Back to Business Basics: Part 3

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peter davies head onlyPeter Davies, Chairman of Professional Polishing = who inspired the setting up of this website – follows up his September ‘rant’, published on another website, writing:

Whilst looking at basics in business I made the point that individuals can give of their best regardless of their job. A road sweeper can have the cleanest street; a bus driver can drive smoothly and be friendly.

phone optionsThis principle should also apply to businesses and the attitude of the person who fronts that business. In larger operations this probably starts with the person way behind the scenes who specifies the IT systems. Whoever designed menu telephone systems needs shooting! “Your call is valuable, please select from the following 92 options”! If they valued your call so much your call would be answered by a real person! It seems to me that the primary purpose of such systems are to stretch out your waiting time at premium rates or hope that you will be so fed up you will go away.

A perfect example is that I had to phone my Doctor’s surgery earlier and was put in a queue of five callers. After 19 minutes I reached the top of the list and was then cut off! I tried again and was in a queue of three callers and only had to wait 12 minutes before being answered.

Although only a relatively small company, my business is absolutely committed to answering telephones promptly and politely – we would slit our wrists before we had a menu system. Obviously businesses with large call centres need to find ways to reverse this dismissive approach to customers as it alienates people from the start. Surveys show that menu systems are one of the most disliked ‘advances’ in modern business.

press 1(Ed: to circumvent the systems of for 130 different companies – from insurance giants such as Aviva to utility firms like British Gas, airlines such as Ryanair and media providers including BT – go to Nigel Clarke’s website, pleasepress1.com. Read on here.)

We would expect small businesses to give the customer a better more personal service. However, this is not always the case and the approach of the individual can be just as dismissive or unhelpful in a small business as the automated systems in a large company. Conversely, a large organisation can set their operation up to be extremely slick. Here are a couple of examples.

A large company providing an excellent service

My daughter bought two sofas from DFS. These are a company who are a little bit of a joke with their TV advertising and never ending sales but she was impressed by the service and furthermore, the sofas were made in the UK.

Based on her experience my wife and I visited their showroom with a specific requirement and a desire to ‘Buy British’. We were shown a range of sofas which met our requirements, given full details of the product and the options we could have by a very pleasant salesman. He checked delivery dates and we placed an order. Two weeks later we received a courtesy call from the company saying the sofas should arrive the following week and they would phone us again to arrange delivery. This they duly did and on the day we had a call from the driver to confirm he was on his way. Once the furniture was delivered and signed for the driver left and I received a text from DFS thanking me for the order and hoping we enjoyed our new furniture. A perfect example of how a large company can use their people and technology to provide an excellent service.

A small establishment which lost out on ‘upselling’

We went for lunch with some friends to a nicely restored pub in Shenstone which they had visited previously and had enjoyed a pleasant meal slightly better than average ‘pub grub’. We arrived to find only one table occupied and a couple of people sitting at the bar. A sign above the bar said that ‘Bert and Ethel welcome you to the Faggot and Ferret’ or whatever it was called, giving the impression that the pub was a ‘mom and pop’ privately run pub. No sign of Bert or Ethel though!

A rather dour young lady took us to a table and said she was on her own so she couldn’t serve us drinks and we would have to get them from the bar. She looked very busy despite the fact that there were very few customers. We ordered and the meal was actually very nice but we were not asked if we wanted dessert or coffee so left without either. The establishment lost out on about £30 of ‘upselling’ because the waitress couldn’t be bothered.

The result was that we felt a nuisance and would be unlikely to go there again. I wonder if Bert or Ethel had any idea of how the establishment was being run whilst they were not there.  Maybe the dour young woman was Ethel! If they want to develop the business they need to make people welcome and engage with potential customers. They should look at some of the popular restaurants to get marketing ideas and perhaps do special offers etc. This seems a business that is bound to fail because of lack of effort and will be one of the statistics of how many pubs are closing.

So we have a contrast between a large company that one would expect to be not so  good at customer contact, but is, and a small company that ought to be totally customer focused and isn’t!

Any business expects to be profitable or it won’t survive. Successful small and medium sized companies generally make profit by going ‘the extra mile’ and where possible building an on-going relationship with its customers to secure repeat business. Obviously some businesses tend to sell ‘one offs’ and cannot guarantee repeat orders. After all, you don’t buy a Hi Fi or new furniture every five minutes so the best the business can hope is that they have treated you so well you recommend them to friends and family etc. and particularly with the power of social media a buying experience, good or bad, can be shared with hundreds of people and if good can result in loads of ‘positive press’.

So the moral of this piece is that getting ‘back to basics’ in this context is about being totally customer focussed. Whether it is your own business or you work for another company, large or small, take it on yourself always to be pleasant and helpful. You need the customer to be your friend, you need to be their friend and be seen to do everything you can to answer their queries and develop business for your company.

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