A little while ago, James Robbins, now Group CIO at Drax Group, said to me: ’John, I enjoy reading your blogs but does nothing good ever happen in your world?’ Well of course it does but in general those good things are less interesting to write and read about. A headline reading ‘All is right with the world’ or ‘Everything is fine’ doesn’t sell many newspapers!
I thought though I should share some good things and offer the providers of one or two of those good things some guidance to make them even better. In the last week I have enjoyed the services of two internet service providers, three different hotels, one car dealership and four customer feedback systems. I won’t name and shame – if they are reading this they will work it out for themselves and if they are not then it won’t matter because I have already told them what I am going to tell you!
Starting with the hotels all were easy to book, competitively priced and convenient. We should celebrate both that the hotels are taking advantage of the capabilities of contemporary information technology to offer their services and that, through the capabilities offered by internet service providers we can book, pay and check in online. Painless, quick and lower cost for them and us.
Sadly, the first hotel let the side down a little when we moved away from the virtual world to the real world. On a cold January night the heating wasn’t functioning properly and, despite visiting reception three times (they were not answering the phone), and three promises to ‘reset the system and sort your room out’, it never got any warmer. On checking out in the morning the receptionist asked me if everything had been ok. I told him about the heating to be told ‘Thank You Sir, I will take note of your feedback’. Now, this particular hotel chain guarantees you a good night……
Feedback on Feedback 1:
The hotel got it wrong (heating), it failed to fix the thing it got wrong but (nudged!) it lived up to its guarantee. I will stay with the chain again, I will stay at that hotel again! Don’t ‘take note of my feedback’, act on it!
The internet service providers facilitated both fibre-optic and mobile connectivity to the hotels and other systems with very high reliability and enabled me to work in about a dozen different locations with only very marginal effort – and thanks again to the hotel chains for free, reliable wi-fi. This is probably only positively remarkable to those who, like me, remember using a dial-up modem through a hotel telephone system……………
At the beginning of the week though I had undertaken an upgrade of the service in my home office. Ordering (on line) was easy – about ten key strokes. The kit was delivered when specified and was, as promised, truly plug and play – it was up and running within 10 minutes of coming out of the box. Then I tried to get it to see the various devices on the network……………. In desperation I read the manual (Yeah, I know could have started there), nothing, not a clue, I looked up the on line help system and the FAQs, nothing. Really desperate I called the helpline, three times…………. Fed up, I left it overnight and started again the following day. I got there, but with no help from the online system and, I am afraid, the helpline staff were incapable of helping. Not their fault, I suspect the service provider doesn’t really want its customers using them. Fortunately they sent me a ‘post-service’ online survey to complete, they haven’t responded to my comments yet!
Feedback on Feedback 2
If you are not prepared to provide proper, competent support on your helpline don’t bother! Properly or not at all. And, please note that there is little point in asking your customers what they think unless you are prepared to respond to them AND act on what you hear. Don’t ‘take note of my feedback’, act on it!
The second and third hotels (same group, different brands) did everything they promised, nothing went wrong, all was done in accordance with expectations and I will certainly be using them again. (See, boring isn’t it!) Both have contacted me by email to complete their surveys.
The first was fine, ten ‘tick box’ questions about the experience. All perfect scores, is it really meaningful to ask a guest to distinguish 10 gradations of satisfaction. Was I ‘wholly dissatisfied’, ‘dissatisfied’, ‘slightly dissatisfied’ ‘nearly satisfied’ – you get the idea – with the cleanliness of the bathroom (or whatever). Well, for me the bathroom is either clean (satisfied) or not clean (not satisfied) with the cleanliness of the bathroom, it is either clean or it isn’t! So, I score at one end of the scale or the other because all the points in between are meaningless!
The second, in addition to the survey, asked for a review on Trip Advisor. Now we are starting to stray into ‘imposing work on the customer’ but, ok, the hotel was good, the staff were good, maybe I should say so. 5 simple scores (5 stars or none!) and then an invitation to write a comment, duly completed, hit ‘submit’, nothing happens…….read the small print ‘reviews must be at least 200 characters’, feeling generous I added a few more kind words, on another day, I would likely not have bothered.
Feedback on Feedback 3:
First, if you are going to ask your customers questions about their experience please keep it short, ensure that the answers actually tell you (and your future customers) something on which you can take action and, again, act on it. Second, if you are asking your customers to do you a favour don’t make it hard for them – because if you do they won’t bother. You won’t get any better, they will shop elsewhere! Don’t ‘take note of my feedback’, act on it!
Now, talking of shopping elsewhere, an unexpected warning light (When do we expect a warning light!) flashed up on my dashboard so, with a long journey ahead and potentially difficult weather conditions I decided to pop into a nearby franchised dealership (not the one I normally use) to get it checked. I explained the issue to the service receptionist, details recorded, service history found, minor recall issues identified. Explaining to me that it would be a while as I was not booked in I was provided with a seat, coffee and free wifi so that I could work while I waited. So far so excellent. As I waited the staff continued to be attentive, kept me informed about progress and generally made me feel welcome. Issue resolved the service receptionist invited me back to the desk to settle the, very reasonable, bill ‘while we finish valeting your car’. (Yes, valeted inside and out at no separate charge). Finally, just before getting my keys back….. ‘Now sir, you will get a survey from ‘£x£%^*$£$’ and I need you to do me a favour’ and, having asked me directly whether I was happy with the service that I received, proceeded to explain to me how I should complete the survey when it arrived, including a very particular instruction about the score for the individual concerned – and providing a card so I wouldn’t forget the name
Feedback on Feedback 4:
If you are going to capture feedback about performance by way of a customer survey perhaps randomize (as best you can) the generation of the survey targets and, very importantly, do not directly link receipt of individual incentives by staff members to very specific scores (‘Every time I score a 5 I get a bonus in my wages’) – well of course I don’t want to deprive somebody of money. Is the score meaningful? Is it telling the dealership anything about customer service? Or is it telling them something about how badly they reward their staff? Badly designed surveys produce meaningless results, badly designed reward systems produce inappropriate behaviours, when we synthesise the two…………. The customer service was great, the customer survey was atrocious!
Don’t ‘take note of my feedback’, act on it!
Feedback on Feedback on Feedback………
We must reflect in order to learn, we improve by reducing the gap between what we wanted and what we got and if we don’t know there is a gap then we don’t know we need to learn!
Communication is not so much about what is said or written but what is heard or understood. If a picture paints a thousand words, look left!
Before proceeding to publication I asked James for permission to use his name. This was duly granted with the comment
‘although the blog ended up being quite grumpy in the end J’
So, ending on a happy note, I caught a train today, it left on time, it arrived on time and everybody obeyed the ‘quiet’ rule. I worked on my laptop the whole way (and after four and a half hours it still had two hours battery life). My wifi dongle also more than lasted the distance and the connection never dropped out. Well done, drivers, trains, network providers and ISPs, and thank you. Ain’t life grand when everything just works!
Photo copyright © Paul Silverwood 2015