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Passionate about your business

Quote of the week

The Hideous Truth: It is easy to stand out in this industry if you love the customer. What’s to fear about that?

David Ferguson, CEO, Nucleus

How’s this for customer service… not!

As you know, I can get a bit obsessive about “client experience. This week’s blog comes courtesy of my eldest daughter, Natalie who had a bit of a rant over the phone this week about the “experience” she was having from one of the big 4 grocery retailers. I’ll let her explain in her own words…

I’m generally quite a loyal shopper. Don’t get me wrong… I shop around to make sure I am getting a good deal but I tend to use the same retailers where possible and appreciate the benefits loyalty can generate (like frequent flyer miles or loyalty coupons). However, I was recently tempted away from my usual online groceries retailer as they didn’t stock an item I was after, so I looked elsewhere. The new supplier had also been performing much better on price comparison of my shopping.

It actually felt quite good to try something new at first. There were new products that are not usually available to me and the prices did seem significantly cheaper! It had its drawbacks though. When I normally order my groceries I know the website like most shoppers know their local supermarket aisles. I know the key search words and my favourites are all saved for ease, so I can complete my order in a few minutes.

After battling for some time I finally submitted my order and thought I might regularly do a monthly shop with this new retailer.

I received a two hour delivery slot (7pm-9pm). This was longer than my usual one hour slot but I knew I would be available so this wasn’t an issue for me. I was also very pleasantly surprised to receive an email on the delivery day with an updated one hour slot (7.30pm-8.30pm).

You can imagine my frustration then when at 9pm there was no sign of my shopping. What is the point in providing a one hour slot if you can’t actually guarantee that…never mind the two hour slot.

I called customer service (who were based abroad, some 6,000 miles away!) in order to get an ETA for the delivery. I was promptly advised, with no apology, that “as per T&Cs” I needed to wait another hour. So apparently my one hour slot had actually become a 3 hour slot?? Not ideal. I was also offered a voucher for a future free delivery – “very kind” I said- “but all I want is my shopping”.

I waited until 10pm – thinking it was unrealistic that my shopping would arrive as surely I would have heard something. On the rare occasion that my usual supplier has been late, I promptly receive a call advising me of the delay, reason for it and estimated time of arrival. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

With no sign of my shopping, I called again and was told that they would call the store to find out what was happening and I would get a call back shortly. At 10.20, knowing the call centre was closing at 10.30 I called again and asked to speak to a supervisor. I was told that they were busy and would call me back tomorrow. All I wanted was a new slot for tomorrow morning and to find out where my shopping was. The advisor attempted to book a new slot but I was told all he could offer me was click and collect. Living over 30 miles from the store and with plans the next day this was unacceptable to me.

I said I was happy to hold for the supervisor paying the extortionate telephone charges but was told he refused to speak to me! I was promised a call back from both the store and a supervisor the next morning and after more than 20 requests to hold, the call centre attempted to end the call. I asked for the name of the manager and was told he wasn’t allowed to give me that information. So I gave up.

The next morning, still not having received either of the two calls I was promised – I called again. I asked yet again to speak to a supervisor and was told they don’t take calls, only escalations. I advised that my concerns had already been escalated and I was due a call back. The advisor promised to chase up the call back and I could expect a call in 2-4 hours. This wasn’t satisfactory to me having already waited over 12 hours for a call back. So I asked to hold. I was then asked… “but what about all the other calls I should be taking?” I reminded the advisor that this was her supervisors problem – not mine.

After repeated requests I was put on hold without notification. A few minutes later I was told there was nothing she could do but I could call the shop myself and she gave me the number – why had no one offered me this option before now.

On calling the store I immediately got through to the groceries manager, who apologised and told me my shopping had been returned to the store but he didn’t know why and he would send it out again that evening. I received the shopping on time that day… but they had been unable to fulfil the items that had lead to me using the new supplier in the first place. Oh… And I’m still waiting for the call back from a supervisor…..!

It’s fair to say I will never be using that retailer again. What did I take away from the experience

1) don’t make promises you can’t keep
2) if you are going to have a customer service team – allow them to actually provide a service and equip them with tools, training and empowerment to be able to contribute positively to the customer experience
3) listen to consumer needs and concerns
4) be proactive. Why could none of the people I spoke to just called the store on my behalf?

What an example of how not to treat the customer. We can only hope that said retailer uses the recording of the call for training purposes, as a case study of how not to do things.

I doubt they will somehow!

So what lessons can we learn from Natalie’s experience? Look at each and every client interaction and ask yourself… is this how I would want to be treated? If not, change things!


Quote of the week

Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther

Thomas Carlyle

Quote of the week

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.

Mary Kay Ash

Do you actually want my business?

I am currently in the process of buying a new car and having narrowed it down to 2 different models I decided to visit the local dealers in the hope of making a decision. I have to say the service received has been less than impressive from both dealerships, though one has been particularly outstanding in their ability to disappoint to such a consistently high standard.

It all started with the test drives, for which I had booked a specific appointment. At the first dealership my arrival caused something of a panic as no-one was available to take me out! Their “IT guy” volunteered to do it so at least I got to try it out!  He couldn’t answer most of the questions I had (not his fault I guess, but the IT guy… seriously?)

Maybe the second dealership would be a bit more interested.

Big assumption. The guy I had booked the appointment with was unavailable as he was with another customer! Would I mind taking a seat? 5 minutes became 10 and then 15. This was my one chance to test drive the cars. I’d specifically booked the time in my diary to do this. I couldn’t afford to abandon and re-arrange, so against my better judgement I sat tight. He did eventually show up and apologised, but I was miffed to say the least.

