Like most other people I know my diet has changed since the lock-down began. There’s a definite emphasis on “comfort food” – perhaps more carb-heavy than normal, an increased choice of desserts and a definite nod towards the foods enjoyed in childhood (rice pudding hasn’t featured yet but it’s on the to-cook list).
The collective psychology of this is interesting: in a time of stress we gravitate towards certainty and things that make us feel better, even if they don’t necessarily make healthier in the long term.
The exciting mission and purpose need to be balanced against the dull stuff – and good planning is essential
Are you excited by your working life? Does every problem
seem like a solution waiting to happen? Do you spend most of the day in a state
of feverish anticipation about the next curveball that the world is going to
sling at you?
If the answer is “no, not often” then you have much in
common with 99.9% of people in organisations around the world: however much your
organisation has a great cause, a compelling purpose, whizzy products and funky
offices with great coffee on tap and a pinball machine in the basement, you
have to spend a large chunk of your day doing stuff that’s – when all’s said
and done – pretty boring.
In a large business the stuff that we might find a bit dull
can be allocated to people who don’t find it so: that’s why we have Finance, HR,
Procurement and so on. If you’re lucky, those departments will be full of
people who can eat a purchase ledger for breakfast without batting an eyelid
and will be happy to do so day in, day out.
A non-toxic theatre visit ticks all the right boxes
If you’re lucky enough to get a ticket to a popular West End
show – and in my case even luckier to get one fairly cheaply (thanks to TodayTix) – your elation can be
followed by a sudden lowering of expectations: the venue will be crowded and
the business of getting to your seat can be a major stress point.
If your companion has mobility challenges, this stress can
be compounded, but a visit to the Old Vic last week proved to be a pleasant
surprise. I’d been warned that there was construction work going on at the
theatre, so my expectations of easy access were even lower than normal, but
here’s the pleasant surprise: plenty of people on hand to help. Having
been directed to the other side of the theatre to some temporary outside loos –
the works on the building seem to limit internal access at the moment – we
encountered an incredibly helpful member of the front-of-house team who
insisted on showing us to our seats at the back of the stalls just to make sure
they could be accessed.
The play – A Very
Expensive Poison – was excellent. However, the point of this is not to
recount a very enjoyable (also inexpensive and non-toxic) evening but to
reflect on why such experiences are still relatively rare. Many West End
theatres – and other businesses in central London – face structural problems, namely
old-fashioned pokey buildings, high rents and therefore ticket prices, and
these can mitigate against a good customer experience. However, this means that
businesses should invest in the relatively inexpensive assets that can turn an
enjoyable theatre visit into a memorable one: namely the people customers encounter
during the visit.
What’s frustrating is that there is nothing new or rocket-science
about any of this: you simply recruit people who want to serve customers well
and train them to make sure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to do
so. Staff at the Old Vic were all pleasant and friendly but that’s still a
rarity: it’s not that people are openly hostile, but too often I encounter
indifferent service staff who are “going through the motions” rather than
recognising it’s their job to make their customers feel better, however
fleeting that interaction might be.
Organisations – in the arts sector and beyond – that recognise
the central importance of this stand a greater chance of repeat business (I’m
looking forward to my next Old Vic visit) and the financial success that comes