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No CX Please, We’re British!

5 minute read

By Gerry Brown, Chief Customer Rescue Officer, Customer Lifeguard

No Sex Please, We're British, a British farce written by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott, opened in London in June 1971. It received a mauling by the critics, but the great British public loved it and it played to full houses until 1987 at three separate theatres running up an impressive 6,761 performances. It also continues to be a very popular number with local repertory theatres. However, it did not share the same success with American audiences, running for only 16 performances on Broadway in early 1973. This probably confirms what we already know about the different perceptions about comedy in the US and the UK – two countries divided by a common language.

The play opens with what is effectively a bad customer experience with a delivery (no change there then) when the wife of an assistant bank manager, who lives in a flat above the bank, sends off a mail order for some Scandinavian glassware but receives Scandinavian pornography by mistake. This starts an avalanche of unwanted and inappropriate mail orders, at least for a 1971 bank manager, that naturally creates increasingly embarrassing and unbelievable plot lines that are the raison d’etre of any British farce.

In 2023, the word farce could accurately be used to describe the way that many UK businesses are run, or run into the ground, and the increasingly poor customer experience (CX) “delivered” by many companies and highlighted by a variety of surveys and our own experiences. These scenarios would be just as funny as the play if not for the collateral damage done to customers, employees and even shareholders.

There’s no shortage of tweets, webinars, LinkedIn posts and sponsored articles that both identify this and offer solutions, so I‘m not piling into the central theme of poor customer experience, but to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson and others, to suggest that we get the customer experience we deserve.

I came to this conclusion following a relatively mild Facebook rant about Waitrose and an escalator that was out of service for many weeks and a comment about their empty shelves. I noted that the escalator problem was probably down to that great British excuse, “We’re waiting for a part”. While I wasn’t seeking nor expecting universal support or a basket of likes, I was quite taken aback by the torrent of vitriol and the nature of the comments. Many suggested that I take the stairs, a reasonable suggestion, others that I must be a “boomer” (I am) because I don’t understand how store maintenance and the supply chain work and, given the world’s problems, that maybe they were actually waiting for a part. Worst of all, comparing me to Victor Meldrew… which I simply couldn’t believe!

I decided not to engage the trolls, but if I had I would have endeavoured to make the point that this wasn’t a “poor me” post, but that it is important to take a stand and do that most un-British thing and complain, to the offending company and not to each other. Otherwise, things are unlikely to get much better. So, what’s behind this apparent reluctance to not only complain but to lambaste those that do?


I first raised this a few years ago in a presentation with the above title and noted that the English were now known as a nation of moaners, according to research from the Ombudsman Service that was published in The Times. They calculated that there were 52 million complaints a year (in 2018, probably more now) made to social media, supplier complaint lines, ombudsman services and small claims court. However, the research also noted that another 66 million problems had not led to complaints with many put off by the effort involved, AKA the “too hard” file.

Robert Crampton, writing in The Times a few days after the earlier research report, jumped on this bandwagon, and opined that “Britain has become a nation of cowardly moaners.” And wondered what had become of the Blitz spirit and turned “mustn’t grumble” or “don’t want to make a fuss” into a tsunami of griping, groaning, whingeing, and whining. But, as he noted, people may be complaining more but they’re not necessarily actually getting satisfaction. In his words “I’m not aware of mass defections from big banks or telecoms giants, or insurance providers over spurious charges, hidden extras or small-print caveats.” This is probably because they’re not really complaining, nor would they even dream about it, as Mr Crampton acknowledges, but are “getting all stewed up then moaning to their wife.” Entirely the wrong target if satisfaction, compensation and a change in the status quo are the ultimate goals. It’s clear that five years on professional complaining still hasn’t become the national sport that whining is, so it’s time to stand up, stop moaning to each other and say something to someone that might make a difference. The key here is to find the “right” someone.


I believe that many companies hope that all you ever do is moan. In fact, they’re counting on it. When we have an issue most of us seek out resolution by calling or emailing customer service help lines, posting on social media, or writing to newspaper columnists. Forget it. They rarely work, although you may get some momentary relief via Twitter or Facebook. It’s not because people in customer service teams don’t care. Most do, they are after all just regular folk that are kind to their kids and don’t kick their dog. So, while these people may want to help you, it’s highly unlikely that they have the tools, the authority, or the backing of the company, to solve your problem to your satisfaction.

So, who is the right person? And how do you reach them? As a serial complainer, I‘ll repeat my answer from 2018 which is still working for me. There are three simple steps, and I won’t bore you with the details of the steps, it will be cathartic and life affirming for you to figure it out.

  1. Start at the top – Copy all senior people, especially if HQ is in the US or Canada
  2. Deliver a strongly worded but polite and action-oriented letter with your expected
  3. Send a Thank you note – We all like to get them.

“But Gerry,” I hear you say. “This is neither new nor life-changing, we all know it.”

Well, you may know it, but you’re not doing it. So, stop moaning, start complaining and remember you don’t have to moan alone.

Because if you follow these steps, you’ll find that the ends really do justify the moans!

About the author 

Gerry Brown is on a mission to save the world from bad customer service. He helps businesses save customers at risk of defecting and breathes life into their customer service operations and customer experience strategy. Gerry has provided organisational leadership on people development, business transformation, customer engagement and technology enablement for some of the largest companies in the UK, Canada, and EMEA. These include National Express, Nutricia, The Royal Albert Hall, Endsleigh Insurance, O2, Screwfix, Sage, Sky, Bell Canada and TELUS.
He is a frequent speaker, chairperson, panellist and facilitator at conferences, webinars, company events and other business gatherings, where his many years of business and customer service experience provide stimulating, thought-provoking engagement and audience participation. He is also a published author and his new book When a Customer Wins, Nobody Loses is available on Amazon to help business leaders to create winning and memorable customer experiences.


Gerry Brown 

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