Good customer service is very important to me – is it important to you? In fact during 2014, I made a point of praising anyone who gave me, or my family, excellent service and being very clear when service was not up to scratch.
One mantra I’ve heard repeated several times is ‘why is this important when you can buy so much online now?’ – to me, there is no difference between excellent customer service on or offline. If it wasn’t important, why would services like Amazon and Ebay ask for reviews? And do you ever read the reviews? I do – and does it influence a buying decision? It certainly does for me.
Excellent Customer Service
In the real world, shopping has to be more and more like an experience – and a good experience at that – why? because it’s so much easier, more convenient and often cheaper to buy online. Therefore, real world shopping must offer something extra. There must be some added value which engages the emotion. These are absolute musts for 2015.
If anyone is in doubt – look at the success in my home town of Swindon of the Designer Outlet Village, where experience is at the heart of shopping. People come from all over the country to shop there – they anticipate a bargain and they also anticipate an experience. This flagship centre for McArthur Glen – the company which runs the site – is a testament to good service. The mailing list for this one outlet centre alone is huge – a list many of us would be thrilled to manage.
So what is bad customer service? For me, it’s any person within any business who makes me FEEL slighted, stupid, silly, of little value – EVEN IF I’M IN THE WRONG. Remember the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ – there’s sense in that. No one can argue with how a customer feels, even if that customer is being unreasonable. Here are a few things I personally class as ‘bad’ service:
*Being ignored when I ask a direct question – this once happened to me in an Apple store where the member of staff, started talking to another customer during a conversation with me – I left and made no purchase.
* Being continually hassled by staff when it’s clear I’m browsing and taking in the shop and what it has to offer. Once is enough.
* Being made to feel stupid when you can’t work out the intricacies of the ‘bill’ – this happened to me recently at Dominos Express in Swindon where the manager insisted I was unintelligent – his view changed however when I told him I was a journalist (something I should not have to do to be treated well). I will never enter that shop again. Not because the pizzas aren’t good – but I will be reminded of how I was made to feel.
*Being pushed aside by a telephone call – if I’m being served and the staff member receives a telephone call, I expect to come first – not be dismissed in favour of a telephone. This will guarantee I will leave without making a purchase.
*Being told ‘we can’t do that because the system won’t accept it’ – this has happened to me several times, when you want to amend a standard order, especially in food outlets. Where you cannot make a small change because a computer system is set up to offer no options. Again, a great reason for me to leave.
However it’s no good being continually negative. I now take the time to thank people for good service, fill in surveys where requested and give feedback. Nothing will change if you don’t engage. I have no idea what happens to that feedback, i just know it’s worth doing. Some excellent customer service highlights for me this year:
* the patience of a store manager when one of my children was horribly embarrassed about having a bra fitting and was tearful on entering the shop.
* the excellence of an American company which supplied me with a faulty product and replaced it within 48 hours, from America, at no extra cost and did not insist on the faulty item being returned.
* the responsive attitude of a Mini Service member of staff in Swindon who listened when I explained a complaint, put it right immediately and then sought me a better deal to make me feel better – hence work on my car which I thought would be £200 at least was actually £25. Now how will I feel on entering those premises again?
So it’s all about excellent customer service – but the onus is also on me as a consumer to give feedback, to say thank you and to praise as much as possible those who go the extra mile.
I’d be interested in your experiences too….
Today I was asked to write a blog post about Twitter – so I’m happy to oblige.
Why? Well, as a media consultant and journalist I often hear comments like ‘why bother with Twitter?’ or ‘I’m on Twitter but I’ve no idea what to do’.
These phrases are familiar because a few years ago that’s exactly what I thought. When I became self-employed in 2009, I had a Twitter account which sat there doing absolutely nothing. I would occasionally send out a tweet but couldn’t really see how much good it would do for me in business.
However after about 18 months, for some reason, I really thought about it compared with other social media platforms. I realised it’s potentially a great way to connect with people – and here’s the key thing – very quickly with minimum effort. Also as a journalist, I’m often looking for good stories so this could be an effective way to achieve another good outcome. So I set myself a challenge – to give Twitter a year and try to systematically build my audience to work for me more effectively.
