper, more personal level than just training our people in new skills and technology, something I wrote about in What icebergs can teach us about real and lasting change in business.

However, I don’t want to get carried away with this idea and here is where I would like your help with these questions:

Is customer service bad in the UK and is it a class thing?

Is class holding us back?

Thanks to misspixels for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


  1. This is a very important issue at hand for Businesses in UK, I totally agree and strongly believe that Upstairs-Downstairs syndrome could be one of the factors.

  2. Hi Nithya,
    Thanks for your comment. I too think there may be something to this and will be doing some research into this over the coming months.



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