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Category: Customer Service

  1. Simply Excellent

    Posted on

     Earlier this week I stayed in a Premier Inn en-route to a client meeting some distance away. If I'm only going to be away for a night or two, I instinctively turn to the Premier Inn: they are cheap, comfortable and have all the amenities I NEED. But it's more than that...

    Every single time I have stayed in one, the service by ALL staff has been outstanding. Receptionists smile and treat you as a person (not someone filing in a form) no matter how late you arrive. Cleaners say hello, restaurant staff apologise for the slightest wait for a table at breakfast time, the food is delivered quickly and to a high standard.

    Some posher hotel chains (where you can pay 4 times as much) simply don't make you feel important or valued. I sometimes feel like an inconvenience and everyone is so busy they don't even acknowledge me. Yes, there may be a pool, a gym, a nice bar and more choice in the restaurant. Those things are nice, but they aren't essential. Give me the basics, give them to me at a high standard and make me feel like I've got value for money and been valued as a customer, and I'm yours for life.

    That's why the Premier Inn is my buisness role model. Like them, Power Hour Training provides the essentials in our training packages. Nothing too fancy. Nothing unecessary. I like to think that also like a Premier Inn we provide those essentials to a high standard. Even the PURPOSE of Power Hour training modules fits this model...its about helping individuals and managers to do the basic things well. Get that right, and then you can start to branch out.

  2. Internal Customer Service and the Chain of Events

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    Last week I had the grocery shopping delivered. Lovely driver, who someone was remaining cheerful inspite of the torrential rain. I had asked for my groceries to be delivered in bags - they weren't. I commented to the driver who replied "They just do what they want...putting things in bags takes longer".

    So, the supermarket packers had decided to ignore my request and take a short cut. No real harm done - my shoping was all there afterall... BUT this is a classic case of people acting WITHOUT thinking about their internal customers, and the impact they have on them, and so (eventually) the impact on the external customer. The chain of events had not been considered...

    Because the shopping had not been packed properly:

    • It took me longer to unload it, which meant that
    • The driver had to stand outside in the rain for much longer, which meant that
    • He was getting soaked (which could affect his health, or he could be getting miserable, which would affect the experience of the next customer), AND
    • He could be made late for future deliveries as unloading took longer than expected, which would result in compalints from other customers.


    • Items were damaged as they hadn't been packed properly, so I had to send them back, which means that
    • I didn't spend as much in the store as I could have, which means that
    • Sales and profitability are effected, which ultimately
    • Jeopardises the jobs of those packers!

    So, next time you take a short cut, ignore a request or let a colleague down, think about the chain of events that could lead to negative outcomes for the external customer, AND your business!

    If you want to open the eyes of people within your company to the importance of internal customer service, why not run this excellent one-day Internal Customer Service workshop from Keystone Development?

  3. Show and Tell: A big difference

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    I've just returned from an excellent short break at Center Parcs with my family. Completely, water-logged (thanks to the pool and flumes), worn out and yet energised at the same time. One of the draws of Center Parcs, is that there's so much to do, and every year we go, we try and do something new.

    This year, we did two 'experiences' at the Outdoor Activity Centre. The first involved adult and child archery. It was led by a nice instructor (let's call him John) who told us how great he was with kids, and how everyone loved him and how good he was at his job. We had a good time and John provided help so that we all improved by the end of the end of the session. He was indeed a good instructor. However, he had told us he was great, so I felt a bit short changed.

    When we did laser combat, with a lovely American Instructor (let's call him Brad), we learned nothing at all of the instructor. He focussed entirely on the group, and on making sure that we had a good time. He was very enthusiastic about the activity, helpful, and gave tips so that people could improve. Brad was a good instructor, we had an amazing time, and we left the arena feeling that he was awesome!

    Maybe it's to do with the old 'under promise and over deliver' philosophy, but the fact that John TOLD us he was great (and then was simply 'good') and Brad SHOWED us he was great left us with different impressions about our experiences. It made me think about the way that we show our expertise in business. Yes, you DO have tell people what you can do, and if you don't blow your own trumpet, then who will? Well, the answer is the people who use your products/services.

    Marketing is good, but delivering a great product/service is even more important. If you do that, your customers/clients will do the marketing for you!

    And on that note, I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has recommended Power Hour to their colleagues, contacts and associates. We really appreciate the kind words.

  4. Crimes of Customer Service

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    We all experience it everyday. Bland customer service: Service that just reaches minimum standards, but no more. In fact, the UK is brilliant at it... but it's not good enough. Having taken two cars to two different dealerships within the last week, the difference between minimum standard and outstanding couldn't be more blinding (check out the 5 F's as a starter for 10). The sad thing is, whilst in some ways there is a HUGE difference between the two, the fact is that the things that make the differences are so small.

    This is why I think they are crimes of customer service.

    They aren't things that are difficult, costly or time consuming. Anyone can do them, but sadly it is the exception, not the norm, and those that do stick in the mind for the right reasons. So what I am talking about?

