December Thought

It is December. We know it is winter because the nights are getting chilly and we are already having to de-ice cars in the morning. We have hardly drawn the curtains back before we are drawing them again to shut out the darkness. Carols are playing in the shops. Christmas displays appear at every turn and people are already saying they will never be ready for the big day. Children are getting excited and talking about their nativity or the winter plays. Parents are starting to look a bit frazzled and wondering how to fit everything in. And over it all hangs an election with its TV appearances, electoral literature and the daily spats about today’s burning issue.

So today I am going to write about lies.

Let’s start with the hotel that starts its phone answer with “How may I help you?” Well, they could have answered the phone the first time I called and not the seventh. Yes, you did not mis-read that – the seventh! If I had not won a voucher I would have given up long before this. I asked to book my afternoon tea. “I will have to put you through to Reservations”. I took that at face value and transferred I was. Then “Sorry, the reservations team have all gone home”. It was 5.05pm. So what next? “Could you call again?” I could but did I want to? Not much; but I have a sense of badness so I was not going to let this second class hotel where the afternoon tea may not live up to expectations get away with it. I rang back the next day – same routine except the phone was answered at the second call and the Reservations team did answer when I was put through! Then after several more “How can I help you”s I was told “Afternoon tea? That is a different team and they are all in a meeting. Could you call back?” Do you ever want to scream “You asked me how you could help me? I am trying to be a customer. Do you want my money?” I am basically a nice person, so I didn’t. I asked when the “team” was likely to be free and what time they would be going home. Obediently I rang back at the right time (this is my tenth call remember). The girl was there! Apparently she no longer deals with afternoon tea bookings as they have had a re-organisation, but she will try to do it for me. “Could I have the number on your voucher?” there isn’t one. “OK but you must bring it with you”. So I am exhausted but booked for February!!!

I reckon I was lied to in various different ways, countless times. The “how can I help you” phrase slips off the tongue and means nothing. Am I looking forward to this afternoon tea which I won in a raffle? No. It was given as a prize to entice me to the hotel, to see it in a new way, to become a long term customer. Need I say more about the likelihood of that?

Let me give you another example. The gizmo linked to my Smart meter went wrong. I rang three times and waited anywhere between 23 and 29 minutes to get through to the right department. I gave up on the first two occasions (my life is too short and I expect yours is too). At regular intervals the nice telephone bot told me how important my call was and how sorry she was that I was waiting. At last a frenzied young woman answered the call. No, she did not apologise for keeping me waiting she said, “Sorry we are always so busy”. I could not resist it and said, “Are they increasing the size of the response team then”. No answer, but at least not a lie!

I needed a new gizmo and it eventually came with a letter saying “you can’t use your smart meter display until we’ve linked it to your smart meters. It only takes a few minutes to do though, so please call us as soon as you’ve got time and we will do it for you there and then”. Did I believe that? Not really. Did I do it? Of course. How long did it take? It took 18 minutes to get to “triage” and then 20 minutes more to get to the right team and then 36 minutes more to get the gizmo working. That isn’t a few minutes!

I could go on and give you umpteen other examples and you could give me an equal number. These little lies are commonplace. Afterwards we are often sent surveys saying how were we today? If they ask I do not lie but does it make any difference? Not that either you or I have noticed.

Why am I saying all this in this season of glad tidings and joy? Because I want it to be like that. I love the excited run up to Christmas and do not want to be Scrooge now or at any other time. I want to be happy; I want to spend my money with people who make me feel good about spending it and want to delight me with their service. At times of pressure it is even more important not to over promise and under deliver. You might be under pressure but so am I.

So what are the learnings in all this?

Stunning customer service is all about trust. Companies build that up gradually as we deal with them. Do they do what they say they will. Words are cheap, actions are what matter.

Our customer service is always on display and it always matters. The pre social media statistic was that we would tell nine people about these diabolical situations; now via reviews and our normal channels that number can run into thousands. Thousands of people who may never trade with that organisation once, never mind again. What would we give for that level of positive publicity? We have marketing agencies or departments working on these aspects of our business at great cost, but somehow no one joins up the dots. Who reads the survey reviews? What do they do with the information? We are all taught that we should look after our existing customers as it is much easier to keep them than attract new ones. The lesson seems to be ignored time after time.

It is a fact of life that we can all run other people’s businesses better than they do. What is obvious to the customer is missed by the owner.

So let’s turn the tables.

How confident are you about your business? Do you establish expectations that you fulfil? Do you fulfil them?

I hope so. I hope I do too. For me it is easy because I only employ me so I can monitor my performance constantly and if I do not like it I can amend it immediately. Not so easy if you employ others. Do you steep them in your values? Do you model good behaviour? To you give them freedom to make decisions to make the customer feel heard and valued?

In the election we are seeing just how hard some people find it to say “I am sorry” but until they do, there is no way to be sure they have ownership of the problem and all the promises are just more lies. Do we know how to say “Sorry”? Are we big enough to recognise that something went wrong and go all out to make things right?

Of course as a mentor I think this is where you should seek someone like me to support you, encourage you, help you determine progress and help you decide how to deliver stunning customer care. I am always happy to speak with anyone, off the meter, to help explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. Please feel free to contact me.

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Life is good; let’s live it to the full, enjoy it and be the best we can be. AND A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS. See you in 2020.

elizabethtoogood.com    Tel: 01234 273644 or 07968 822275    Email: [email protected]