Many years ago I moved from working as an occupational psychologist to work in business excellence/ total quality management. We worked at implementing and embedding the concepts of the business excellence model throughout Royal Mail.
I learnt so much and this continues to part of my way of working including
• The need to have standardised and systematic ways of working
• The need to review processes and simplify as much as possible
• Putting the customer first and taking responsibility for getting things done
This third point was brought home to me on my first day in my new job. I answered the phone, someone wanted something and I gave them a number to call. I was quickly picked up for not taking a total quality management approach.
What I should have done is to take the persons number, find out the correct person, ask this other person to return the call and to follow through later to make sure that their query has been dealt with. It is not assuming that anything will be done.
Our way of working, which was clearly defined was to answer the phone within 3 rings and if we couldn’t deal with something right away, or is was outside our area to take ownership for helping.
My Way of working
I respond to emails promptly, I keep on top of my emails so people get at least a holding reply within a few hours, no excuse not to with smart phones! I almost always get a full reply within 24 hours. Many times people get back to me and praise me for my quick response and the way that I’ve provided something helpful for them. I definitely don’t focus on trying to convince clients to spend money, and when people tell me about their limited budget I will usually send on something useful at no cost.
Moments of truth
It was Jan Carlson from SAS Airlines who spoke about the very many moments of truth where we have contact with customers, these are the times where we can provide great service or let a customer down.
Just recently I’ve been let down by 3 different organisations, and I think all should now better.
The first is my gym. I filled in the feedback forms where I asked why some things weren’t being done, made a request and gave some praise. I heard nothing, twice asked at the reception desk, still heard nothing and it was then a week before my complaint to the head office filtered through and I got a phone call. A week on my simple suggestion, that the clock be replaced has still not happened.
The second is a supermarket. I tried to purchase something and was told it had been withdrawn from sale. Clearly not as there was a shelf full. The manager was called and told me the gluten free oats had been withdrawn from sale. When I asked why there were still on the shelf he said he didn’t know. For something as important as this surely it should have been dealt with promptly, and as manager he should have ensured it was done.
The third is a professional association. Something went wrong and it took them 4 or 5 days to respond. The email said they had to meet to discuss this, but why not a message saying they were sorry about the issue and were looking into it and would get back to me as soon as they could, rather than leaving me wondering when I will hear.
What we should all learn
• To be customer focused, to think about the customer experience and what could be done to improve this for a client.
• To seek feedback on how we can do better.
• As an employee to identify improvements and share them with our supervisors and managers.
Denise Taylor, double award winning career coach with Amazing People