Service please

The MJ logoI have just had a really frustrating week dealing with one of life’s blockers! You know the type, every question you ask, every suggestion you make is answered with a snotty “No” and a look as if they had stood on something smelly.

I want to experience good customer service in the organisations I am part of and I want our primary focus to be our customers and their experience. However, we get this wrong so often. The traditional “trust me I’m a teacher/civil servant/social worker” simply doesn’t hold true anymore. Customers want to be treated with respect and intelligence and just like any personal relationship this needs to be built and developed. But although this is primarily what customers want, many organisations simply can’t deliver it.

Perhaps like in real life some organisations are just incapable of developing relationships. We all look for signs that help build confidence and reassure us that we are valued as customers. Organisations that want me to be a pussy cat of a customer do the following.

  • They keep their promises
  • Acknowledge my loyalty
  • Admit mistakes, say sorry like they really mean it and then fix it for me.
  • Provide value adding advice and information
  • Give me real humans to talk to
  • Personalise my correspondence getting my name right, using a real signature!
  • Use their best people on the front line and give them the authority to make decisions
  • Tell the truth

If an organisation would rather experience my sabre tooth tiger side they just need to

  • Fail to deliver (or even just tell me something is delayed)
  • Hide when things go wrong and refuse to take responsibility
  • Send me junk mail – (we are doing this more and more in the public sector and it’s awful!)
  • Mass use documentation – printed signatures tell me you couldn’t be bothered to sign it yourself
  • Scripts for customer service folk, who say “have a nice day” when they mean “drop dead”
  • Speak in management claptrap and have customer contact where you can only speak to a recording. I like humans! I want to talk to one.

So what could we do to improve things?

  • Provide guarantees – I want to know when the planning officer is visiting my house, not just a day but a specific time
  • Publish feedback on your website – both good and bad mind you! More organisations are doing this and it builds trust
  • Stand up and be counted get local residents to regularly and systematically rate your organisations on “trust” do this regularly and publish the results
  • Live your values – Did you know one of Enron’s was “integrity”? Do you and your staff hold true to yours every minute of every day?

These lists are obvious, you might need to check if your rewards and sanctions, systems and process act to build the pussy cats or develop the sabre tooth tigers.

This week I have written to two organisations to commend them personally on some brilliant customer service I have received. The first was Virgin Trains for the most incredible service on their Manchester to Euston line (I love to complain about trains, but this was perfection). All it took was for one member of staff on the front line to be able to make decisions and treat my colleague and I like the princesses we are, perfect.

The second was to the Metropolitan Police for the personal empathy, care and professionalism experienced when my daughter was mugged recently. So gold stars to them. And a big raspberry to the following.

  • The receptionist and her friend who stood talking to each other for 5 minutes in a government department before even looking at me. Their social life sounded very intriguing but I was in a hurry.
  • The refuse staff in my local council who recently have been making a habit of leaving the street more of a mess than before they arrived.
  • And worst of all the managers who when they are given feedback about their staff which requires them to take action run for the hills. Get some back bones!!

Customer service is built on developing the ambassadors in our organisations and dumping the assassins, if you can’t do that then management is not for you.

Angela O'Connor
Chief People Officer
National Policing Improvement Agency
Past President PPMA