Since then I have had to put up with…

  • Unreturned phone calls
  • Promises to ring me back which never happen
  • Promises of written quotes by email which never materialise
  • A promise to provide a trade in value on the old car… still waiting (and they’ve inspected it carefully)
  • Promises to provide a quote for both an outright purchase and a leasing option… only the lease option was provided
  • Having to nag, prod, chase and call them every time I wanted an update
  • And finally a promise to call me back before 9 this morning with a comprehensive “best proposal”… you guessed it, still waiting

Now, I don’t believe that any of the things I’ve asked for have been unreasonable. After all, I’m the customer and I’m here to spend a significant sum of money. I actually WANT to spend the money and I’m giving you the chance to make sure I spend it with YOU. If you don’t want my business, just say so. Or maybe it’s just easier to treat me with such disrespect that it becomes obvious that you don’t really value my custom.

You won’t be surprised to hear that, having used the local dealers to test drive the cars and finalise exactly what “extras” I want, I have gone to dealers further afield to supply the car. They’ve managed to turn the transaction into a commodity purchase. They’ve blown their chance win my business. I now know what I want and frankly I can get that from any dealer in the UK prepared to match the price, something I wouldn’t have done if they had shown me that they cared.

Make sure you don’t treat your clients with the same level of disrespect. Making a promise is one thing… keeping it is what makes the difference and builds trust.

Quote of the week

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller (from the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

How to make the critical 20% work for your business

The Pareto Principle, that 80% of the wealth of any country is enjoyed by just 20% of the population, is a widely used business yardstick and with good reason. In our dealings with advisory business, we see so many examples of the 80/20 rule in evidence. Most common of those is that 80% of a typical advisers revenues come from just 20% of their clients.

Even if you use a different measure such as profitability, expected lifetime value, or even how fulfilling they are to deal with, the same principle tends to apply.

Often when we help clients to segment their client list, the first light bulb that goes on is the fact that they aren’t spending 80% of their time with the 20% of clients who are generating 80% of their revenue. This in itself then opens up the wider debate about how they spend their time each day. Is it spent on the crucial 20% of the activities that generate 80% of their results, or on the 80% “low value/return” activities that generate the square root of diddly squat!

Have you ever done that analysis?

In a small business, I accept that many of the low value/return activities need to be done just to keep the business going, but my argument is that they shouldn’t be done by you. I’d suggest you have 4 options for dealing with these low value activities;

  1. Just stop doing them (if they aren’t critical)
  2. Defer them till later (and maybe then you’ll see just how unimportant they are)
  3. Delegate them to someone else in the business (even if that means hiring additional people)
  4. Outsource them

Using the time freed up to focus on the critical 20% high value activities has the potential to transform your results. And it is a choice. You can take control of the success of your business by being ruthless about managing the low value activities such as

  • managing your emails (particularly dealing with spam/irrelevant emails)
  • writing standard letters and reports
  • signing for deliveries
  • ordering stationery
  • answering the phone (without it being screened first)
  • seeing provider representatives!
  • uploading/entering data onto back office or cash-flow modelling software

and spending the time freed up to focus on the critical 20% activities such as

  • client meetings and contact
  • seeking more client referrals from delighted top end clients
  • marketing your business more effectively
  • networking with other professionals and centres of influence
  • turning client complaints into an opportunity to delight them
  • strategic planning
  • improving operational performance (such as client on-boarding and regular reviews)

Take a long hard look at the way you spend your time and try to identify the low value activities that you need to avoid/defer/delegate and refocus that time on the critical 20% activities. Then watch your results take off.


Quote of the week

People begin to become successful the minute they decide to be.

Harvey Mackay

4 guaranteed ways to lose clients

Whilst many advisory firms benefit from very low levels of client attrition, others would acknowledge that hanging on to high value, profitable clients has, in these volatile market conditions, been more challenging than it should be, so I thought it might be useful to look at the key reasons clients leave. Research consistently suggests that the two principle causes of client dissatisfaction (and hence defection) are poor service and poor communication. Whilst losing certain clients (overly demanding, unprofitable, unappreciative, “difficult”) might be seen as a bit of a result, on the whole, client retention is a key driver of profitability.

So, what are the 4 most effective ways to lose clients;

Ignore them.

Whether that’s in person, by email or over the phone, if you don’t constantly and consistently acknowledge that they exist, they’ll walk… eventually. I read the other day that some retailers impose a “10 Foot Rule” that requires customers to be acknowledged by staff if they are within 10 feet. Find ways to keep in touch and make sure your phones are answered quickly and enthusiastically.

Make it difficult to do business with you.

Being difficult to get hold of, being unresponsive or taking too much time to get back to clients are guaranteed to undermine their trust in you. Such behaviour suggests (even if it’s not true) that you just don’t care. Particularly in todays culture of “immediate expectation”. Don’t make clients have to work hard when they interact with you. I recently tried to move a reasonable amount of cash to a new bank. Having completed the application, I had a couple of questions. Finding someone who could answer them was incredibly difficult and when I did they asked me to keep a note of the date I posted the application “in case it went astray!” The completed application went in the bin, not the post!

Break your promises.

Be reliable. Being reliable is the quickest way to build trust, so if you say you’ll do something, do it. And do it in the agreed timescale. All the time, every time, no excuses.

Don’t listen to them.

It’s commercial suicide not to listen to what your customers are telling you. Whether that’s listening to what they say they want/need, listening to what they have to say about your service or your business. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Be proactive. Find ways to engage with clients formally and informally and ask them for their feedback and ideas. They’ll be delighted you asked. Make sure however that you respond to what they say. Use the feedback to make changes to your proposition or the way you deliver your service.

What are your tips for avoiding client defections?

Quote of the week

Learned helplessness is the giving up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that, whatever you do doesn’t matter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger