Friday, October 31, 2008

Exceptional Customer Service

People often criticise the UK National Health Service (NHS) and if we believe (I don’t) what we read in right wing national newspapers, like the Daily Mail, the NHS is failing millions of us.

We seem to conveniently forget we have a universal health service in Britain available to all and free at the point of delivery regardless of our wealth status.

In the last year or so since we moved to our new village we have had a few occasions to make appointments for one or other members of our family to see a Doctor. Every time we have had a superb service without fail. Every time when medication is prescribed it is dispensed on site and we have walked away from the surgery with the medication. For a repeat prescription where the normal procedure is for patients to give 48 hours notice, we have twice asked whether a repeat prescription can be made up that day. No problem on both occasions, the surgery gladly obliged by leaving the medication at the shop opposite the surgery for collection the same afternoon.

This morning our daughter Lucy was feeling unwell and at 8.40 am I rang the surgery to see if she could be seen fairly quickly though it was not an emergency. The receptionist asked us to be there at 9.20 am to see the doctor.

Annie took Lucy to meet the doctor and he prescribed antibiotics for tonsillitis. The medication was dispensed on site and Annie was home with Lucy 55 minutes from the time I made the initial phone call at 8.40 am.

Now that’s what I call service!

So what is the point of telling this story?

1 We could not have had a better service if we had paid for it.

2 The NHS at its best is absolutely brilliant.

3 Exceptional Customer Service is what this is.

4 This story – the third of its kind in the year we have been here reminds me that we need to protect and preserve our NHS of which I am very proud

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leaders - Born or Made?

I'm delighted to say my latest Simplicity Article on this subject is published today on Training Zone Website - Click here to see article

Comments welcome as always either here or on the Training Zone site

Sunday, October 26, 2008

London Marathon 2009 - Running for Carers

Well they do say you need to have a purpose and some targets in management … Here is something for Annie and me to focus on.

We’ve both been successful in securing places in the London Marathon 2009 which is to be held on April 26th

We are thrilled to be running for Carers UK which is a National not-for-profit organisation based in London that promotes the needs of unpaid family carers.

Over the next few months we will be attempting to raise awareness of carers needs and also attempting to raise a total of £3000 for Carers UK between us through sponsorship.

Anyone who has been reading Simplicity Blog for a while will know I have passion for supporting unpaid family carers who provide more care to people with illness or disability than is provided by all the agencies of the UK combined such as the National Health Service and Social Services.

I will use Simplicity Blog to report on progress … 6 months sounds a long time in some ways but awfully close in others. Annie will be reporting more fully on our training regime and progress on her own Blog - details to follow.

The longest distance we’ve run to date is 7 miles so between 26 and 27 miles seems a long way …

Watch this space.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tom Peters backs Barack Obama

I was delighted to discover on U Tube that my management guru Tom Peters is supporting Barack Obama in the forthcoming US Presidential Election.

Tom’s speech is in three parts at these links

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It is a typically passionate speech from Tom. He tells us this is the first time he given a political speech in his 66 years. That’s sounds a pretty symbolic statement of how strongly he feels the need for US citizens to elect Mr Obama in November.

I am not knowledgeable enough of US politics to say who is the best candidate but I agree with every word in Tom's speech.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Resilience Report

My good friend J Kannan kindly sent me a copy of an interesting report from booz&co suggesting we should not panic and instead maybe take a calmer view about the current financial crisis gripping the world.

If you would like to read the full report click here

As a self confessed non-expert in all this stuff my own take is that it's great to see the advice is not to hit the 'panic' button but to see this as a time of measured reflection, learning and opportunity.

I am an eternal optimist and whilst I can see there are going to be some really traumatic job losses around the world it may be this is the shock that was needed to metaphorically 'stop the world for a while' and give us all time to reflect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Variety or Familiarity?

One of the things I wanted most when I left my NHS career four years ago was more variety in my work.

This week has been a pretty varied week.

  • Sunday evening drove up to Newcastle to prepare for all day Monday session when I was one of 11 facilitators at an event run by the Department of Health.

  • Monday evening drove back to Birmingham for a meeting at 7.30 pm

  • Tuesday drove to Birmingham to perform a couple of drama sketches with Annie at a national conference on out of hours emergency medical care. This was followed by delivering three consecutive 45 minute workshops on team development to a total of 60 of the delegates attending the conference

  • Wednesday drove up to Liverpool to deliver a workshop to GP front line staff on Exceptional Customer Care

  • Thursday was a day in Leicester working in a healthcare organisation assisting them to develop a new communications and engagement strategy.

That’s well over a thousand miles on the road; 5 completely different ‘jobs’ in five days; for five completely different clients.

