Make sure to pass the Ronseal test in all external interactions and make sure that you deliver on what you commit to

Peter Higgins

Published: 2015-01-07

So with all the talk about user-experience in the digital world, I wanted to return to the more prosaic topic of customer experience in the real world for this blog.  

When I was younger, I remembered my elders recounting the moral that a person who has a good experience will tell a couple of people, while a person who has a bad experience will tell the world.  And so I registered the law of it paying better to be nice to people and to try to be helpful, one which I have striven to apply throughout my career. However, it never fails to amaze me how many firms fail to pay heed to this rule and do not deliver a positive experience each and every time that they interact with customers.

Here are two recent examples which illustrate the importance of this rule. In the first, I purchased, what was for me, a relatively expensive piece of furniture from a specialised retailer in a specific design genre. Having saved my pennies, I made my purchase during their January 2014 sales and was told that it would take 12-14 weeks to make and deliver the furniture. That was perfect for me as one piece was a present for a family member and this would coincide with their birthday. However, 14 weeks ultimately turned into 26 for two of the pieces ordered including a four week stay in docks.  There was no proactive communication from the retailer in question to forewarn me of the delay and to give me a new date. In fact, writing to their customer services did not elicit a satisfactory response either. Only when I wrote to the company’s MD was there any explanation provided and any sense of urgency initiated. Although I did receive a discount to compensate me for the inconvenience, it had left a negative impression. I would have preferred if I had simply been told 6 months at the beginning, but my expectations had been set and were then broken.

Worse was to follow in that one of the two delayed pieces had imperfections when it arrived and I was left with the choice of another discount or waiting for a replacement, neither of which I wanted as I was happy to pay the price that I paid originally.  Even worse, within 6 months a third piece of furniture which initially arrived relatively on-time suffered a key component failure, the replacement for which needed to be shipped from China as no spares are apparently kept in the UK and no timeline could be provided for this to be resolved. Can you imagine me ever recommending this retailer to a friend or colleague again (something which I had done initially as their range and prices were both very attractive and competitive)?

In the second instance, I was a recent visitor to the Appleton Rum factory in Jamaica and towards the end of a delightful tour with a most engaging guide, the car park security attendant brought a flat tire to the attention of our driver. Now this was the first moment where this young man had a choice whether to notify us of it, or ignore it and hope that we drove off without noticing and without disturbing his day. He choose the former. However, he did not stop there, he then summonsed a worker to help with the removal of the punctured tire and its replacement with a spare. Thank you, sir, very much appreciated, you’ve certainly done more than your moral duty. You can stop now with the kindness if you choose. But he did not. Next, he informed us that there was a garage a short drive away where we could get our tire repaired. But he would not let us go alone – he insisted on sending a colleague with us so that we would get served promptly and not get taken advantage of. And so within less than 30 minutes of our flat tire being discovered, it had been removed, replaced, repaired, and re-installed. And while all of that was taking place the rest of our group were treated to some complementary refreshments whilst they waited. Now who wouldn’t be recommending a trip to Appleton after such an experience? And how could I ever buy anything other than Appleton rum in the future?

While many think of customer experience in the consumer context, I believe that it is even more important for those operating in the B2B domain as an individual relationship could be worth thousands or even millions of pounds in revenue. This is why I advise clients to have high levels of transparency with their partners and clients. If there is going to be an issue of any sort, flag it early, demonstrate what you are doing about it, and suggest interim solutions where possible. If you make a commitment, deliver against it. If a client requests something, be open. If it is not feasible in their requested timeframes then explain and also propose what you could deliver in the given timelines. And if there is the opportunity to help someone in need, do so, as this is what makes lasting relationships: people working together for mutually beneficial outcomes whilst being supportive of each other along the way.