Monday, 24 February 2014

Learning other people's lessons

Sometimes it can be easier to see things that other people get wrong and learn lessons from that, than it is to learn lessons from our own actions.

My last post was based around the theme of failing to learn some lessons. Since writing that, and since receiving quite a lot of feedback, I have been considering that it can sometimes be much easier to criticise others than it is to examine our own failings - which is fine doe long as we constructively try to learn some lessons along the way.

I was thinking about this while shouting at my email. I was shouting because of the response (or lack of) from Greater Anglia who are, apparently, striving for the 'Worst customer service on planet Earth' award. Their most impressive feature is an ability to ignore any communication it doesn't like. I appreciate that working in customer services must be a horrid job - 99% of people are getting in touch with you to complain or with a difficult problem. The lesson, however, is a simple one - communicate. Almost any situation can be improved by speaking with your customer/client and asking about their problem before working (quickly) to put it right. Having done so, communicate again.

Last week's next lesson came from Odeon. As a customer going to watch a film on the big screen, I have a number of expectations - the screen will be big, the sound will good, for example. Other expectations may not be so obvious. I want the cinema to look like a cinema - not like a cafe. I actually look around when I walked in to make sure that I was in the right place - the whole cinema was branded as a branch of Costa (right down to the dirty tables and the slightly grumpy staff). I have another expectation that has been built recently - mostly on the back of changes to the software industry and apps. There are three kinds of software - freeware, freemium and paid. With free software I expect to see ads - but one of the prompts to pay for it is to remove advertising. So my expectation is that, if I pay, there are no ads. And yet in the cinema I pay and there are nearly 30 minutes of ads and trailers (which are, of course, advertisements themselves) to sit through before the firm starts.

We need to know our customers' expectations and match or exceed them.

Finally - M&S. I hate the self-service till points. Hate them. There is no benefit to me at all - only hassle and a reduction in any fee-good factor. "Ah", says M&S, "But its faster for you to check yourself out". No it isn't. It would be faster and better if M&S were to operate more check-outs. That would be more expense and so M&S and shops like them, prefer self-service. I understand that - but don't tell me that it's for my benefit.

The Apple store does much the same - letting you pick things from the racks, scan them with your iPhone and their app and walk out having paid for them. The important difference is that there are plenty of staff around who are happy to do the work if you would prefer it that way. I - the customer - have a choice.

These are not complicated lessons - but ones that could be beneficial to every business. Think, however, of how unusual you would be as a set of chambers, or a law firm, if you were working hard to communicate with your clients, to find out what they wanted, to work hard to exceed their expectations and to give them a choice. Unstoppable!

Lessons learnt?

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