Though it is not usually QUITE as varied as this, the above schedule is not an unusual spread of activity in a typical week for me. I simply couldn’t stand working in a job nowadays with a rigid job description that restricts my personal horizons. Anyone can make more of a job that has limited scope on paper, by attitude of mind but I just love the real variety I’ve discovered.

Many people like to have predictability about what they are doing week on week, month on month and year on year. That is perfectly fine - I have no problem with that choice if it suits the person. I personally prefer the element of surprise and ‘difference’ in the range of things I do.

Apart from anything else I believe that by creating lots of options, possibilities and outlets for experience, knowledge and skills I might just have a better chance of finding something when the chips are down than if I stick to the stuff I just feel comfortable with.

Please note I am NOT suggesting this as a prescription for anyone – just that it definitely suits my personality and style. I would love your views on variety versus familiarity.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thought for the day ....

I look out of my window this Saturday morning in Shakespeare’s County to see a gloriously sunny day and I see what God provides for us every day free of charge.

We are told the financial world is crumbling around the ears of the ‘experts’ in financial affairs who helped get us into this mess in the first place … so I thought I would share this profound wisdom ….

Billy was at school one morning and the teacher asked all the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came: fireman, policeman, salesman, chippy, captain of industry, doctor, etc. But Billy was being uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked him about his father. My father is an exotic dancer in a gay club and takes off all his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes if the offer is really good, he’ll go out with a man, rent a cheap hotel room and let them sleep with him. The teacher quickly set the other children some work and took little Billy aside to ask him if that was really true. "No" said Billy. "He is a financial adviser in the city, but I was too embarrassed to say"

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

78 and still loads to do .....

Amidst the gloom, despondency and pessimism in the business world at the moment I was absolutely thrilled yesterday to talk once more to my academic supervisor and life guru Professor George Giarchi from the University of Plymouth who I have mentioned many times on this Blog.

George tells me he has made a decision to stop working as Professor in Social Care at the University in 2010. He will work to July 2010 on his current contract of two and a half days per week. He will be 80 years old in November 2010 and so he feels it is time to call it a day in his academic career.

He tells me he now has a degenerative eye disease which means one day he will not be able to read - which is heartbreaking for him as a veracious reader of all things. George already has plans to overcome that ‘minor problem’ as he sees it.

When I told him I could not imagine him ‘putting his feet up’ he quickly told me of his ambitious plans for a new project, returning to an old love of wood turning which he has not been able to do seriously since he was in his 30’s.

So what the point of this posting I hear you say …

Well apart from this being a good news story I think George is simply a wonderful man and a gifted mentor. A perfect role model who is loved by probably thousand of students …. He is just a very nice man.

Whilst talking to him I suggested – tongue in cheek - that his vast experience of ethical issues in health and social care would be brilliant if he were to write a book on ethics in business - particularly given the current state of the world of finance. George’s infectious enthusiasm was immediate and he started to talk excitedly about the possibilities …… Watch this space….

Who said 80 was old?

God bless you always George!

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I return to one of my pet subjects – customer care!!

Real stories best illustrate my frustration with what I see as poor customer care.

A few months ago I needed some photocopying done and it was more cost effective for me to get the copying done at a small local shop that offers copying services than to use my own small home copier.

I wanted 30 copies of a six page document that I use as a workbook for a course I run on Team Development - a total of 180 pages. The shop manager asked me to come back in 20 minutes. When I returned he handed me 180 workbooks of 6 pages and a very large bill.

I explained that I only asked for 30 copies of the workbook not 180 copies and when he consulted his notes he discovered it was his mistake and apologised.

He gave me 30 copies of the workbook and I paid for them.

I suddenly thought I could use the ‘wasted’ copies in future courses so I said to the man that I would take them off his hands as they could, after all, only be used by me. He told me that I could take them as long as I paid for them. I said I did not want to pay for them because I actually only wanted 30 copies at present. I asked what he would now do with the 150 copies of the workbook that he now had on his hands. He said he would shred them in accordance with the policy. I said that seems such a shame and I would happily take them off his hands. He said I could only take them if I paid for them. We batted this discussion back and forth for a while and I left knowing that he was going to shred 900 sheets of A4 paper that I could have used.

With hindsight I could have made an offer to pay a reduced amount for the workbooks.

My point however about customer 'care' is that this jobsworth person was sticking to his procedure come what may and he was not going to budge - to coin a phrase 'The man was not for turning!'

His ‘policy’ said ‘shred wasted paper’ and that was his only position.

I would like to think if it had been me I would have said 'Sod the rules' and recognised it was actually crazy to shred 900 pieces of paper that would have been useful to a customer.

But then I always do see things far too simply.

I would be saying good things about that shop if they had said something like ‘Oh just take them – they are no good to us or anyone else and if you can use them that’s great’

Instead I see that shop as one which has crazy unfriendly customer practices and of course I tell people about it - is that good for their customer care reputation?

I just do not get it!