Thursday, April 05, 2007

Customer Care again ...Some organisations 'get it' - some don't

Following a great exchange with Mike and Randy about customer care I thought it worth pursuing this with another posting on the same subject.

My basic point is some companies ‘get it’ about good customer care and some don’t. As an 'ancient' manager for many decades;

*I know about the need to balance books
*I know about the need for policies
*I know about the need to have strategies
*I know about governance
*I know about risk management
*I know about legal things

I also know something about good customer care and poor customer care and something about people at the front line (having been one for many years)

Good organisations for customer care exhibit the following:

*Flexibility in their rules
*Power for front line staff to resolve problems for customers on the spot and without having to ask managers
*Front line staff using their discretion
*Front line staff and Managers having empathy with customers

*Viewing customers as 'friends' not an 'inconvenience'

Poor organisations for customer care display the opposites of the list above.

I would be fascinated to hear more views about this.

To me it is very simple but I may be missing something ….



Anonymous said...

I believe there are only three (really four) reasons I become a repeat customer of any product or service provider--only one of them has much of anything to do with customer service. I have found that expecting good customer service to to be associated with the other three has frequently caused me grief and added unnecessary complexity (vs. simplicity) to my life.

1. The provider has a relative monopoly. This may include distance to/convenience of other providers, lack of other providers, and probably increasingly common today, provision of a product or service that can be truly differentiated from others by perceived quality.

My high-speed (cable) internet provider charges premium prices for mediocre service and provides absolutely terrible, sometimes insulting, customer service, but...they are "the only game in town." "Dial-up" simply isn't an option.

2. The provider make me feel valued.

I live in a relatively small community, but can buy reasonably good pizza at no fewer than 22 establishments within a 5-7 minute drive. The place I've gone to for the past 18 years is the one of these. They call me by name, remember my usual order, take a bit of extra time to chat every time I go in and say thanks when I leave. Additionally (see reason 1), they really aren't in competition with any of the other 21 (see reason 1)--their pizza is simply that good.

3. Out of principle, I want to support local businesses. I buy "do-it-yourself" supplies from a local hardware store (instead of the big-box national chain) whenever possible. The local guy is a bit more expensive, about the same distance away, and a bit of a curmudgeon, but...he lives in town, hires local lads and lasses, and has been around for years.

Finally (I told you there was another one)... 4. If my lovely wife wants to go there...we go there. We haven't been happily married for more than 30 years by accident!

Trevor Gay said...

Fabulous comments Steve - Can I just say Number 4 is the most reliable in my worldview :-)

My overall feeling about customer care is that as a paying customer I know when it 'feels' good and when it doesn't 'feel' good.

Those are my simple rules regardless of what it may say in any management text book or by any management Guru!

Dan said...

I think you nailed it, Trevor! People come up with all sorts of excuses and justifications for doing stupid, counter-productive things, but they are just that: excuses and justifications. They try to blame "the organization," as if such an entity existed apart from the human beings involved...

It really is as simple as you put it, in my opinion.

Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. As the saying goes, we should "never let our sense of morality stop us from doing what's right," and that goes for customer service as much as any other instance of human interaction.

Steve - #4 is perfect! I couldn't agree more!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dan – thanks for that – needless to say you won’t find me disagreeing.

In my experience bad customer care is typified by staff and managers blaming customers before they think about whether their organisation is REALLY trying to be responsive to the customer or simply acting like a private members ‘club’ for staff …. where customers are seen as nothing more than an interruption to a tranquil day at work.

Anonymous said...

I’m really worried! I have only just read the Tuesday RANT … and yesterday I arranged to have coffee with Trevor in Solihull next week! I shall be really nervous now in case he starts asking for discounts! Trevor, I’ll have to show you the technique – you need to chat and joke with the waitress (my wife calls it flirting). Then you get a discount without asking! OK, when it happened to me recently I had been to the same place several times. You see, I play the long game!

