Tag Archives: customer service

The Story of the stolen bike that wasn’t actually stolen

Important Lessons for All Businesses about Systems, Processes and Communication

bike stolen

Let me take you back to summertime – it is the 21st July, a beautiful sunny morning. I’m heading to my local train station – on my bike, to catch the 7.29am to Paddington.

I’m running on time, but as usual, there’s a huge ticket queue – and so I’m rushing. I lock my bike – head for the queue, make the 7.29am, all is good (crammed as usual, but at least I made the train).

That evening, I head back to my station – go to collect my bike – and it’s gone. The lock is still in place – and still locked and attached to the bike rack – but, no bike.

I head into the station, speak to at least three First Great Western station attendants – advise them that my bike has been stolen, ask what the protocol is – and am advised ‘sorry to hear that’ and to call the police.

With heavy heart, I walk up the hill, get home, complain to family about my loss – and then start proceedings to report said stolen bike.

When speaking to the British Transport Police to inform them of the theft, I’m advised that the stealing of bikes at my train station is apparently taken ‘very seriously’ – as it’s a bit of a hot bed.  I’m advised that my case has been reported and someone will be in touch.

A couple of weeks later I get a call from a very nice PC – she advises that my case is now being progressed – and wants me to provide her with a formal statement.  I spend at least 40 minutes on the phone advising her of the situation, my description (so they can discount me from the CCTV review) – the timings, the bike’s description etc.  And, by the way, my bike had been marked and registered with the police bike registration scheme.

I advise I have the lock – she advises, that I shouldn’t touch it too much as it may be used for finger printing.  Lock is transferred to clean plastic bag!

The next step is for her to come to the train station, review the CCTV and then see if they can nail the criminals.

At this point, I ask what the chances of my recovering the bike are – and she advises, very low – probably zero. But hopefully, they can make an arrest.

So – this leaves me without a bike – and with no likelihood of my bike being returned, I now have the chore of getting a new bike – considerable cost and considerable time.

Approximately 6 weeks after the initial theft – I’ve got a new bike in place, and the PC is coming to review the CCTV footage.

Unfortunately, bad news – the CCTV wasn’t working – and so no footage was captured. There was a malfunction with the system, etc, etc.

Some 8 weeks later, it transpires that the CCTV system was not the only system malfunctioning.

In mid November, I receive a call from another PC from British Transport Police at Paddington

Joyous news – they’ve recovered my bike.

‘Is it smashed up’, ‘where is it now’, ‘how did it turn up?’ I had so many questions.  However, it transpires – that it had potentially been at the train station where I believed it had been stolen from – all the time.

I know – you’re thinking, what’s this madness she’s talking about.

Well, apparently, if a bike is ‘unsecured’ at said station, due to it being a ‘hotbed’ for bike thefts, the station wardens, and any plain clothes police officers that periodically patrol the area, will take any unsecured bikes (bikes which are not locked up properly) and put them safely in the ‘lost property’ storage in the station.

Who knew?

Well, apparently… – nobody. Not the nice PC initially investigating the crime, and clearly not any of the three station wardens that I spoke to, when I advised that my bike had been stolen, ‘but how odd that the lock was still wrapped around the bike rack!’

Today is December 21st – so it’s exactly 5 months to the day, that my bike was supposedly stolen. I was called early this morning by another PC from British Transport Police to see if they could recover the bike to me.  As it happens, I was around – and the bike and I were reunited.  Speaking to yet another again, very nice PC – he advised that there are at least 30 other bikes in the ‘lost property’ storage! (What was that about the station being a hotbed for bike thefts!!!).

Whilst speaking with the PC who was organizing this last piece of the case – I queried the following:

a)    Why are there no notices around advising bikers that if their bike isn’t secure – it may be taken into lost property.  ‘Good idea’ he advised – we should do that.

b)    Why when I advised my bike had been stolen – wasn’t there a protocol to first check the lost property before advising me to raise a formal case with the police.

c)     Why, when I raised a case with the police – didn’t the nice PC investigating the crime first contact lost property to see whether or not it was simply a case of the bike potentially not being secured and therefore, not stolen but in fact, just stored!

