Last Friday, Andy and I took some time out of out day to visit a customer who had emailed us with a problem he had using the Isle of Man Government’s Online Services. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not part of a crack team that flies around the Island solving people’s problems, we have a helpdesk for that 😉 But it was a concerned user, who had some valuable feedback and we wanted to engage at a level that was useful both for him and for us.
And why shouldn’t we? This individual took the time out of his day to put his thoughts down on paper (email actually) and send them to us. His input was more valuable than any focus group we could put together, any survey we could send out. It was a genuine sentiment of someone who was trying to use something we built and failing. We could turn that energy into something positive we could use to improve what we were delivering. This is true for any industry; whether you are selling ballet shoes or offering Colonix reviews as a service. Engaging with your customers is paramount, because that’s how you know whether you are succeeding in what you set out to do .. or if you are failing.
Failure is not the issue; the issue would have been not learning something from the failure.
I was reading a post on Link4Business called Accounts Demystified that talks about how important it is for business owners to get their head around their company’s accounts and what they mean. Here’s how the problem is described:
Accounting is viewed by most non accountants as a complicated and highly technical matter, and this is a view that is encouraged by the accountancy profession. But the truth is that it is based on a very simple principal which once understood allows business owners and managers to understand the financial state of their business without the need of a costly accountant.
He goes on to recommend a book that could help if you’re in the process of trying to understand your accounts; and the way the book is described sounds like it could be useful to anyone running their own business, especially as it was written by someone who isn’t accountant. So next time you’re looking for something to read, wait for a nice evening, pull our a couple of patio chairs and teach yourself some accounts.
I had an interesting experience with a local company recently. I bought some tickets online from the Steam Packet website, our local ferry company. Anyway, we’re off to Butlins, so booked a ticket to go over with the car, two adults and a child. Anyway; it turns out that after I booked the tickets I found out that Arthur is still classed as an infant not a child and I needn’t have bought a ticket for him. I duly emailed them about the problem and left it at that.
Now, I expected to be contacted about the problem, and maybe not get a full refund as this would have been a change to our ticket (which normally is charged at £5 per leg). After a few days I didn’t hear anything, but spotted a credit from them on my card. Turns out they gave me a full refund for Arthur’s ticket, without even levying any charge. I was pretty pleased with this, but couldn’t help thinking it was a missed opportunity for the Steam Packet to gain some goodwill.
You see, all they needed to do was drop me a line to say that they were refunding me. I’m not even saying that they needed to call me, just an email response would have been perfect. We tend to hear a lot of negative publicity about firms, whether ones that provide transport services, or others that promise you diet pills that work; but unfortunately we don’t always get to hear the good news. This was a perfect opportunity for them to show that they care about their customers, but it was missed. If I hadn’t been checking my card statement, I would never have known that I was issued a refund.
Have you ever had a similar experience?
What’s worse than a service that doesn’t work? How about a service that tries and fails? Well, I have an account with Cahoot and they offer a service whereby if you overdraw your account they will SMS or email you. Well, I overdrew my account this week on Tuesday, noticed when I checked my account on Wednesday and transferred some more funds in.
What I wasn’t expecting was an SMS on THURSDAY telling me that my account was overdrawn. That’s about as useful as scouring the Internet for Delta fauctes when your house doesn’t have any running water! What would be really useful would be an SMS before I was overdrawn telling me that this was happening, not one 2 days later. A number of withdrawals from my account are scheduled, so it wouldn’t be hard to have some intelligence in there to warn me that my account is looking like it’s going to be overdrawn too.
Any service you guys find less than useful?
I’ve had a couple of positive experiences this week, both of them dealing with different companies where I was given service right at the point where I initiated contact with the companies. One was a household insurance claim with Direct Line after my wife drowned her phone; the other was with our local telecoms provider Manx Telecom where I wanted to switch contract. And I have high praises to sing about both companies based on my customer experience.
The reason is that they resolved my business within a few minutes, without asking me to come back another time or speak to someone else. This could only be done thanks to the correct use of technology and the proper empowerment of employees who customers are dealing with. In both cases, I only had to deal with one person, who had both the tools at their disposal and the ability to resolve my issues, and this is really what a customer wants from a company that’s providing a service to them. The same applies whether you’re selling costumes, servicing a complaint in a Westgate property, or listening to your constituents. People come to you with an expectation that you will assist them in some shape or form, and if you can meet or even exceed those expectation, then you can turn them into your fans and supporters. So give clients the service they expect .. and give it to them right away!
Some time ago I blogged about a problem I was having with HSBC Malta centred around a communication breakdown. I had been trying to get a message through to them for months, and finally they sent me a letter saying they were cancelling my savings plan; which would have resulted in a substantial financial loss for me (savings plans tend to pay out if you stick with them; but cancelling out early means that the charges you would have paid are much larger than any potential gains; a bit like taking diet pills and going for an all-you-can-eat buffet every day).
Anyway, after sending them a letter (yeah, I had to put pen to paper and pay £4 to send a registered letter); they *finally* got the message and told me what the damage was; which I paid immediately and now my account is back in good standing. After 3 months of using their online messaging facility, it only took one letter to resolve the issue. I don’t know if it was the tone of the message; or the face that I CCed it to their customer complaints department; but they finally resolved the issue.
Anyway, it’s not worth getting bitter about it; and I’m glad the problem is resolved. Thanks to whoever took the initiative to sort it out.