Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Good Service

In this day and age I would think that good service would be a must in all walks of life. When I say “good service”, I am not talking about in tennis or badminton but in the professional world!  I work in customer service and have done for many years, so have an idea what good service is all about.  I am often astounded by the fact that many people and businesses do not how to deliver good service.
I have loads of examples of bad service but not so many of good service.  I would like to give a couple of examples that have annoyed me and pleased me recently.  I would then like to look at service from a slightly business context and then finish with a conclusion of how I feel it should work:

Firstly a bad example would be my dealings with a certain banking institution that I have had dealings with.  This company, I will leave nameless for legal reasons, have been the bane of my life for over two years.  I have had some issues paying for a mortgage over the last few years but I will not bore you with the ins and outs in this blog.  I have had many letters from them and telephone calls chasing me up for money.  I have been into their branch, spoken to specialists in the branch, emailed specialists in the branch, spoken to call centre staff and even put pen to paper to write to them.  The saga with them now (I hope), has come to an end.  To date I have still not received any personal contact back acknowledging my position or any letters I have sent.  My position, I am sure, was not an unusual one but it seemed to me no one was listening to anything I was saying.

I understood it was a huge institution and they were just concerned with getting money from me however a little personal touch would have helped a great deal.  At many stages I was convinced they wanted me to go into debt so they could gain the interest.  This goes against all ethical and moral banking codes as far as I knew.  I would have had to take them to court if I really felt that strongly.  That would however be even more stressful then the situation I had already found myself in.

I try to console myself with the fact that I am not the only one and (from what I hear), there are a lot of similar companies the same.  If this is true then I can see why people keep their money under their beds! The only thing I know now is to tell everybody and anybody that will listen not to use this particular banking institution.  If I have cause again to make use of a similar institution I will be asking some serious questions before I decide to put any of my hard earned money into them!

Another recent example of bad service came from a solicitor’s office that I had spent a lot of money on. They had many occasions not replying to my emails or letters.  I was forced to pay for all correspondence and was forced to phone them to get them to reply, so I would think replying would be top of their list.  Some people tell me that is what happens with all solicitors, and those that shout the loudest get the better service. In my job sometimes it is true and I do not like it.  People (like me), who accept things often get walked all over.  People who shout and complain and make a scene seem to get what they want, and what they want quicker!  I do not want to have to shout and complain as I am a reasonable person with reasonable morals and I do not feel I need to shout and complain to get what I want.  Maybe that is the British in me? When I do shout and get forceful I do get results however!

Listing examples of good service is more difficult to think about. There is a saying that bad news travels twice around the world before good news leaves the desk.  I often use this phrase when talking to other people about how it is important to give great service.  One example of good service was I was in a public house at the weekend with my girlfriend for lunch.  When we walked in we were greeted with a very friendly:
“Hello” from the barman.  We were led to our table and they cleared one for us and we sat down and they brought over menus and we went to the bar to order.  This was made clear of how things worked when we sat down.  There was a large selection of all sorts of foods on the menu.  We paid with ease and drinks were brought out and then food came over quickly afterwards.  We were left to eat at our own our pace and not disturbed.  Considering we had arrived a little before the place closing for the afternoon I was impressed.  All the staff seemed really busy still. The food was beautifully cooked and very unique. The public house was a little of the beaten track and in amongst some houses in a small village.  We were amazed by the quality of the food and the bar and waiting staff seemed very efficient and constantly on hand if we wanted anything.  There prices were very reasonable as well!  They were polite and asked if we wanted anything else and very chatty and smiley.  My girlfriend was so impressed that, after looking at the evening menu, booked a table for her birthday meal in a few weeks time.  I had thought being a small local may not be serving food so late and also I thought it might maybe take a little while and never expected the quality to be so good.
Another example of good service would be that we had to go to a garage to get my girlfriends car checked as the exhaust was making a strange noise.  We just got out the car and someone came over and we explained the issue.  They quickly took the keys and got in and put the car straight away on a ramp. We waited for a little bit in the reception area and before we knew it they came in and said they fixed it.  They said it was just something that was rattling under the car but it was not the exhaust and they just tightened it.  They said it would not cost anything!  As we needed windscreen wipers we asked them if they could fix these on.  We could have done it but it might have taken us a while.  They did this with no questions and just asked us to pay for the wipers.  We were very impressed as we were expecting it to cost a fortune and I had visions of having to hang around for a long time.
I am not going to turn this blog into a business exercise and look at all the qualities that made my relative experiences bad or particularly good.  There are however many definitions of good service when I look it up on the Internet and not all of them are measurable.  Some people and indeed some companies are terrible at it.  What I would say however it does seem that good service is exceeding expectations, and this is the definition I like the best.  This is difficult as I am sure everyone has different expectations.  It is also difficult as the service is real time and instant reactions.  Other things, like mood of the person and the person giving the service may alter.  Good service is also difficult to maintain as because when I go back to that pub again I will again expect a great welcome and fantastic fast service and food.  Equally though, when I contact my solicitor I do not always expect a reply straight away anymore!  There is a business theory that looks at many gaps of what is expected and what is delivered is what makes good service great!  To get great service is to close these gaps.
I am not naïve enough to think that good service will always be given because it is very difficult to constantly maintain this, but certain standards should be put in place.  Where I work there are set standards that should be kept to, and a lot of them make sense.  We constantly evaluate these to make sure we are undertaking these standards and they are what our customers expect.  Good service, in my mind, is putting your mind in the eye of the consumer and thinking what they would like, then doing everything possible to obtain what they require.  I understand, perhaps more than most, there are other pressures, however if the customer is paying for a service this should be at the forefront of any business.  This seldom happens in my experience.
In conclusion I am just blogging to put it out there that as businesses are becoming more and more competitive, as a consumer you would think I would have a right to choose good service.  I do not always have a choice, because there still seems a terrible lot of people and businesses that are awful at creating good service.  This, I think, is wrong and I should not have to put up with bad service.  In terms of the people offering the service, I would also think that with the range of people unemployed in the country a lot of businesses would only employ people that are naturally good at offering good customer service!  I am sure repeat business and recommendations are what a lot of companies survive on.  Unfortunately a lot of businesses will not obtain a lot of repeat business as their service is so awful.  However as I have said before, sometimes you do not have a choice. Many people find the same sort of things from the same sort of companies.  This is wrong!
This is not a current trend of businesses or particularly in one country or another.  I would however, think that people and businesses would start to realise this is a key part of what they do.  This particularly with the large number of business analysts there are out there!  I would think they would want or need to spend much more effort and time in their approach to good service with the range of companies and so called choice of the consumer in the modern world.  Unfortunately I do not see much evidence of this happening except in a few places.  Life is hard enough and we should have the choice of lots of good service businesses but I happen to find very few.  I therefore think we should celebrate good service and recognise it more and places with bad service should not be tolerated.  I think we spread the world of great service institutions and people who do not take it seriously should be made examples of until they learn … or go out of business!

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