I put out of my mind the fact that Twitter is global, has billions of accounts, loads of spam accounts and can be risky in terms of trolling etc. I trusted my common sense to deal with these issues as they arose (and they have from time to time and I’ve dealt with them as needed). I decided to use Twitter according to my agenda, my audience and my desired business reach. Therefore good connections for me are in the south west and London, they are people rather than organisations and one key thing – I share, I share a lot, I share as much as I tweet and I share things which interest me or which I think are generally interesting. If you do this, I guarantee at some point someone will say to you ‘I really enjoy your Twitter feed you share some good stuff’ or ‘Oh yes, I saw you talking about that on Twitter’. You are creating your own news service.
Very quickly, having made that decision to take Twitter seriously, it became addictive and I got engaged in various conversations. I then decided to think about the best times to tweet – and you will find me talking most in the evenings and the mornings.
However the pivotal moment came when I saw a tweet asking for someone who could write a script and who had experience in the education sector. I answered as I met those criteria with a phrase ‘that’s me’. That tweet led to another tweet, which led to an email which led to a telephone conversation which led to a paid-for trip to London for a meeting which then led to a project which paid me £3,000. This was a short-term piece of work which I could relate directly back to a single tweet with a company which would never have found me – or vice versa – if it wasn’t for this amazing social platform.
That sold me on Twitter and I’ve had many great outcomes since. I’ve been offered work by people who’ve engaged with me, made the effort to research me online and then offered me work. I’ve been able to place publicity for clients and myself, and I’ve raised my profile in my own community in the south west. I will often go into a room full of business people – many of whom I’ve never met – and people start talking to me as if they know me. Talk about the best ice-breaker.
Another outcome is that those who are beginners now pay me to get them started on Twitter – a totally unexpected outcome. So I’ve actually put my ad hoc strategy into something more strategic and started to apply it across Facebook and, more recently Pinterest. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just understand the concept of social conversation over the internet and how to control some of that conversation. I’m still discovering and I often go to workshops by others to increase my own personal knowledge.
My top tips are:
Really be clear as to what is a good outcome on Twitter for you. That way you can track success.
When you make a clear connection – take the conversation from the virtual world to the real world.
Share, share, share.
And finally please follow me @mum3fi
Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.
There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?
You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.
Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.
However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.
I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.
But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.
It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.
The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.
I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.
If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.
The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.
I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.
Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!
No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….
Guest post from my Twitter friend @Ianaf72 or Ian Francis from Swindon – we had a little twitter chat about being tired and I challenged him to write a guest blog. Here it is!
‘Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired’
I’ve included this quote, not because it’s particularly relevant to this blog, but because I hope it would make me seem more intelligent to the mums who work in media reading this site.
I’m not intelligent. The fact I’m typing this, when I could be taking the opportunity to sleep, is proof of that.
And in my case, that is my failing: that I don’t manage my time effectively and take the opportunities I have to rest. I could play the sympathy card and state that I’m tired because I’m a modern dad with a two and a half year old daughter (which is partly true) – but she sleeps much better nowadays. I’m just bad at listening to my body.
Now’s the time to sleep? or is it?
Take last night. My wife was away (she was working, not on a jolly) and I was solely in charge. I managed bath-time and bedtime with efficiency, and got to eat before midnight. I went to bed early (I was in bed by 8.30!) What did I do? Did I crash, safe in the knowledge that I’d get a few hours solid sleep? No – I did some work (I did work, promise) – 1 point to me; I then spent far too much time on twitter (as always) and then played Football Manager (you’ll know that ladies, it’s what takes loving partners away from you for weeks at a time). Minus 2 points. I finally turned out the light at 11.30pm.
So – I can whinge and whine that I’m tired; and I can tell myself that it’s the pressures that life places on me – but the reality is, I’m obsessed with the unimportant things which steal time from us all if we’re not careful.
I guess I can catch up with my beauty sleep whilst being made to watch Despicable Me for the 200th time.
