On Boxing Day last year, I was honoured to appear on the BBC Breakfast red sofa alongside ‘Leading Expert and Etiquette Coach’ William Hanson to discuss the topic of re-gifting. Our views may have differed somewhat, for example with regard to the giving and receiving of wine, which I will always find perfectly acceptable (except if it’s a cheap bottle of Lambrini!) However we were firmly united in our belief that good manners are all-important and are fundamental to the delivery of excellent Customer Service. I’m beyond excited that William has agreed to have breakfast with me and am hoping that I can pick up some top tips as to how to become a proper Lady!
For the past 13 years, William has worked as an etiquette coach and says he has been ‘Fortunate to travel the world giving people social and professional confidence by teaching them the rules and logic of etiquette.’
His first job is ‘this very one!’ William started teaching when he was 17 and still at school, which he says is ‘a long story.’ He also worked in PR for a brief spell and also as the school’s receptionist when he was still at school and which he says is ‘Another long story.’ However, William says his job ‘Teaching etiquette has been my only real job of note.’
When asked about why good Customer Service was important, William’s response was that ‘People do business with people. It doesn’t matter how good the product may be, if the customer service and overall experience is not good for the customer they will go elsewhere. Even in our ultra fast paced, techno-forward world there is nothing better than civil human interaction.’ Another good phrase I heard recently from Consumer Champion Helen Dewdney was that “Manners in any line of business are important,’ and I couldn’t agree more.
I asked William to share with me the companies he felt delivered the best Customer Service and those he believed delivered a substandard service. In William’s opinion, ‘Fortnum & Mason in London offer good customer service and uphold British politesse in their interactions with their clientele.’ William went on to say that ‘Apple are generally okay but being British I love a queue and their stores now have removed all forms of queuing, and that sends my senses reeling whenever I need to buy something there. I just can’t cope. Some conventions should be kept, especially in the country where queuing is a national sport.’ I have to disagree here, as there’s nothing I loathe more than a queue and will always strive to avoid them.
William’s biggest Customer Service gripe is ‘Overfamiliarity!’ and says that ‘There is a huge difference between being friendly and the customer’s friend (the former being the ideal). I am not your mate. I am not a folk. We are not ‘guys’. Just by being chummy doesn’t make you my chum. I am a customer and deserve some form of respect higher than what you’d call your school friend. Familiarity and affection should be earned and not forced.’ I can relate to this, as it infuriates me when companies call me by my Christian name without checking first as to how I would prefer to be addressed!
As you know my word of the year is ‘inspired’ so when I asked about William’s own inspirations, he chatted about his late grandmother. William explained that his grandmother was the one who ‘Gave me my first etiquette book, aged 12, which is what heightened my love of the subject so I suppose that Granny counts as a big inspiration – even though she had no idea what the gift of that book would do! But in the public eye I hugely admire HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, who has put up with so much abuse, stick and grief over the years but still manages to look elegant, polished and retains her sense of humour and duty.’
In 5 years time, William would like to have a third book published and hopes to be ‘Still carrying on doing my job, which never really feels like a job.’ If you haven’t come across it already, William’s first book ‘Bluffers Guide to Etiquette’ provides invaluable advice as to how to bluff your way through a variety of situations from social introductions to weddings and funerals. The exciting news is that his second follow up book ‘Bluffer’s Guide to Entertaining’ which covers many forms of social entertaining is due to be released in September 2019! Pre- orders are being taken so you can reserve your copy right now and more information is available on William’s website.
With this in mind, I thought it would be lovely to share William’s top etiquette tip for this season with you as it did make me giggle. In William’s view, ‘Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean to say that we can behave like a pillock. Standards and civility is all- weather. And when on holiday remember that we are never on holiday from good manners.’ I concur wholeheartedly with this as in my flying days, I came across many a holidaymaker who seemed to think that their annual vacation was an excuse to do exactly as they pleased with little regard for anyone else’s enjoyment of the same experience.
Last but not least, breakfast wise, William tries, ‘To have something egg related for breakfast as I feel it’s healthy. I am loving doing oeufs en cocotte at the moment. They sound complicated but are really very simple to do. And although I am a fairly social person, there is nothing I love more than having breakfast (either at home or in a restaurant) alone. It’s a great time to collect my thoughts, catch up on emails (with fewer people responding quickly) and get ready for the day.’ This does indeed sound like the perfect way to start the day!
So there it is. I hope you’ve enjoyed breakfast with William as much as I have even if he would prefer to eat on his own without me blithering in his ear. If you would like to find out more about him then you can visit the website and he is also on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Until next time everyone! Cin cin!
Lady Janey x
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