Abusive Customer “Service” From Government
By Terry L. Brock
DUBLIN, IRELAND I’m in this beautiful Emerald Isle that today exemplifies energy, vitality and economic possibilities. This country has earned a reputation of being a “Celtic Tiger” for the economic growth it has enjoyed the past few years. When the government wisely dropped taxes to a maximum of 12.5% for corporations and reduced much beauracratic red tape, it unleashed a pent-up human spirit to thrive and be free. Now, this country is one of the leaders (after Estonia---read last week’s article) in economic growth in the EU.
There is a spirit of life and energy you see among the average person on the street, in the pubs and restaurants, in the shops and more. Yes, a good part of it is the Irish spirit that has been around for a long time. However, it is teeming with life and energy now more than ever.
Contrast this with the experience I had coming over here from Europe. My connection sent me through Heathrow Airport in London, England. Now, keep in mind that I’m on a world-wide tour hitting many airports around the world. I have found Heathrow Airport to be the most abusive, disrespectful, onerous, heavy-handed airport anywhere in the world. But I mean that in the nicest sort of way!
I started my journey in Amsterdam, Holland and flew BMI on a very pleasant flight to London’s Heathrow. Once inside Heathrow the travails began. I found that the normal roller cart and small bag I carry everywhere weren’t allowed. Government beauracrats made me leave a line I had been in for 15 minutes waiting patiently to transfer to the Dublin connection. I had to leave that line, go through passport control as if I were entering England for a visit, then go through baggage claim and back to the ticket counter to re-check one of the bags. Remember this is not done anywhere else but Heathrow. I was running late, rushing about and frustrated and then had to wait in even more lines.
This is the problem with governments. If a private company had some onerous ruling like this, we could go to the competition and smile knowing we are hurting the establishment with poor customer service. Relationship Marketing is about meeting the needs of customers and really caring. Governments don’t have to care as they derive their money from tax dollars regardless of how pleased the constituents are.
In this case the only recourse is to choose another city (or country) and avoid another entanglement with the onerous government.
Even after having to go back through the line, I found the people at BMI to be reasonable but still more concerned about complying with the current regulation than helping a distraught traveler (and customer). They told me I had to put everything into one bag and check the other through.
So, I packed everything I could into my roller cart and sent my hand-carry bag through hoping that nothing would happen to the very valuable contents which I couldn’t fit into the carry-on.
However, my travails weren’t over then. I went to yet another long line and after waiting (The British seem to enjoy long lines) they told me I couldn’t bring the roller cart through because it didn’t fit their regulations. It worked perfectly fine in many other airports around the world. But apparently, the British think that terrorists would only use a large roller cart and not one of miniscule size they have deemed appropriate.
I had to return to BMI once again, try to find someone available to help check in my roller cart, etc. etc. I ended up waiting for 2 hours due to a delay, carrying my computer by hand with nothing else. Remember if you choose a flight that goes through Heathrow in London you are subject to complete confiscation of your bags at any time. My recommendation: Avoid Heathrow Airport at all costs or be prepared to be abused and treated like a servant, not a customer. Somehow the concept of Relationship Marketing hasn’t made it to the British politicians who pass these laws.
Books could be written on the proper role of government worldwide and how they should treat their “customers,” the tax payers who support them. Beauracrats are not known for their customer care or devotion to efficiency. They have little or no incentive since they largely have no competition, can’t be fired and are guaranteed to receive revenue regardless of how customers are treated.
We can all learn from this type of abusive customer service from government. First, avoid it with our own businesses. Second, avoid it by not dealing with government services whenever we can. Third, vowing to be more human and kind than typical government beauracrats.
I eventually got to Ireland and yes, my luggage (scattered into many pieces) made it safely into my hands. As with many bad experiences, this one taught me lessons about how to deal with governments and what places to avoid wherever possible. We can always turn a negative situation into one that is positive. You’ll have much more positive experiences in your travel if you can avoid London’s Heathrow airport. Have you heard how wonderful it is in Dublin?
Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and regular columnist for Business Journals who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using the time-honored rules and the right technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at email@example.com or through his website at www.terrybrock.com.
Copyright © 2007, Terry Brock, All Rights Reserved Internationally. No portion may be reprinted or used in any way without prior written permissio