Cancelling your goodwill credit

A while back we had the builders in and they threw away some fixings which they should have kept and put back up. I went into a local shop to enquire if they could sell me any replacements. They went further than that and gave me the fixings, which were a type of bracket, entirely free of charge.

What nice people, we thought. A year later, we gave them some business; actually quite a lot. The guys were working in our house, being a father and son, so it is a good family business.

I made the tea, and the father started complaining partly to me and partly to his son about another customer, whom he thought was a nuisance. It sounded to me as though she just wanted everything to be right.

Then another customer telephoned the son and was apparently complaining about a failure to deliver and fit the product up to now. Our man this end was giving reasons why they had not yet delivered, while the father, in asides to me, was saying “that’s not true”, “that’s a lie” and so on.

I hope we do not have any trouble with what we have been sold, but even if the products are perfect I would be less likely to refer these people because of their attitude to other customers.

We all gripe about customers sometimes after a difficult day, but surely only in the comfort of our own homes, with no one eavesdropping who could cause us damage?

Loose lips sink ships.

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.

Poisonous cultures

A steel bedpan

Image via Wikipedia

I have already written about workplace cultures  and how they can lead to poor standards. These cultures are usually not management led, and management may not know. However if a culture is there for all to see, there is no excuse except cowardice (is that an excuse?) for not dealing with it.

I have elderly relatives, and sometimes they get sick or have accidents and end up in hospital. It depends which hospital they get taken to as to whether they are in good conditions or much worse conditions.

I am not going to rant about the British National Health Service, which is state funded from taxes and is mostly pretty good. I am mentioning this in case you are my reader in Madagascar and did not know this background. The point of this piece is going to be that you can have exactly the same resources and end up with a different result.

One relative ended up in a geriatric ward where summoning a member of staff by ringing a bell was almost futile. It was possible someone might turn up in fifteen minutes, which was rather too long for a senior person needing a bedpan or to be taken to the lavatory. The consequence of this delay was bound to be unfortunate.

My relation was left sitting in a chair in her hospital ward without her glasses, so she could not see what was going on, or read or do anything. She was left without her teeth so certainly couldn’t eat properly. The other patients seemed similarly abandoned.

Was this all due to staff shortages? There were plenty of nursing staff and support people hanging around near the desk when I visited, including the times when I went out to request a bedpan for my dear old lady. It still took another ten minutes for anyone to come. We have to conclude it was either staff indifference or “not my job”. Either way there seemed no excuse.

So, at another hospital thirty miles away as the crow flies, another older lady is in hospital after a fall. She is in a bright ward with cheerful attentive staff. She is very happy and says several times what good treatment she is having. She is asked if she is comfortable, whether she can reach her book, and whether she would like her individual TV on.

This elderly lady asks if she can go to the lavatory where she is taken instantly. The nurse asks her if she would like a wash while in the bathroom, and not only runs the water, but helps the lady to wash her back and other bits hard to reach. Yet here the staff are more bustling around. They seem more busy, but that is because they are doing their job, which is caring for people.

I don’t doubt that the clinical care in both hospitals is good. The support care is plainly very good in one hospital and downright poor in the other.

In such a situation the management on the failing hospital could not fail to be aware of the situation. It would be a simple question of observation when they turned up for an unscheduled or even scheduled visit to each ward. The only explanation is that they go along with the culture. They don’t want to make waves. They don’t want to upset the staff by suggesting they do better. The patients suffer when they are supposed to be getting well.

Imagine what would happen in a business like this. Of course it would fail. No management team could let this sort of culture go on, because it would cost them their jobs. The only reason such a situation could prevail in a hospital is because it is tax-funded. As long as they meet their budget there is no incentive to be better if the management and staff lack such compassion for their patients or any moral sense of responsibility.

I have seen businesses fail through lack of responsibility to the customers and ultimately it is through lack of responsibility for each other. We need to work together for the common good and not just go along with what we might get away with. How do you feel about this?

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Customer service and great customer experience

Setting off to my breakfast networking meeting this morning twenty minutes or so before dawn, I switched my car windscreen wipers on to clear the drizzle. Unfortunately one blade disintegrated and on arrival at my destination I noted that the other blade had seen better days too.

After the meeting I was plotting in my mind the best route to the usual motoring accessories superstore when I noticed a motor parts outlet I had not seen before only a short distance along my return journey. The sign said “open to the public” so I went in, expecting just to buy the blades and fit them myself. I remembered with trepidation what a performance it had been to do it the previous time.

Inside I was served by a young woman (by which I mean a bit younger than me) who looked up the blades required on her computer and fetched them from a shelf. She then said “I would like to measure your wipers to make sure I have found the right ones”, she produced a tape measure, and went out to my car. Having ensured she had the right blades to fit, we completed the transaction, she gave me my receipt, and then to my surprise (and relief) she said “I’ll put them on the car for you”.

Now, she did struggle to get the blades on, and I couldn’t be of much help. After three or four minutes she went into the adjacent service shop and fetched a mechanic, who succeeded in fitting my new wipers, though not without some difficulty. It might have taken me hours to work out how to do it.

Naturally I thanked both members of staff profusely and the young woman who had served me took the old blades off for disposal.

I really did think this was brilliant customer service. The main purpose of the place is to serve the trade who know what they are doing, though obviously non-trade people must go in quite often. The price was good value and one could not ask for a better customer experience. For that reason I recommend the chain, and especially the one in Southend. The company is called Motor Parts Direct.

They have guaranteed I will think of them first next time I need something for the car, and that I will recommend them. It was a great way to do business when often in the large retail motoring shops you have a job to find someone to help at all.

Have you had a really good customer service experience recently? Give the business a testimonial.

© Jon Stow 2010

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