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From awful to awesome

Posted by Emily Mason on September 17, 2014

Huffing and puffing, the driver delivering my new fridge dumps it just inside my front door, thrusts a pen and paper form in front of me and grunts “sign here”, before swiftly departing. Not only am I left with the dilemma of how to move my new fridge from the front door to the kitchen, but after patiently waiting in all morning, I’m left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth for the company I chose to buy my new appliance from…

That was two years ago. Today, my fridge sits quietly in the kitchen, serving me well. But I can’t help wondering if the same can be said of the company that delivered it… Chances are, if everyone received the level of service I did, they wouldn’t have any customers left to serve.

I’ve been needing a new cooker for a while, so I decide to have a look at their website. “Five stars!” “Outstanding!” “Would use again and again”. A row of extremely favourable reviews that click through to a long list of more of the same. Intrigued, I scan through… Apparently a lot of people had an experience quite the opposite to my own, and so I decide to see for myself…

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Sat Nav should be banned…

Posted by Emily Mason on September 10, 2014

… for everyone except me.

I guess that’s pretty selfish, but I am not feeling very generous toward others, right now. Let me explain.

We are now in September and the children are back at school here in the UK. That brings a massive increase in road traffic as children are ferried to school, and parents go back to work after the main Summer holiday season. Avoiding traffic jams on the daily commute used to be achieved with a mixture of local knowledge, and experimentation on minor roads.

That has all changed. There have been huge rise in the popularity of satellite navigation devices – either as part of vehicle standard equipment, or portable units – to the point that a majority of drivers use them; 60% according to a 2013 poll of 24,000 drivers. One consequence has been many drivers turning off the clogged main routes and being directed along an apparently quicker alternative. But, so many are now doing it that that the diversion backs up too. In some cases, the delay turns out to be longer than sticking with the original route!

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Customer service standards are *not* slipping – it's just that they want more than you can deliver

Posted by Emily Mason on September 2, 2014

Field Service News recently published an article entitled “Are customer service standards in the UK slipping?”. Whilst the details of the particular research cited may be new, the thrust of the article is not. We have heard stories like this before, and all the time there is a ‘dissatisfaction gap’ they will continue to circulate. Likely meaning forever!

Several years ago, I was at a meeting of one of the service industries trade groups and there was a presentation about service standards. The presenter asked the audience whether their service standards had improved over the previous 12 months. Most people raised their hands to signal “yes” and further probing put the rate of improvement in the 3-5% range. A second, similar, question about improvement over the previous five years got even more hands up. However, the presenter proceeded to tell everyone not to congratulate themselves as, in reality, they were failing.

Failing to deliver what their customers wanted. Not because they were, necessarily, bad at their jobs. Or, that their mobile teams were not working hard and maybe genuinely getting better. But, because their customers’ expectations were rising faster than their ability to deliver, the research at that time suggesting an annual increase in expectations more like 10%. So yes, the service providers were getting better – but not quickly enough. The incremental changes they were making, although necessary, were never going to close the gap – the situation would just get worse and worse, until all customers left! Possibly a bit over-dramatic, but you get the idea.

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Completing the picture

Posted by Emily Mason on August 28, 2014

Here’s a word that can strike terror into the heart of any Service Manager – compliance.

It is one of those words that carries an emotional overload, mostly negative, and has become associated with oft-derided areas of policy such as Health and Safety. Members of staff are prone to react badly when you suggest that they are not “complying” – taking it as a personal criticism, and an insult to their intelligence/behaviour/performance (depending on the context).

Taking a step back and trying to be objective about “compliance” reveals a different story. It comes in many forms, from conforming to Health and Safety standards, through HR policies on timekeeping and administrative procedures, to completing a set of daily checks on company vehicles. But it’s not just about rules and regulations. It’s an essential part of working together in a harmonious way, and ensuring your workforce is functioning at it’s optimum, most productive level. And, who would not agree that keeping staff safe is an important and positive aspect of management responsibilities?

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Industry Studies Confirm Growing Importance of Customer Service and Field Service Management as Strategic Differentiators

Posted by Emily Mason on August 21, 2014

“Discount prices!” “New models!” “Free gift!”

It might have worked once upon a time, but in today’s world, temporary incentives aren’t enough to keep the customers coming and profits up.

Recent research by The Service Council, and publicised by ERP vendor SAP, indicates that - in a world where everything is becoming commoditised, where customer expectations are forever on the rise - there’s only one thing left to differentiate a company from it’s competitors; and that’s service.

Short term offers may well be tempting to a customer initially, but with little profit in it for the company, and nothing more for the customer post-sale, there’s very little value in it for either party.

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