16 November 2012

Brilliant basics: How FedEx delivered outstanding customer service

It never hurts to reiterate the basics in discussing the quest for outstanding customer service.  In fact, if the basics aren’t right then achieving even acceptable service can be a challenge (see my previous article for an example of how the UK’s Barclays Bank demonstrated that lesson).

This article tells a happier story. It’s a tale of genuine customer delight generated by a huge global organisation getting three simple things completely right at the point of customer contact.

Three simple things happened today that transcend organisational structures and processes and put this customer first.  It is a definitive example of ‘brilliant basics’ delivering exceptional customer service.

I’m talking about FedEx.  How did this organisation warrant the prize of being a feature case study in customer service excellence?

8 October 2012

Brilliant basics are essential in good service: a study of a banking failure

Is the key to banking customer service being “socially useful?”


This was the question posed last week by the new Chief Executive of one of the UK’s leading – and most complained about – banks, Barclays.

BBC News (4/10/12) reported Mr. Antony Jenkins as saying "I do believe that Barclays has a significant job to rebuild trust - but I'm also confident that we can," Mr. Jenkins is reported as saying "It goes back to what we do: if we serve customers and clients in a way that is socially useful, then we will rebuild that trust."
I have some news for Mr. Jenkins. It’s not a battle with social usefulness that lies at the heart of Barclays problems with customer trust.  It’s more likely to be a lack of performance in the basic essentials of delivering a competent banking service. Forget the social humble pie as a route to mitigating Barclays culpability in the LIBOR rate fiasco, try repeating “brilliant basics” until the concept has hit home.

A harsh assessment?  Let’s use a recent complaint from my own experience to illustrate why "brilliant basics" matter in customer service, and why Barclays are missing the mark on the simple stuff.

15 August 2012

Why social media matters in complaints management

There’s a lot of debate around social networking and the impact it can have on an organisation’s customer service reputation. Articles range from those claiming social media is vital to your business and the best route to get complaints resolved (Bachelor, 2012) to research reporting that Twitter users judge only 36% of tweets as worth reading (AndrĂ© et al., 2012).

With this range of opinion, how can business executives decide whether social media is something that really matters when it comes to prioritising budgets for complaint management?


25 July 2012

5 essential tips for contact centre complaints handling

Those of us who've had responsibility for complaints management at one time or another will have experienced a full spectrum of complainant behaviour. From tears to anger, humility to assertiveness; those dealing with complaints will see it all at some point in their career.

For many, this is one of the motivations for taking on a customer service role - making a real difference to the customer who's had a particularly raw deal. Being able to sort out a problem and see a fellow human being move from anger to gratitude is something that reminds us why we took on the job in the first place.

It can be an emotional experience for people at the front line of complaints. The rewards are equally matched (and frequently outweighed) by harder times that test personal resilience. 

What are some of the essential tips that help the customer service managers and their teams cope with the complex challenges of complaints?


2 July 2012

Service failure: how social media changes complainants' balance of power

There have now been at least two decades of “best practice” advice on how businesses must understand the importance of good customer service.

Research into consumer and complainant behaviour goes back to studies such as Day and Landon’s (1977) classification of customer responses when faced with poor service. This research is still valid today, but in the new context of social media.

In the 21st century, dissatisfied customers can ensure their complaint experience is very public. The age of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook radically shifts the balance of power towards the customer, giving new routes to publicise dissatisfaction with poor performance that previously remained a private and personal frustration.

Yet some organisations seem to insist on failing to learn the long proven lessons of giving good customer service, delivering experiences that are - at best - sloppy.

It may be that the finance director considers the pipeline of new customers delivering revenue into the sales department outweighs the customer churn and defection in service delivery. However, this is not a business strategy likely to produce long-term growth or award winning success.

Social media has shifted the balance of power to the complaining consumer, now capable of launching public reputational damage on a scale never before available.

27 May 2012

Banking websites perform poorly on publishing customer service standards

A Price Perrott snapshot survey of major high street banking websites in the UK and New Zealand has revealed poor performance in publishing commitments to customer service standards.

A simple test was applied to the major high street banking websites in both the UK and New Zealand, determining the ease with which consumers are able to find out about their bank's commitment to customer service excellence.

Only three of ten global banks performed acceptably, with the remaining seven leaving internet based consumers in the dark as to the standards of service they can expect.

23 May 2012

Improving business performance requires a better customer experience

This might seem like a statement of the obvious for this inaugural blog posting, but apparently that opinion may not be shared by everyone.  Consequently, I thought I'd kick off discussions on this blog with an experience of what it's like to shop for travel insurance.

This is the 21st century. Business has now had a good couple of decades of experience in using the internet, contact centres and customer relationship management (CRM) technology to hone its service performance. Brand identities, strategies and commitments to customer care have been set and repeatedly communicated. Commitments to a customer vision and seamless world-class experience have been made, with mission statements written and distributed.

The integration of technology into blended, multi-channel environments makes it easier than ever before for a customer to shop around and find the most competitive deal as possible; quickly, easily and without too much effort. For all the millions of dollars (in any currency) invested in sales, marketing and service, the customer must surely find it simpler than ever before to hand over their hard earned money to an organisation - in return for great value products and excellence in customer service.

How does this situation match with an actual customer experience?  Consider a practical case study example from this afternoon, on a sunny autumn day in the southern hemisphere.

30 March 2012

A ten point checklist for change programmes in the public sector


A previous blog posting looked at evidence of how change programmes designed to save money and streamline shared services in UK Central Government appear to have come off the rails during delivery.  Obviously, none of these programmes set out with the intention of failing and, presumably, they had business cases considered “robust” by those who approved them. Most involved private sector consultancies and IT companies with contractual delivery targets, undoubtedly intended to reduce the risks of failure to the public purse based on their expertise.

Yet half a billion pounds of overspend and several invalidated business cases later, another round of “lessons learnt” are being collated with some common themes emerging from the inquiry reports.

Shared Services have a history in the back office, but also remain a major focus of front office changes to save efficiency and improve the customer facing experience of public services.

In this article, we go back to basics on “business transformation” and look at the fundamental essentials that must be in place – and continually monitored – throughout a programme to change service delivery.  Getting the essentials right can't be overlooked when your shared services programmes have a direct impact on the taxpaying customer.

16 March 2012

Reforming New Zealand's public services

Learning from the mistakes of the UK shared services programmes

New Zealand Government is changing; its agenda to become leaner and more efficient – to do more with less. The release of New Zealand Treasury’s annual report on back-office performance – and the opportunities for future savings it identifies – has surfaced the inevitable tension in the press between Ministers seeing “room for improvement” and public sector unions seeing “overly ambitious” targets and job cuts.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent so far, with tens of millions of dollars saved. John Key’s speech of 15th March 2012 makes it clear that the New Zealand Government’s plan demands better results for the taxpaying customer, with fewer resources. Efficiency improvement is an unavoidable situation, with ‘shared services’ and increasing use of technology already highlighted as chosen routes.


As these approaches move from back-office to front office, the risk of a visible and immediate impact on the taxpaying customer service in the event of problems becomes ever greater.