In Britain, there is an inbuilt constraint to achieving the best in customer service that goes deep into the national psyche. In America they thank you for your custom and say, “Have a nice day!” – and they mean it! This is because they have a clear understanding that service is what makes money and they are happy to give it.
In Britain, however, people in organisations often seem to regard themselves demeaned by having to give service – they resent it – and this is probably due to a combination of a historical British issue and our national temperament.
It is a matter of historical fact that only a hundred years ago, ‘service’ meant to be ‘in service’ which meant that you were ‘lower class’ and reliant on the largesse (and whim) of the ‘upper classes’. This idea doesn’t sit comfortably with the British temperament anymore.
The words from Rule Britannia, that unofficial National Anthem (at least of England), with its defiant stanza “…Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” sums this up perfectly. These stirring words, always sung with such fervour at the Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London speak of more than just a nationalistic pride, they articulate a deep individualism.
Napoleon Bonaparte is once said to have disparagingly described England as, “A nation of shopkeepers” meaning she was unfit for war against France, but this idea seems also to embody something of a lack of imagination that constantly transfers itself into the business world. The British are inherently transactional in their approach to business. Britons don’t really ‘do’ servant-hood. Instead, they seek to replace it with systems and processes. Service, it seems, is often considered an add-on.