In the 5 months – with just one simple bike, that really isn’t that valuable (in monetary terms), just look at the waste of resource that’s happened. Numerous phone calls, the filing of reports, letters sent to me advising me of progress with the case, police officers having to physically hand back the property.

Not to mention the expense and time of me having to unnecessarily get a new bike (and believe me it was not a fun experience – just a whole pain in the backside).

And now – I have stuff that’s surplus to requirements – I have two bikes!

Charlie Chaplin could have turned this into a slapstick sketch – it’s such a farce. However, it’s also indicative of what happens when processes are created – and not fully thought through or communicated.

Without thinking things through, end to end and a lack of effective training and practice – and communication breakdown – businesses, people, departments, governments – they all waste resource. Waste of time, waste of money, waste of people – people who should potentially be working on more important things that make a difference to either the world or the bottom line.

This farce is true – and whilst we may sit here reading in disbelief – sadly this isn’t that extraordinary. There are thousands if not millions of truly stupid and pointless, processes and disconnected dots happening all the time in industries and businesses of all shapes and sizes.

My advice to all is to:

  • Check your processes thoroughly, ensuring all dots are joining up.
  • When you identify a disconnect – where the dots aren’t joining up, don’t let that disconnect extend – but instead grab it, investigate it and do whatever you need to do to pull it together.  Make someone accountable (that may be you), accountable to ensure that you do not let such stupidity and waste of resource happen again.
  • Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more –ensure everyone ‘gets’ the processes you create – and that they are clear on what’s happening – and finally – you can’t just say it once and it will be – it takes practice – so…
  • Test things out periodically to check your communication and training is fully ingrained.

That’s all from me – rant over, insights shared.

Ever optimistic, owner of two bikes, Maidenhead

Banks be nimble, banks be quick!

There’s no denying that we are in a digital age.  Right now, it’s pretty advanced already – and we have digital experts and respected futurists making statements that in just 5 years time tangible media will no longer exist.

So please tell me what’s going to happen to banks?  In my experience of banking with banks, both personal and Quickbusiness accounts – and in working with banks in partnership arrangements – there seems to be a common challenge.   And that challenge is, they’re too slow!

As typical with any enormous organisation – there are just too many hoops to jump through – too many processes, too many lines of management and therefore, everything takes too long.

For example – I recently made a complaint to my bank (I have to say, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had any reason to complain to them).  I made my complaint via email (which was never allowed to happen in the past – ooh progress).  24 hours later I received an email from the relevant team (it was looking promising) advising that my complaint was being looked into – attached was a lengthy PDF – and I was referred to the customer complaint process, informed to read said lengthy PDF, and advised that I’d receive a written response, together with a hard copy of the lengthy complaints process brochure within 14 days.  (It couldn’t be emailed in case someone intercepted the email).

I then queried why it was going to take 14 days to respond – to be advised that it was procedure and if I read page 14 of the Customer Complaint Process brochure, it was clearly documented – blah, blah, blah.

Now as a small business – highly responsive to clients, I can’t for one minute imagine asking a client to wait 14 days for anything – let alone to address a service recovery procedure.  It just a) wouldn’t  and b) couldn’t happen.

As a small business, we don’t have a Customer Response Team (probably a team of a minimum of 20 perhaps, even 80+?).  Instead, we have a small team that does everything they can to deliver services and service to our clients.   And let me tell you, there’s no ‘we’ll get back to you in 14 days’ amongst our vocabulary.

So in an age where everyone expects high levels of responsiveness and service (after all technology has enabled it – right! and so we do out best to keep up) we just sit back and accept the prehistoric practices of banks.

It must be hugely frustrating to work in a bank and want to make a difference – red tape, bureaucracy, 5000 meetings and procedures to work through, 150 different types of line management decision makers – yet no real empowerment to actually DO anything.  By the time a decision is made, the opportunity is probably lost.

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about ‘keeping things simple’ and for those businesses that do so – they’ll have cracked it.

Continue reading Banks be nimble, banks be quick!

Using Twitter as customer service resource – Don’t just apologise, make your presence count!

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, then you may have been alerted to the fact that I was not too happy with the service levels at Symantec last week.

