Andrew Curry writes:

Visiting the British Museum’s Hadrian exhibition on a wet Sunday in August isn’t perhaps the most sensible thing to do, although the exhibition is striking even when it’s teeming with visitors. But the trip was at least as educational about the BM’s approach to customer service.

While waiting to buy my timed tickets, the screens behind the ticket desk advertised to me the benefits of membership (‘Join today and see Hadrian free’). I had some time to do the sums, and it seemed like a reasonable offer. So when I reached the desk I asked if I could buy membership instead. Not here, apparently, but over there – at a desk with another long queue at it. Having waited several minutes already, I bought the ordinary one-day exhibition tickets instead. Lost revenue, lost relationship, from the Museum’s point of view. ‘It doesn’t seem sensible to advertise membership here and not to sell it’, I observed, helpfully. ‘I know’ said the woman at the counter. ‘We have mentioned it to the management’.

Being a wet Sunday, I had an umbrella with me. It had been pretty visible when I bought the tickets, since umbrellas aren’t the sort of thing you tend to hide unless you’re a hitman. When we got to the entrance of the Hadrian exhibition for our timed entry, 40 minutes later, the attendant told me that I couldn’t take the umbrella in; it would have to go to the cloakroom. ‘I could have been told that when I bought the tickets’ I pointed out, both to the attendant and later to the man in the Cloakroom. ‘I know’, said the man in the Cloakroom. ‘We’ve been telling the management for the last two exhibitions, but they haven’t done anything about it’.

Of course, the British Museum’s not unique in not listening to its customer-facing staff. Lots of organisations forget that they’re the first to hear (often the only people to hear) when their customer-facing systems aren’t entirely customer friendly. Usually managers are too busy telling their staff about new instructions to find the time to listen to them.

As for the Hadrian exhibition, it’s open until 26th October. But don’t go on a wet Sunday. And if you do, don’t take an umbrella.

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