Unchained America: Customer Service RIP?
The photo is of Taylor's diner in Independence, Oregon on the occasion of its closing in November 2006 - not because it wasn't profitable but because the newest Taylor generation have careers elsewhere. It's reproduced here courtesy of Dave Gorman who, last night, presented the first UK showing of his tremendous new film Unchained America documenting his attempt to cross the USA coast to coast in a 1970 Torino station-wagon while patronising only independent hotels, restaurants and gas stations. "Paying Mom & Pop and not The Man."
This romantic quest was inspired by his revulsion at the homogenous experience of touring the US as a performer that prompted a desire to find the true independent spirit of America. In doing so, he has created a lovely film about the changing face of small-town America that is filled with the humour you'd expect, but also with innumerable quiet insights into business and customer service - as was the Q & A session that followed the screening.
For me, one of his most telling remarks was that his hated corporate America experience had not been bad per se. Indeed it had been entirely acceptable and that was the problem. Think about it. When it comes to customer service, acceptable is such damning praise.
The essence of authenticity/experience/service is not mere consistency, it's much deeper than that.
1) It's about respooling till rolls from the 50s and sewing together typewriter ribbons because you can no longer get spare parts for your ancient but perfect cash register (paying attention to the small details that have huge impact).
2) It's about the people, not what they sell (there are always people - they may be virtual, but they are there in every business and they are who your customers remember).
3) It's about making the effort to make a difference (and realising that the customer notices when it happens because it makes a human connection).
It was suggested last night that such a journey could not even be attempted in ten years time, but the lessons of the film are timeless. If you can, make sure you see it.
(If you're not in the UK, I can only direct you here).