To provide a bit of context – I had a very simple query.  I received a notification advising me that I needed to renew my Norton 360 license with them – simple – and I did that no problem. Viral

However, the license I have is for 3 machines, and I wanted to switch one of the licenses and see whether Linux platforms were supported in that license.  A quick call – or live chat query, or even email support would have sufficed.  The query could have been resolved in, say, 2 minutes.

I searched on their website for answers to my queries – but nothing was evident, and so I hunted down a number to call and eventually found an office in Reading.  I called them and having completed at least 4 rounds of call selection – I was then put into a queue.

It was interesting, because in the queue, I wasn’t notified that it was going to take me an hour and a half to get through – instead, I was repeatedly advised to hold on the phone, as if I hung up, I would lose my place in the queue and have to start again.

I waited, and waited – after 40 minutes, I started to get really fed up – but the, by now, terrifying mantra came at me again – hang up and I’ll lose my place!

Of course, I wasn’t just sitting there winding myself up during the long wait – oh no, I tried to be as productive as possible.  I visited their site again, hunted down the FAQs, hunted down a search facility, inserted the keywords relating to my query etc etc.

Pages upon pages of results returned – totally off the mark – and now I’m getting more and more frustrated.

After 90 minutes on hold – I was now uber twitchy – of course, my Twitter app was open, so I posted; ‘Can’t believe I’ve been waiting on hold at Symantec for an hour and a half, disgusting.’

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the poor chap I did eventually get put through to, they answered the call shortly after, (1 hour and 38 minutes on hold.  That’s got to be a record!)  Flabbergasted, I wanted an explanation, why, what… however, the very nice chap I was now through to in the Philippines had no answers.  Sorry – we’re busy, that’s all I can say.  He answered my query and worked through what I needed to do – and all was fixed.  However, I was still finding the whole waiting on hold for that amount of time, incredulous.

Interestingly, just 10 minutes after I’d posted on Twitter – I received a message on Twitter from NortonOnline asking how they could help me.  Had my problem been resolved – sorry to hear I wasn’t happy?

Continue reading Using Twitter as customer service resource – Don’t just apologise, make your presence count!

Why is NOTHING ever simple? Crack it and you’re laughing!

Ok – I’m pretty IT savvy, and yet why is it that I still end up tearing my hair out when it comes to undertaking what should be a really ‘simple’ task.

I simply want to transfer the photos from my Blackberry to my laptop.  Now that shouldn’t be difficult at all should it?Basic Calculations Surely the current Blackberry Desktop Manager has a simple resource for doing this – surely, it’s just a simple case of syncing my device and voila!  Er – no.  Not that simple.

Ok – I won’t be defeated, rather than email each photo to my outlook account (tedious) – I’ll send via Bluetooth.  Simple!

So, I open the Bluetooth access on my laptop – my laptop and Blackberry run into the arms of one another – very painlessly – and connect.  Great – so now it’s just a simple case of sending my photos via Bluetooth.   Er – no.  Not that simple.

The software is not compatible.   Bit of a pain – but shouldn’t be insurmountable – I will simply visit the Blackberry.com site and get the relevant update.

By now I’ve spent the best part of 2 and a half hours trying to complete what should be a really, really, simple task.

So, I open up my Desktop manager – and request updates – again should be simple – and it pretty much is.  I access the relevant updates, upload – message that it may take 30 minutes for everything to configure.  Oh, oh – there’s now no way to stop this progress, as if I do I’m warned I disrupt the data and so I am now left wondering what exactly it’s up too – and keeping everything crossed that it hasn’t reconfigured my email accounts (as it did last time)!

What should I be doing now – well actually, enjoying the snow with my children at the ‘community built’ ski and sledge runs at Punt Hill.   A task that I thought would have taken me minutes – has taken hours!

How much longer…

The statement ‘why is nothing ever simple’ – isn’t just my continual mantra.  I hear it all the time from friends, peers, family – even my children.  And hence why those businesses that have a sole purpose to ‘make things simple’ – and really deliver on that – are destined for big success.

Oh – have to pause this post – got to restart my ‘systems’ to implement the changes.   Back soon.

