Waiting for the number 73 bus this morning at Victoria station I observed a fairly typical ‘getting to work’ experience, similar to what must happen every day somewhere in London. What it did though was make me think of how each of us in our day to day interactions can impact each other, irrespective of the roles that we play. 

In this case it was the bus driver. 

If you know Victoria bus station you can visualise the lines of buses, each sorted into their respective number, sometimes 3 or 4 bus’s in the same line, and the prospective passengers all queuing. 

What should happen is that as one moves out the next one moves up, opens the doors, fills up and goes out. Simple!. Not so this morning, I’d just missed one bus, but no problem, there were 3 more ready to go. As expected the next bus pulls up, but instead of opening the door the driver starts making a phone call, then gets out his PC notebook and starts tapping away. Ah, I think obviously updating route information etc. very necessary. (at this point I was however thinking that the sunglasses on the driver were not really that important on a grey February morning). 

Now time is a very funny thing, when waiting in a queue it stretches, so that 30 seconds to a minute becomes 10 minutes to 30. 

Still the doors did not open and by now the queue was getting restless as time went into stretch and frustration mode. 

Still phone calls continued with PC being updated. Officialdom stepped in in the form of a man in a yellow jacket, who appeared to be told it was none of his business, man in yellow jacket called an even more important man in yellow jacket who evidently had the authority. PC and phone were put away and doors opened. 

Now the interesting thing was the behaviours of the passengers. From being robotic commuters they became angry commuters, with lots of mutterings and gestures. The driver ignored all, and stared straight ahead. which just made it worse. 

In reality we had waited no more than 2 minutes, if that, but it seemed like ages. It was cold outside and it appeared that the driver was ignoring us at best and treating us with disdain at worst.

The message is a simple one. If you are delivering service you have to be aware of the impact of every action you take. This is especially important in a public facing role, where every action, gesture or facial expression can be mistaken for boredom, lack of concern or even antagonism towards your customers. Even when on the phone your tone can drive people’s behaviour, making it a pleasant interaction or frustrating experience

Two of the basic rules can eliminate the majority of problems of this type  – always smile and always focus on your customer at all times.

So when your on your way to work tomorrow, smile and think of the other person. Help to make there day a pleasant one.

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