I’ve been so frustrated in recent weeks by a complete lack of customer service in all kinds of places I’ve been – Coditel and UPS in Belgium, Thomas Cook Airlines in Canada, BAA at Gatwick (on my return from Canada – not as severe as Boris Johnson’s experience!) – that I thought it was worthwhile to look at this from the other side. What makes good service and why are so many companies so completely incapable of providing it? This is the good optimistic post, the antidote to the previous rants.

(1) Eurostar
My number 1 favourite company at the moment. I’ve made more than 20 return journeys with Eurostar since October 2007 and I’ve been delayed once – 20 minutes due to a security alert. The quality of service in the trains and at the stations is always good and, above all, all Eurostar’s systems seem to work – it’s about getting you from A to B swiftly and easily. No duty free shops getting in the way as at British airports. They have even introduced a system to allow you to choose your seat when booking online. Why anyone would fly London-Brussels is beyond me – Eurostar is class.

(2) Streetcar
OK, car sharing in London is not really a very amusing sort of enterprise, but Streetcar do it with a real style. Again the systems are spot-on – really well designed booking system, one monthly bill, smart card, easy signup – and they are always charming to deal with on the telephone. Above all the company exudes a positive and quirky sort of spirit – calling the first streetcar van Morrison, even naming the cars in the first place. So join!

(3) Apple
Slightly different than the previous two, as this is about the product rather than the service. Having been using Apple computers since 1994 I can recall only one time actually having to contact Apple customer service, because the machines they produce are so solid and reliable that there’s never been the need to call on their customer service. Plus Albion on The Strand is an excellent place to buy a Mac – quieter than the Apple Centre on Regent Street.

In summary there are a few different strands here. Your product needs to be good, so people don’t actually need to contact customer services. You need a relentless focus on your core business. You need staff that are motivated by their work and are committed to what they do. It’s all common sense really. So why can so few firms achieve it? Or am I just unlucky?

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