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What "The King's Speech" Says About Customer Service (and British-American Relations)

It is rather tempting to regard the triumph of The King’s Speech in Sunday night’s Oscars as the victory of the self-deprecating, plucky Brits over Yee-ha, check-out-my-guns, vulgar might of the Yanks.

Colin Firth, with his dashing good looks and haltingly delivered, self-deprecating one-liners, rather had one over True Grit’s Western-mythologizing, The Social Network’s peon to unimaginable wealth, and even Toy Story 3’s techno animation wizardry.

Put aside the clever effects and pistols, this is about one man overcoming adversity to rally a nation against overwhelming odds and the march of totalitarianism. If ever a film spoke to the desire for a nation to regard itself as good, and brave and true, then this is it. No wonder British audiences are spontaneously applauding the credits.

But let us put aside jingoism for a moment. And let’s regard the film instead as a metaphor for customer service.

A fusty old British company is not only absurdly detached from its customer, arrogantly assuming they will stick around just because they always have, it is also preternaturally incapable of communicating with them effectively. Along comes a consultant who hails from one of the former colonies, and transforms the battered old firm into a contemporary, customer service champion.

At the risk of flogging this metaphor with all the subtlety of Jerry Springer’s post-show morality spiel, The King’s Speech is rather better a symbol of collaboration. British companies, through their customer service, have become several times more effective by learning from their American peers. They use US methods to sharpen up their service proposition, and US technology to measure those methods’ effectiveness.

In return, you guys can vicariously enjoy our Royal family, without the bother of actually having to pay for, and shelter them. And that, I believe, is a healthy enough cultural exchange for a post-Oscar love-in.