Pleased to report that I eventually managed to get my Blackberry photos uploaded onto my laptop.  In fact, having battled with the Bluetooth access – it transpired that the lated Blackberry desktop manager had indeed included a Media Sync function in their latest release.  So there it was…

Customer service has nothing to do with simplicity

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the Blackberry service – indeed their customer service has always been responsive and excellent.  This isn’t what I’m talking about – it’s more to do with the fundamental way things are designed.  Create products and services that are so intuitive – and customer support becomes almost unnecessary.

There’s a business model right there – make or provide access to a product or service, which is as simple as possible, and you’ll thrive.

For example, The Made Simple Group have a number of online services for the start up and small business communities – which each site offers something different, the one similar key factor – making simple.  It’s no wonder that their www.companiesmadesimple.com site is one of the leading online company formation sites in the UK.  They’ve made the process of forming a company (I’ve done this a few times now on other sites and with my accountant and have to say never, ever, found it a simple process previously) – but with Companies Made Simple, it really is a very simple process.

Another service I came across, www.enterprisemadesimple.co.uk – focus on getting access to all the grants and funding available for businesses – simple.  There’s so much red tape involved, that it becomes such a time consuming exercise for businesses, that I’m sure there’s always surplus funding left over at the end of each day.

Businesses that focus on making things simple – designing products and services, and websites – that are so intuitive, are totally on to a winner.  In an age where time is our most limited resource – those services that make things truly simple will win through.

One of our own sites – Logotastic, an online logo design service, was created just for this purpose too – the brand identity and logo design process can often be a very lengthy, time consuming and expensive process.  Logotastic focuses on getting the user to put their brief online in a succinct way – and then they work through the design iterations with a professional designer online – cutting out the often unnecessary, design by committee and meeting after meeting elements.  The ethos – to simplify and make professional design affordable to all.

There’s a great book I recommend, The Design of Everyday Things, which is a bible for anyone interested in usability – not just online usability – but service design and product design.

I do find myself always saying – why is nothing ever simple! As things never seem to be as clear cut as they should be.

Continue reading Why is NOTHING ever simple? Crack it and you’re laughing!

Providing WOW service…is it really that difficult?

I read a great article yesterday – came across it via my TweetBeep alerts – which often throw up some gems I would never have naturally found had I not set these useful alerts.

Anyway – that aside, the article (which is here is you’d like to take a peek) focused on the power of social media and Twitter (viral word of mouth – or rant of mouth!) and how organisations should be considering this powerful platform when delivering their customer service.  

Even typing the words – delivering customer service – doesn’t feel right to me.  Surely all businesses consider the customer when creating products and services?  (Not a trick question – but certainly seems tricky for many businesses to comprehend!).

The same article reflects about businesses seeing their team/staff as an expense and making them feel grateful they have a job (fear and repressing) rather than encouraging them and thanking them for hanging in , keeping their spirits up and giving their all through these difficult times – ‘should be seeing them as their greatest arsenal’ – is the message in the article.

After all – service isn’t something that is disconnected and broken down into sections or departments – it doesn’t have a beginning or an end – surely it’s the entire ‘customer experience’ – the thread running through a business which connects owners, management and team (all stakeholders) not to mention the people who buy, return and talk positively to others about your business – the customers.

Continue reading Providing WOW service…is it really that difficult?

Customer reviews…adding ‘trust equity’ to a site

Consumer pyschology both offline and online has always interested me.

If you think of the basics of ‘marketing’ – word of mouth is one of the most powerful mediums (in both positive and negative contexts).  Postive: we tell everyone we meet how great a service / product is – and that ‘greatness’ captures share of mind, so when we’re prompted, we recall.  Negative experience – and we share with at least 13 people as soon as we can – and again, captures negative share of mind, and so when we get the chance to rant again, we do!  Of course, many of these ‘stats’ come from the ‘offline’ arena – and so online and power of viral, we can magnify these significantly.

Offline, we may turn to our trusted ‘influencers’; our friends, colleagues and family to offer advice and suggestions when considering a purchase or service. And online the same ‘influencing’ factors exist.

Research has identified that ‘testimonials’ and ‘case studies’ add ‘trust equity‘ to a site. And now more than ever, when online businesses are more SEO savvy than ever – it’s not necessarily the best companies for service quality that are found on page 1 on Google.

