“The concepts of comfort and customer service in this country [UK] are, well, just concepts – not practice.” - John A Cherrington, Walking to Camelot
There is a myth that the British do not do customer service. For instance, in an attempt to woo customers, a UK car rental company had adopted the slogan: “UK car hire with US customer service”. Is this a fair assessment or have British companies moved with the times and developed better customer service?
My personal experience has been that there is a mix of good and bad. Some companies have good customer care processes while others are in the dark ages. Examples of poor practice include:
- The furniture company that ‘guaranteed’ delivery within a month, failed to meet their own guarantee, and seemed unable to understand why I expressed disappointment with the service.
- The energy suppler that fitted a smart meter in my home which, for several months displayed inaccurate energy usage figures which did not match the bill raised. After contacting the company, it took 2 months for them to admit that the figures were inaccurate but did not consider that I deserved an apology.
- The travel company that charged a fee to arrange my transport from Heathrow airport, giving inaccurate information about where to board the transport leading to additional delay and cost as I shuttled between the terminals. When I complained, I was asked to forward a copy of the email that I had been sent by the company. I did this, only to be told that the customer service desk was unable to open the mail the company had sent and could I send it in a different format?
Is it possible that long wait frequently encountered to speak to a representative is simply a ruse to get complainants to lose the will to continue with their complaint; does “Your phone call is important to us” actually mean “We are going to bore you rigid with Greensleeves for 20 minutes in the hope you will go away”?
Does it matter that a company’s customer service falls short? The experience of United Airlines following the damaging of musician Dave Carroll’s guitar in 2008 is instructive. After reporting the damage to 3 employees, Dave filed a claim with the airline that rejected it on the grounds that it was not filed within the stipulated 24 hours. Following several months of fruitless negotiation, Dave released 3 music videos titled “United Breaks Guitars”. By August this year, the video had been viewed over 17 million times. Following release of the video, Rob Bradford, United's managing director of customer solutions, telephoned Carroll to apologize for the incident and to ask for permission to use the video for internal training. United claimed that it ‘hoped’ to learn from the incident, and to change its customer service policy accordingly.
My own practice is to follow the company’s customer service arrangements as far as practical and, if I receive no satisfaction, I write to the Chairman or Chief Executive Officer. It is interesting to see how often replies from more senior people apologise for the previous handling of my complaint. This might suggest that those more senior people are not aware of the processes adopted by their customer service staff.
It is important that everyone in the company understands what senior management expects of them and the first step is to prepare the company’s high level doctrine, setting out the principles to be followed. The doctrine can then be analysed to determine the operational requirements at all levels of the company and the training required to meet the requirements. Subsequent testing of the company’s processes can be conducted by raising ‘dummy’ or "fake" complaints and monitoring how the complaint is handled.
nStratagem’s The Golden Thread Programme© is a powerful tool that identifies “the essence” of an organization and it includes customer service/stakeholder relationships. Get in touch with us regarding this innovative tool.
**The views, information, words, concepts or opinions expressed in our blogs, articles and blog articles are solely the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of nStratagem, its employees or its affiliated companies.
Jon Gunns is an associate of nStratagem. We have a great deal of experience in helping leaders and organizations through their development and challenges and can assist in developing your company’s doctrine. Contact us for a discreet discussion.
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