Three R’s and a T

What role does good education play in great customer service?  The tools for learning, the so called 3Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic, are cornerstones of education systems across the globe.  Tried, tested and mastered by most young people, each of course plays an important role in any customer interaction.  But where is the T?
On a recent visit to a relative in our local hospital I decided to quench my thirst at the WRVS café.  My server for the day was a bright young lady of about 16 years of age, commendably volunteering for the day to help visitors.  Her greeting was exemplary. I instantly felt welcome. It was at this point warning bells sounded as I placed an order for a cup of black tea.  I might have known there was an issue when my order was repeated back as a question, ‘a black tea?’  It is great when people repeat back my order to check they’ve understood, but not with an inflection at the end of the statement.  This might have simply been due to the trend in modern speech to turn every sentence into a question (?).  Sorry, this was an assumption on my part and I apologise for questioning my server’s grasp of the spoken word.  Indeed, it was a question.
After a couple of minutes doing something out of view involving a muffled discussion with her colleague she returned asking: ‘What is black tea?’  My first thought was one of joy.  A young person interested in improving her product knowledge, perhaps wanting to appreciate the subtle differences between white, green, black, yellow and oolong teas.  Disappointingly, ‘it’s tea without milk,’ was all she needed to know.
I was gratified to find she could count the coins I presented but was left wondering. How can making tea, our national drink, have been missed off the National Curriculum?
Most importantly, her customer service training had been excellent; the service I received was exemplary. There is, however, no point in creating great customer interactions by spending time, money and energy on touch-point experiences, customer feedback, building customer engagement through social media and the like, if you can’t deliver first time.
Would I recommend the WRVS catering service?  Absolutely.  Their staff are wonderful volunteers who do great work with patients and relatives. They also, now, know how to make black tea.