Customer reviews (provided they are transparent and provide both the positive and negative comments) are an effective way to draw in customers, build trust and encourage conversions. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’d like to see ‘search’ evolve to include such elements into ‘quality scores’ (think Ebay) – so that those that are performing well and providing great customer service are not only reliant upon customers to spread the word – but also search engines promote not just relevant but  ‘quality’ service providers – too…

A big call perhaps but hey… relevancy and quality – now that would be impressive. How would it be measured, how would the quality control be measured?  Not sure.  But Ebay seems to have a pretty democratic and effective way of implementing this, not saying it’s 100% perfect, but it does provide some form of ‘review’ – so nothing’s impossible.

So what say you…?

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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative – a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing – covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.

Why people buy & 15 tips to keep them buying…

Everywhere I turn I am inundated with information about how to ‘survive’ in an economic downturn.  Many of the authors focus on ‘improving customer service’ to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and ‘help sustain customer retention’.  I totally concur with all this advice – however, this is how I believe all businesses should operate anyway – good times or bad.  So – let’s take a little look at consumer behaviour – and get an understanding of why people buy – and what we can do to ensure they keep coming back for more…

It’s rare for businesses to truly understand the customer decision making process.  Indeed, the majority of business owners would suggest that price is the largest contributing factor as to why people buy from one source instead of another.

Whilst the importance of price cannot be underestimated – (and indeed in certain industries price competitiveness is indeed the key determining factor) – there’s usually far more to it than simply price.

What do customers value?

Studies have repeatedly shown that the top 5 issues shoppers buy on are:

1. Convenience (ease of shopping)
2. Relationship with seller
3. Product / Price / Time (specifications, price or availability)
4. Perceived indifference
5. Misc

The real one to watch from the above list is – Perceived Indifference

Continue reading Why people buy & 15 tips to keep them buying…

Look after your customers and value complaints!

With many of the clients I have worked with in the past – their key focus from a marketing perspective is always about achieving new customers. 

Whilst it’s important to look ahead at new markets and audiences, it’s also important to continue to nurture the customers that you already have.  After all, they are 6 times more likely to purchase services from you than a ‘cold’ audience.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you doing everything you can to nurture your current customer base, creating advocates that spread the word and refer you to others?
  • When was the last time your surveyed your customers to find out what they thought about your service / product?
  • How valuable are your customers?  Is the value of your customer base varied?  Do some spend more with you?  Are you spending more time on customers that are not very valuable?  How can you make them more valuable?

Here’s a valuation model you might want to consider:

Continue reading Look after your customers and value complaints!

Practical Email Marketing Tactics

Marketing effectiveness, whether offline or online is ‘simplistically’ based on the following:
“right message, right person, right time”

There are many factors that can determine the success of an email campaign – and indeed there are many ways to define the success of a campaign. 

Jupiter Research undertook some research in 2005 which identified that 73% of immediate purchasers bought because an email message featured a ‘sale price’ (targeted offer) and 67% bought because it featured free or discounted shipping (giving them something for free).   

Further, 60% of buyers said that a key motivator to purchase was the fact that the message contained a product the recipient was already considering. 

This makes sense – and provides a strong case for ‘intelligent’ targeted marketing campaigns – by which I mean following up specific segments behaving in a particular way. 

For example:  A newsletter is deployed and promotes 3 items.  Three follow up emails are then sent to the users – dependent upon which item they explored. 

Whilst there are no ‘hard and fast’ rules as to creating a ‘successful’ email communication – the following considerations should apply when crafting them:

Continue reading Practical Email Marketing Tactics

A WOW experience – a rare thing indeed…

A WOW experience – a rare thing indeed…

This weekend I had the rare treat of escaping my ‘mummy’ duties to visit my best friend in Yorkshire.  I took the direct train to Leeds (4 hours of bliss reading books, listening to music and doing absolutely nothing…).    My WOW experience didn’t happen on the train (there’s a surprise) but that evening, we visited Akbars – a curry house near Bradford.   We arrived by car and across the road from the restaurant was a car park – the team at Akbars manage the car park and a very smiley and polite chap is guiding the masses into available spots.  And where spots were not available – they were taking keys – and advising that they would park the car for you leave your keys with the reception manager!

Continue reading A WOW experience – a rare thing indeed…