Monday, 3 February 2014

Serving the Customer

Business is - or should be - all about customer service. It's not complicated. Simply make sure that you are focusing on making things easier or better or more pleasant (or ideally all of those) for your customers (or clients if you really insist on calling them that).

So - why do so many organisations get it so wrong. Big retailers who should really know better seem to forget it regularly. M&S, for example, who insist on having ranks of 'self service' tills which they want us to use. I was actually told by a manager in one store that 'lots of people like them'. He wasn't quite so confident when I suggested that we ask the customers who were struggling with the technology whether they like them or not. I hate them and I know that I am not on my own with that opinion. The self service tills are not there for our convenience as customers - if they were, they would work properly and not require the permanent attention of two or more members of staff. They are there for the benefit of M&S - so that they can employ fewer staff. Or at least I suspect that is the plan. Because the software works so badly - and because the system is so sure that we customers are trying to defraud the store at every opportunity and so keep trying to catch us out - I doubt that it works for the store either.

Now M&S should know what they are doing in terms customer service. Barristers' chambers are new to the idea (in general) and so can, perhaps, be forgiven for getting it wrong.

As I said in my introduction - it's not complicated. Simply say to yourself - does what I am doing, or am about to do, help my customer. If the answer isn't "yes" - and if there is no huge efficiency saving that makes potentially upsetting customers worth it - then why on earth are you doing it.

Look at chambers' invoicing. I don't know any set of chambers that like producing invoices rather than fee notes - and I haven't met a customer of chambers who either wanted invoices rather than fee notes, or who really cared. And yet chambers after chambers have moved to producing invoices. Why?

Look at how few sets talk to their customers before doing something. They put on an event and then struggle to get attendees. "But the clients love these sorts of events" they say. And yet...

Ask the question of yourself - "is this for the benefit of my customers?", or better still ask it of them. Contact your customers and actually ask them what they would like. Do they want more phone calls or fewer? Do they want branded calendars sent to them in December? Do they want to go to a golfing day in February? If you treat customers they way they want to be treated then both of you will be better off.

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