29 November 2015

If I can give you one piece of advice, and this goes to everyone – business owners, managers, team leaders, anyone no matter where you work – always give great customer service.

Why?

Life is tough enough without making it hard for others and if you are feeling pressure yourself, do your level best to absorb it and find a way to channel it later.

I am on a plane with some friends and there’s a stewardess who really, quite frankly, must win the award for the World’s Rudest and Most Impatient Person.

The frustrating thing is I want to help her; I can see her slowly declining as she walks up the aisle, going from person to person. If you are in a job where the slightest thing winds you up, or even worse, when you get wound up even without cause, maybe its time to consider another career or, at the very least, it may be a signal for a holiday!

I am great believer that ‘everyone can be a superstar!’ however not everyone can excel at everything and, if you put someone in a situation where they are naturally defensive, things are going to deteriorate rapidly.

James Timpson the Culture King talks at the InpsireMCR conference @UKFast

James Timpson the Culture King talks at the InpsireMCR conference @UKFast

If you don’t enjoy your job, change your career because you wont be able to be passionate about it. If you are not passionate about it, how do you expect to “wow” people?

When hiring new teammates at UKFast and our other smaller companies, we always focus on culture and finding like-minded supportive people. Listening to the great James Timpson – from Timpson’s the shoe repair people, Snappy Snaps and Max Spielman – who spoke at the #InspireMCR conference last week, he speaks passionately about culture and the importance of getting it right as well as the pitfalls when you promote people beyond their ability, or simply get it wrong.

I highly recommend looking out for an opportunity to hear James speak or to read one of the Timpson books. He is most definitely a rare businessman who completely understands the importance of delivering the highest levels of customer service on the planet.

When you get the culture wrong in a business and bring in someone who just doesn’t fit with an existing team that already gels, everyone around gets stressed. James explains that if someone is not right for the organisation, keeping them in will only cause more disruption.

I am inclined to agree.

There are many people who give what I call ‘selective customer service’. These individuals pick and choose who they are nice to, after predicting whether there is any point in making the extra effort. It might be that they are nice to a senior person, but when their back is turned they are rude to your PA or other colleagues. These are the most deadly of brand assassins, they are often difficult to spot, especially during the ‘honeymoon’ period. The honeymoon period is the name I give to the first six to nine months where people make a concerted effort to almost put on an act and hide negative personality traits.

In my opinion, people should be honest. There’s no point describing yourself as a ‘calming, relaxed individual that loves other people and working in team’ when really you are someone who likes working alone and doesn’t appreciate client contact and interaction.

If you are the latter, go and find a job where you can express your analytical talents or one where you are not directly in the line of fire.

The problem with ‘selective customer service’ is that it’s harder to switch on and off than just being nice all of the time. Eventually poor customer service catches you up and you get a reputation for it that won’t shift.

One of the colleagues on the plane actually apologised on behalf of the World’s Rudest Woman as she barged past a small child in the aisle and said: “if it’s any consolation, she’s like this to me also!”

It’s both expensive and time consuming to win new customers, yet this is the area that most businesses put the majority of their efforts into. One person can actually do enormous damage to a brand, so you can’t try hard enough when selecting colleagues.

If you win great customers but then fail to deliver on your promise, you can only expect one of two things; they will start looking somewhere else for a supplier who values them, or  they are already looking!

If you are managing a business or a team, make sure you lead from the front and deliver exceptional customer service at all times. What’s interesting about the crew on this plane is that as she is clearly senior to some of the others, and some of her team around her are obviously following suit.

It’s very easy to deliver great customer service, it’s just a matter of putting in genuine effort. If you do get something wrong, tell the customer, be honest and explain how you can do things better the next time around. People will reward you for this frank approach.

One final point, which James is a legend at (possibly because he sells them at Timpsons), is giving awards. The great business leaders don’t chastise their colleagues when they do things wrong, they merely look for people doing things right and give them an award or a pat on the back. People wither under criticism and they thrive under praise.

So next time you start getting stressed or frustrated with a client or customer, take a deep breath and don’t lose your cool. Be nice and remember that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Don’t ever show that you are frustrated; that is as rude as telling someone directly, absorb it and move on.

If things are getting you down repeatedly, it’s a clear sign that you are in the wrong job.

If you are the rare breed that actually takes pleasure in upsetting others, as my great friend Joe (Yoda) Cravagan explained to me recently, ‘they are in conflict with themselves’. Do not get frustrated with these types as they take pleasure in disrupting others.

I am a great believer in Karma and I do believe the world does balance itself out. But with that, focus on doing good for others and if you are lucky, one-day good stuff will just start happening to you.

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