Tuesday July 14, 2009
Helen Flint - Business Development Director
Over the past few years we've noticed an increased demand for the bespoke customer service programmes that we offer our clients. It seems that people who previously felt they didn't need to bother to make much of an effort with their clients are now either having to start making a serious effort or lose business - literally.
Every time we open a paper or switch on the news, the media are continually painting a very dim and gloomy picture out there. Therefore people are looking for experiences that are going to lighten not weigh down their load. If you're a customer facing business or individual, this is your opportunity to shine and ultimately generate business. There's plenty of research and evidence that highlights how a positive outlook is more likely to result in positive outcomes.
This got me thinking about the positive experiences I've encountered recently from a customers' point of view and what made them so enjoyable. Shopping is probably one of my least favourite past times, so anything that can make that experience more enjoyable is an added bonus. As a country 'great customer service' isn't something that we're always remembered for (well, positively anyway) unlike our American cousins. Especially in some sectors of retail; think of the travel agent in 'Little Britain' and her unique way of dealing with customer enquiries and complaints: 'Computer says no' its funny because we can all identify with it.
A good thing that is coming out of this 'recession' is that people have realised that they've got to up their game to stay ahead or in some cases afloat! I'm now noticing good customer service where I least expected it, for example: at Currys. On two occasions recently I've stepped into this store and I've not only been acknowledged immediately, but I've also been assisted - this was quite a welcome and unexpected revelation. I'm not sure this is something to do with living in Tunbridge wells - outside London where people in shops do tend to be friendlier - or simply needs must but either way, I like it!
The other week I went to visit a new client for the first time, and I was so impressed with the warm and friendly welcome I received from the two delightful people manning the reception desk - this experience lasted throughout my visit. Their manner wasn't only extended to me an external visitor either; they behaved like that to everyone - their internal customers too. These women had either been very well trained or did naturally what we train in our numerous Front of House programmes. What they did was really quite simple:
- Made small talk
- Were nicely presented
- Physically accompanied me to both the bathroom and the meeting room to ensure I didn't get lost
- Offered me a drink even though I was about to go for my meeting and probably wouldn't get time to drink it
- Ordered my taxi without prompt and asked my preference for firm
What they did was, they went the extra mile. And instead of doing it begrudgingly and going through the motions they looked as though they genuinely enjoyed doing it!
Another great example was at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London where we were attending an event. Every member of staff I encountered there had excellent people skills, from the cloakroom attendant to the management. When the waiters served the canapes they connected with their guests and in a very natural and subtle way. They seemed proud of where they worked and the food that they were serving.
I seemed to have rekindled my passion for cooking recently and my current all time favourite shop at the moment is Lakeland. I simply can't pass by it without going in there and buying something. It's always a pleasant experience and if I can't find something I need there's always a knowledgeable and helpful assistant on hand. Having left the shop the other day and got half way home I realised that there was item I'd forgotten to purchase - there is a shop on my way home that could have bought it from which incidentally has a much bigger range for what I was looking for but the last time I went in there the assistants seemed more interested in catching up with one another's gossip as opposed to serving me so I decided to give it a miss. Now isn't really the time that any company can afford people giving their business 'a miss' because of something like bad customer service!
What really good customer service have you experienced lately?
Sales through service management development programme, 12 November 2009.