Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The "Pleasant Bug"

What a month!

Moving house has to be one of the most traumatic experiences! I think the stress gauge suggests that its in the top 3 or 4 stressful things a person can do. I won't argue with that!

This is our 3rd week in the new home. The dogs and the cat have settled in and yesterday I finished putting in the vegetable garden so we are looking forward to fresh, home grown vegetables during late spring and summer. Of course getting things straightened out inside the house is quite different. There are boxes that are still not unpacked and things are being constantly reorganised until we get them "just right". And there's plenty more work to be done around the garden with pruning and tidying so it looks good for summer. But we'll get there.

Today the electrician is here replacing various faulty fittings and later this week the plumber and a roofer will arrive to fix up some faults that have become apparent. My experience of trades people is generally pretty positive. Most of the ones with whom have had to deal could be described as "the salt of the earth". Today's sparky is no exception. Cheerful, highly proficient, thorough and fast. Andrew Davies certainly knows that good customer service is vital.

And I had another example of good service on Sunday when I went to Bunnings in Thornleigh. I had taken my selections to the check out and the cashier and I chatted as he processed the sale. In response to something I said he suggested that one item might not be the best for what I needed to do. He suggested a slightly different, less expensive item so I made the change. He was right. The second item was perfect whereas I would have needed to slightly modify my original choice.

People like Andrew Davies and the Bunnings cashier have an impact far beyond the immediate interaction. At a time when little things can be blown out of proportion because of the general disruption experienced, they provide a calming and positive effect. Not only do they encourage me to use them again when I need an electrician or hardware, but they also infect others with the "pleasant bug". Thank you.

Are you infecting people with the "pleasant bug"?

More information about Doug Long at http://www.dglong.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is "customer service" an oxymoron?

I have just come off the phone from talking with Optus. Here in Australia they are purported to be a communications company. Can you guess what's coming next?

You got it!

Optus suck at communicating - at least with me.

Let me bore you with the details. Recently a mobile phone was stolen and the appropriate steps were taken to notify the Police, cancel the sim card, and make an insurance claim. Today I received notification that the claim was approved and I was given a number to call in order to arrange settlement of the claim. This should be easy, I thought, and phoned them! I spent the next 30 minutes in a never ending loop that took me back to the same place 4 times. Yes, my patience wore thin and I eventually hung up.

A cup of tea later and I tried again. This time what a difference. I was fortunate to strike an agent who was different - he wanted to help. With his help I was through the system in just over 5 minutes and everything was finalised. What a pity he's possibly the only person like that at Optus! I hope they pay him more than the CEO - he deserves it.

Having just come off some pretty spectacular examples of really good customer service (see my recent blogs) I found today particularly frustrating. Big companies like Optus just don't seem to get it. They confuse "service" with telephone prompts that have rigid specifications and are often confusing in themselves.

So let me spell it out for Optus and others who are confused.

Customer service means individual attention to the needs and concerns of another individual. It involves the investment of some time by a knowledgeable person who is willing and able to listen to the needs and concerns of another person then help resolve whatever it is that needs attention. Computers can't do this. Harried, poorly trained call centre people who are under pressure to minimise the time they spend with each customer can't do this. Forcing customers into interactions with these will simply add to blood pressure levels and an increase of complaints to the appropriate authorities.

Its not rocket science.

People like me want customer service when we have a problem and we expect to receive it given the charges that are made for telephone services, banking services, government services and the like. Failure to provide the service we want and need results in blogs like this, then customer churn, then reduced profits, and so on. Its a leadership issue and, Optus, you're failing the leadership test.

Organisations like Fantastic Furniture, JaxQuickfit Tyres, and the NSW Fire Brigades get it. Why can't Optus?

What do you think?

More about Doug Long at http://www.dglong.com.