Friday, 24 July 2015

So whatever happened to outstanding customer service?

Lately this year I have become increasingly aware of poor customer service.. and talk about it a lot on Face Book. I guess that most people just think I am a cranky old buggar.

Perhaps I am.

But I do know poor customer service when I see it.. or worse still when I am on the receiving end of it. And then you get the service provider telling you fibs while they give you poor customer service.. as the cops in New York say.. "Don't piss in my ear and tell me it's raining!"

The memorable events of both good and bad customer service stick in my head.. and it's a good thing because it reminds me to ensure that I give good customer service here at the studio and in the small part I play in Deb's boutique.
In 1992, Deb and I are in the UK and we want some lip balm. So into Boots we go and find a tube of the good stuff. Now we take it to the checkout where the check out girl is in animated conversation with another staff member about her date the night before. I place the lip balm on the counter.. she looks at me, picks it up and scans it. I know it is 99p so I put a 1 pound coin down.. she puts the change and the receipt on the counter and all the time.... she kept talking to her work mate. Not once did she acknowledge that we were even there. We picked the tube up and left.. and vowed never to shop in Boots again.

Then on the other side of the coin.. in the early 90s I was doing a fair amount of business in Singapore. We would land at Changi, the doors would open and 20 minutes later we are in a limo on our way to the hotel. The hotel sent the car (a Jaguar) and the driver would find us at the airport. He would load the luggage and once in the car he would offer us a cold towel to clean our hands and face, offer us a small selection of CDs to listen to as we headed to the hotel. At the hotel.. the door would be opened and "Welcome to the Pan Pacific Mr & Mrs Taylor." Check in was in the room some 27 floors up. All very civilised and.. on the desk was personalised writing paper with my name on it. (Mark Taylor, in residence at the Pan Pacific Singapore.) What amazing service!
To me customer service, actually exceptional customer service is to go that bit further and do the things that people do not expect. 

Like our approach to wedding photography.

When I was shooting 20 - 30 weddings a year.. this photographer used to carry in his camera bag (apart from cameras etc) 3 pairs of pantyhose, 4 bottles of different coloured nail polish, hairspray, a hair dryer, lipstick in a few shades and cold bottles of drinks in an esky in the back of the SAAB. Why all of this? In case I needed to save the day.. and it blew everyone away when you could produce a new pair of stockings when somebody laddered theirs. Now it wasn't part of my "job description" but it booked me a lot of weddings. It was stuff that others didn't do you see.

The same with MAX Instruments.. if we had a customer from the bush we would run him to the local sandwich shop and buy him lunch if he was there over the lunch break. Whenever a customer dropped in to say hello, we would always give them the time of day and make them a coffee. Our place was open house. A lot of times they were "social visits" by the customers,  but often as they were leaving they would make a purchase decision that they had been thinking about. Once when I was in Mackay on my way to the coal mines who were customers of ours, I came across these neat little pocket penlight torches in the local Coles store. I bought about 20 of them.. and at every mine I went to, I gave one to the purchasing officer and the auto electricians on site. They loved it. Yes, we went through a lot of coffee (and torches sometimes) but we were number 1 in sales in Australia most years when Max & I ran the place.

What about airlines? Well they take people, stuff them into cramped seats in aluminium tubes and fly them all over the country or the world. So what makes one airline better than another as far as the experience goes?

Debra and I have just come back from a round the world trip and flew Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Delta and QANTAS. So we had the chance to do a direct comparison. I will say at the outset QANTAS was good. Not quiet up there with Singapore, but certainly up there.

So here is how it goes... we walk down the aero bridge in Brisbane and hand my boarding pass to the Singapore Girl. "Welcome aboard Mr Taylor, your seat is along this aisle just behind the wing, on the right hand side." Not hard to do.. my name is on the boarding pass. (Take note Lufthansa)

So we walk down the aero bridge in Singapore and hand my boarding pass to the Lufthansa Frau. "Other aisle!" is the response.

We find our seats on the SQ Airbus and along comes a Singapore cabin crew member, "Can I help you with anything?"

We find our seats on the LH Airbus A380 and along comes the cabin crew. Deb asks, "Do you have a place I could store my coat please?" The reply is.. "In za locker!" Deb says, "Sorry but the lockers are full." "Well then, you just have to find an empty .. never mind, give it to me!" And with that she snatched Deb's coat and stormed up the aisle opening and slamming the lockers until she found an empty one. "Your coat is here.. do not leave it on za plane!" I should point out that Boeings have much bigger lockers than A380s!

And it just went on from there. At meal times.. "Tray table down! Chicken or beef?" Deb asked.. "How is the chicken served, with vegetables?" And the reply was. "I don't know! Chicken or beef!"

Most airlines have name tags for their staff... "Shirley" or perhaps "Bob Smith" but not Lufthansa.. "T. Schmidt" Having worked in association with a German Company for over 30 years, I was so looking forward to flying Lufthansa. What a disappointment. Intelligent pilots flying what I would bet are meticulously maintained aeroplanes. But the failure of  that "Moment of truth" that occurs every time their staff interact with a customer, the whole feel good thing falls flat.

(Google Moment of Truth and SAS. Jan Karlzon got this right.. you would thunk Lufthansa and every other bloody airline would have read his book)

Actually don't bother Googling it.. here it is for you!

So airlines are on the hit list with me.. what about freight companies. We order stock for overnight delivery from Melbourne. It arrives in Brisbane at the airport first thing in the morning.. and then gets delivered around 4 o"cook in the afternoon. The driver's response.. "I didn't  think it was a priority." My response is.. "Did all the parcels in your van come overnight? If they did, they are ALL A BLOODY Priority!" A lady going in for surgery in the afternoon needs her post surgical garment in the morning.. before she goes to the hospital.

Australia Post are the same... a Red Postal Bag for a customer doesn't arrive for 2 weeks Turns out it's at the Post Office because the postal contractor doesn't know where the street is. I found it on Google maps and emailed it to him. How hard can this be? Delivering parcels and letters is all they bloody well do!

Banks.. we are so lucky here. For over 10 years now we have banked with the Bendigo Bank. And they have been brilliant. Highly personalised service that reminds me of the old days when my father would buy a new car. He would ring his bank manager and say something like.. "I am buying a new car, I need fifteen hundred pounds... good. I'll come in tomorrow and sign up." Almost the same at Bendigo. After being jerked around by ANZ, I would never bank with them or any other big bank  again. I once was part of a focus group where they gave us a list of 10 items related to our banking experience and asked us to put them in order of importance. After a bit of arg bargy, we had the list in order from 1 to 10. With one being the most important. The same list was given to senior banking staff to sort. They almost did the inverse of what we did. They had no idea! So here's a tip, instead of working out how to rip off the consumer, find out what he wants.. supply that and the money will come!

Cafes.. lucky here because we know the owner of one of our favourites (hi Bev) and always get good service. The local coffee shop near the boutique.. if Deb is busy they run the coffee around to her. Brilliant! They also know our names and know what we like. Magic stuff.

It's not hard to do you know!

Now the other side  of the coin is this.. if you get good customer service (as we did in New York) then tell the world about it and tell the person giving you that great service how much you appreciate it.

And tell their boss too if you can!