    Crime #1: No acknowledgement - A nod, a smile, a "I'll be with you a moment" immediately shows me that I've been noticed, I matter, and I'll be seen to. When it takes anything more than a few seconds to acknowledge me, I wonder if a) I'm visible and b) whether I matter.

    Crime #2: Not Using Basic Courtesies - Saying 'please', 'thank you', 'I'm sorry for your wait' etc show respect for me and my time. A 'professional' approach without these makes me feel like I'm being processed. I'm not a number, I am a person.

    Crime #3: Not keeping me informed - If there is a delay, a problem or a setback tell me, and I will understand, and may even sympathise. You will have a friend. Keep it from me, cover it up or (worst of all) make it out to be my fault, and I will get annoyed. I will become your enemy.

    Crime #4: Not taking responsibility - If there's one thing that winds me up, its being told that 'the company' or 'the system' won't allow something, or that a problem is nothing to do with the person 'serving' me. You represent your company, you need to take responsibility.

    Crime #5: Not being organised - Have everything you reasonably expect to need to handle my enquiry to hand. I shouldn't have to sit around whilst you search for the right form, a stapler or a bag or wait whilst you disappear into 'the back' for ages, with no idea of when you will return.

    Crime #6: Lacking basic competence - If you can't do what you say you will, find someone who can. I'm not talking about people who are new to the job and have been thrown in at the deep end (they can still avoid problems by not committing crimes 1-5). I was recently in a large department store. The young lady serving me had started work just a few hours previously. She had not been given log-on codes for the till or told how to do anything other than take a cash/card payment. She was on a till with just one other person (who was dealing with refunds) at the busiest time. She explained her predicament and I was sympathetic; it wasn't her fault and she was honest with me, but she shouldn't have been placed in that position in the first place.

    Businesses often put young and/or inexperienced staff in the most important front of the customer, without any training or any basic standards for them to meet. The most frustrating thing is that NONE of these 'crimes' are difficult. But because people don't need training in the way that they need training to use a system or fix a technical issue, so they don't get any. It's obvious right?

    Well, from my experience, it's not. Sadly.

    And training people in the basics needn't be expensive - check out our 5 module flexible customer service programme. It's designed so you can deliver it, or (if you prefer) we can deliver it for you.

    ...and if you can think of more 'crimes' why not add them in our comments box?

  5. Managing Expectations

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    I've just returned from a short break in the country. Batteries fully recharged, and invigorated by all that fresh-air and exercise. It was nice to have no agenda, and that included what, where and when we would eat.

    One particular evening, we walked to the (only) local pub that served food. We got there at peak time, were greeted pleasantly, and then we asked for a menu. The owner informed us that they were unusually busy, and so waiting times for food were currently about 1 hour. We had our two young children with us, so this wasn't great, but as there was nowhere else nearby, we said OK. So for the next hour, we played eye-spy (probably to the annoyance of the regulars) to pass the time.

    An hour and ten minutes later, our food arrived with an apology for the wait. It was OK. We ate, we paid, we left.

    So what is the point of this blog? Well, its a simple lesson in customer service. Were we delighted with the service? No, of course not. Were we angry/upset/annoyed? No... because the owner managed our expectations. Had he not had the guts to tell us that the wait was so long, we would certainly have been complaining. He delivered against most of the tips on our Key Points sheet.

    So the lesson is: manage expectations. Be open and honest, and tell the customer the 'bad' news as soon as they can. Let THEM make the decision about what they will accept and what they won't. Good customer service isn't always about 'wowing' the customer - sometimes its just about respecting them. 

    If you know a team who would benefit from customer service training, our Power Hour session (which lasts 1-2 hours) provides a great introduction. Why not check it out?

  6. Anyone for Canapés?

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    What is the point of the canapé? Personally I can only see two purposes. The first is as something to ‘keep you going’ until your main course. The second is as a showcase for the chef, allowing him or her to increase your appetite for what's to come later.

    But do canapés have any place in it? Are there times when we need a little taster before we decide whether to buy the full service? Are there times when we just need something to keep is going until we can afford or have time for that “three course meal”? I say absolutely.

    As a customer business canapé will allow us to keep going that little bit longer until we can get the solution that we really crave. These are things like buying an external hard drive as a temporary move until we can afford a brand-new PC; or like getting a Facebook page setup until we have the time to develop our website. It's about subcontracting a piece of work rather than deciding to employ someone, or providing a couple of hours of training until the funding is available for that wonderful five-day programme.

    As business suppliers, providing canapés is an excellent way of showcasing what we can do and introducing new customers to our services with minimum risk and outlay to them. People are careful with their money, and suppliers who allow them to try before they buy will be looked on very favourably.

    So whatever your business, if you don't have a ‘canapé menu’, think about creating one. It can bring real benefits for you and your customers.

    Why not download our key points sheets as your ‘canapé’ before you decide which Power Hours to use? Of course the Power Hour concept can be a canapé itself...give your employees a ‘taster’ to see what they need more development in, or offer a Power Hour as a ‘stop gap’ to more in-depth training.