At risk of having to buy the coffee next week, I think I largely agree with the other guys. I totally agree that front line staff SHOULD be given a certain amount of discretion, but if they are not, it seems unfair to call them jobsworths. In my view a jobsworth is someone who applies the rules rigidly when common sense suggests otherwise. If nobody had told this girl that she had discretion, she can’t really be blamed.

Anyway, if there were 18 of you and the coffee cost £2.40 a cup as Annie said, you DID get a discount as you reckon the bill was £38! Or am I being pedantic again?! And just be grateful that it came in small cups. These days it only ever seems to be served in buckets!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David - Let’s just do the serious bit first. For the UMPTEENTH time let me repeat this rant was NOT ABOUT THE COST!!! – It was about how not to ‘do’ customer care!!!

BUT ….. Just to put the record straight … the exact cost was made up like this:

11 teas at £2
7 coffees at £2.40

I think if my maths are correct that is £38.80 which is what we were charged…. As regards the girl …she was not the ‘jobsworth’ …… she was charming and of course her hands were tied... by silly management rules written by stupid ‘jobsworth’ managers!

Now for the fun bit … In view of your skills with waitresses I will of course with pleasure allow you to do all the paying of the bill when we meet up …

Actually I am – believe it or not – very good at bullshitting too (you call it flirting I call it bullshitting) and I can usually blag my way to discounts …

Trevor Gay said...

PS David .... The last time I tried 'flirting' with the person serving ...HE punched me in the mouth! ..Just joking by the way :-)

Anonymous said...

Trevor - I can see what you are saying in these two rants.

Your point is not the cost it is the CULTURE of the management - right?

Trevor Gay said...

Alleluiah!!- Thank you Tony ... phew we finally got there at last !!

Anonymous said...

Trevor, it’s fascinating how some subjects draw little or no comment, but others, such as this discussion on customer service, really get people excited. Another topic that you, quite rightly, frequently stress is the importance of good communication. Maybe the reason that some of us ‘didn’t get it’ this time is that what you apparently meant and what you actually wrote were slightly different.

Several times you have stressed that the issue was not one of cost. However, in the third paragraph of you original rant you stated, “The bill was £38 which seemed an awful lot for 18 people, particularly when there were no biscuits provided and only one cup each of liquid refreshment.” To me this clearly indicates that the price WAS an issue.

You have also subsequently stated that you were not complaining about the waitress, “As regards the girl …she was not the ‘jobsworth’ …… she was charming and of course her hands were tied”. But originally you wrote, “The ‘jobsworth’ person behind the bar simply said ‘No sorry that is the charge’ – the body language was saying no negotiation!” Now I am making the bold assumption that they were one and the same. However, if the jobsworth behind the bar was actually the manager, then that’s different, but it wasn’t what I thought that you were suggesting.

So perhaps you now understand how you have become ‘misunderstood of Solihull’! Actually, it is interesting how a number of us have sprung to the defence of this young lady who we have never met! Obviously you have jolly decent readers of your blog!

And finally … flirting, otherwise known as just being friendly and trying to bring a smile into people’s lives (re-classified as just being friendly if they are male!) is not the same as bullshitting. According to my dictionary, bullshit is ‘exaggerated or foolish talk; nonsense’. And the act of bullshitting is defined as ‘talking in an exaggerated or foolish manner’. I would never plead guilty to that charge!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks again David - OK I contradicted myself about the jobsworth - sorry about that. The ‘jobsworthness’ is more to do with her managers and the culture of the place (as Tony said) rather than the girl herself.

I assure you though the matter was definitely not about cost – I happily and regularly pay ‘over the odds’ if the customer care is worth it – this wasn’t – end of story – I was there!!!

As a customer I use humour rather than ‘flirting’ or ‘bullshit’ (thanks for the definition) most of the time and it is only on occasions like this when my ‘happy customer’ approach gets stretched.

I agree with you I have 'jolly decent' readers of the Blog and this posting has created interesting responses for which I thank everyone.