Thursday, 4 June 2015

In praise of good customer service (yes, there is such a thing!).

A while ago I visited my local store of a well-known pet chain (although not the most well-known!) with my daughter. I just needed some guinea pig supplies, nipped in to stock up. The manager was there and approached me, and immediately thought I was in for the ‘big sell’ on something I didn’t need, like posh nibbles for pets already over-indulged on their greens. But I was pleasantly surprised by the manager’s conversation: there was no push to purchase, instead she chatted to my daughter about pets and school, and showed her the meal worms packaged on the shelves. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it made the shopping experience all the more pleasant, with staff who were friendly but not overpowering or pushy. I used to work in a shoe shop, so know how hard it can be to get that balance right, but the pet shop got it spot on. As we left I wondered why all shops couldn’t be like that, then thought why not write to their customer services about how impressed I was with their Winchester store. So I batted off an email, which took all of two minutes. I received a reply not just from customer services but from the Managing Director himself, who thanked me for letting him know and how delighted he was that the service had been so good. He would, of course, let the store in question know about my praise.

We will all complain to companies when we feel they need to improve, whether it be shorter queues or trains running on time (we’ll all want the moon on a stick next!), but do we praise them when they get things right? I suppose most will say that it’s their job to be efficient, why should we thank them for doing what they're paid to do, and that may to an extent be true. But when they go that extra mile, why shouldn’t we feed back our gratitude? Complaining when customer care falls short will, it is hoped, help improve performance in the future, but I think it’s just as important to thank those who have been particularly helpful as this feedback is surely just as essential for customer service improvement. If nobody tells a company that somebody has been particularly helpful, how will they know? Equally, how will they know it can really be appreciated and not just expected?

Yesterday I was commuting home from London when the voice of a guard I recognised from another (identical!) journey the week before came over the tannoy, a guard who is particularly helpful, courteous, informative and professional. So as with the pet shop, I let the train company know that I was singling him out for praise. I have had cause to complain to this particular company through an angry tweet or two (or three) when things have gone wrong, as they do far too often, but it gave me a feeling of happiness to write something positive for a change. And, I can only hope, they do feed my comments back to him as they said they would. I don’t know if customer comments about individuals are used as recognised feedback for assessment purposes, but if they do then I hope I have been of some help. 

I’m not saying don’t complain when it’s needed, only that just a little recognition of those making life a bit more pleasant could go a long way.

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