I spent my time traveling Scotland and various other UK and European countries for several months, late last year. I can tell you I had much to learn about Scotland. When I say much to learn, I mean, I travelled the country with preconceived notions and an "American Dream" type of influence.
North American Experience
Having studied Marketing at McGill University in Montreal, Canada - by the way, whose founder, James McGill, was from Glasgow, Scotland - I took customer service for granted. I viewed it as one of those terms marketers throw around just for the sake of having terminology or charging customers a premium for what I thought was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. I was very wrong. Customer service is what has built America. Okay, maybe not customer service, but I truly believe marketing is what has led the U.S. to be home to the biggest corporations in the world. Marketing has increased the stabilization of economies, standardization across international borders, research enabling people to live more comfortably and much more. Customer service and the customer experience are what allow people to feel at home and welcome wherever they go. More importantly, every dollar they spend is an investment and investing their hard earned money into a positive experience is all they ask (and pay for).
Example 1: If you go to Starbucks and they forget your order, make you wait 30 minutes, and simply waste your time, why shouldn't Starbucks apologize and offer you a drink on the house? I can tell you the additional number of times I've been to Starbucks on Peel and St. Catherine street in Montreal has been significant because they gave me a free drink once after having forgotten my order. I freaking love them there!
Example 2: If you go to a local hotel in North America and your room is smaller than advertised, you will go to the counter, form a complaint and you can rest assured something will be done about your small room. It's basic math, really.
Your customers = happy = $$ = better reviews = more $$
The Scottish Experience
When I went to Scotland, things were very different. Firstly, there is no such thing as a refill at McDonald's. Sounds trivial, doesn't it? Secondly, customer service is not a thing. At least it's done quite similarly to some European countries. The customer is not always right. It's more like: "You have a problem with my hotel? Well, I am the owner...Get out and find yourself some place else to stay tonight". And you've already paid so forget the whole "refund" thing. One can argue the Europeans are right, too. If customers are not satisfied, no one is forcing them to stay. Is it smart business-wise? Well, it's not unintelligent if this is the status quo, its embedded in the culture and customers fear the loss of their investment...Sunk cost fallacy comes in to play.
Hospitality in Scotland is quite the gamble but it can also be charming. People aren't forced to smile or really offer you anything. They are very real. If a Scot is having a bad day, sure they'll be professional, but don't expect them to be all "Oh my goodness, I love your watch, it's beautiful...[shows you your room with the biggest fake smile on their face]...we hope you find this accommodation to your liking...WHERE'S MY TIP?" Having them be "real" is refreshing and makes genuinely good customer service something you want to reward.
If I were to choose, I would have to say a combination of both would be great. Unfortunately, the UK and Europe, in general, made for "frugal" experiences where I felt like I was being cheated. Scottish businesses should seek to make customers come first more often. Thinking about how to create more enriching experiences given their history and architecture may sound tacky but it could be fantastic if done correctly. Businesses should take into account that while British Millennials may be different than North American ones, technology is bridging that cultural gap. Innovation and consumer experiences are what Gen Y is looking for. The U.S. has always been a leader in such worlds and if Scotland were to have a little fun with the way it does business and builds the future, it could do more than increase its tourism. When I refer to "businesses" I mean, those centred around the hospitality sector (hotels, hostels, restaurants), tech, and the mom and pop shops. Before I get ahead of myself, I will admit that I did grow up vacationing in the U.S. where the more the merrier (food, clothing, size of Big Macs, advertising, etc.) - and often that only leads to waste. Finding a happy medium is what I think Scotland could capitalize on. The Scots have character and their rich history - one of strength and survival, still much embedded in their every day life.