Today I have done a little dance around the room because my Klout score has gone up to 65 – the highest it’s ever been.
This may seem like a small victory but it’s taken me four years to get to 60 and a week to jump five points – so I believe blogging more often must have something to do with that. It’s not so much the blog itself, as only a few people take the time to comment on the blog page. It’s the interactions and comments on other virtual spaces, the shares and the likes which seem to make the difference.
What’s your number?
There are many analytics around Klout – which will interest those of you who use figures, numbers, systems, columns, detail and ROI stuff. I tend, according to my profile (and it’s true) more general results – like seeing 65 pop up unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon.
When I started learning about social media and its potential three years ago, and learned about Klout and the fact that it measures your true influence across the internet, my score was 28. That was at a time where I messed around a bit with Facebook, had a Twitter account but did nothing with it – and the same with LinkedIn. I’ve not really done Pinterest, Flickr or other things which are now more common.
Gradually my influence rose as I became more active. As I became more active I saw more results. I gathered case studies for stories, ideas for stories, have made friends and have made connections which have brought me clients. But it’s not been overnight, it’s been gradual and it’s required work. But I can point to at least two clients, one long term, which have been the direct result of doing stuff in the virtual space. You would be surprised who is watching you and saying nothing but absorbing that information. I’m not talking about this in a creepy sense, but more in a ‘putting yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind’ sense.
When I reached the golden 50 – I got a free gift of business cards – thanks very much. That was when I found out that in the USA, there are many high end business activities or events that you cannot access without a score that high. Big internet companies will filter guests by looking at how ‘engaged’ they are. I suspect that this will be coming our way too, though we’re not there yet.
So everyone, don’t be afraid of Klout. If you like facts and figures, it will give you all of that data. If, like me, you just want to see results and are not hung up on the detail, then know this one fact – if you engage, you will be engaging and if you’re engaging, you will be engaged – and I’m not necessarily talking romance here!
I’ve worked with many small businesses and charities over the years and have found that plenty would like to have a regular presence in the media or online but few have the budget to match.
PR takes time, and while a couple of articles in the press may help with instant publicity, often what is needed is a long-term strategy to develop a brand and continuous plugging away at getting customer recognition. Many small organisations lack the skills internally and can’t afford to hire someone on an on-going basis, so how can they build a media profile?
Fiona and I have been puzzling about how to tackle this issue for a while. We were talking with social media whizz, Jackie Hutchings and fellow blogger and journalist Jo Smyth, it turned out that they’d been pondering the same thoughts too.
So we’ve decided to join forces and run a course on – to put it bluntly – do it yourself PR.
We have more than enough experience between us to teach the basics on how to get started on social networks, to engage an audience, blog and write a press release. We find that many small business businesses have stories to tell but they don’t know how to communicate them effectively on or offline. There is a method in writing a decent press release, and there are strategies to deploy to give that story more chance of being used. This day will help delegates understand how the media works, what makes a good story and what doesn’t.
We are prepared for complete beginners, who find Facebook, Twitter and Google+ a complete modern mystery, and for those who use social media but would like to engage in a more effective way. By the end of the day you should be able to identify and write a good story about your news and know how to maximise the ways of communicating that message. Our aim is that delegates walk away with real, practical skills to build on what they already know.
And the final thing is, this course is aimed just at women.
We want a relaxed vibe to the day, where questions (however basic) can be asked with no judgement.
My DIY PR takes place at the Mechanics Institute in Milton Rd, Swindon on Tuesday, October 23rd.
Anyone interested can book here
Today’s blog is a bit of a rant. I cannot help it but within the space of 12 hours, two things about LinkedIn have really annoyed me.
It’s also made me think about the role each social media offering plays in my life, both professional and personal.
For me, LinkedIn is a professional site where I can share insights, news, interesting bits and bobs with other business people.
These might be people I admire, I like, I’ve worked with or I simply know or they’ve requested to be linked to me and I’ve checked them out and thought ‘yes’.
I do try not to directly market to individuals with whom I am linked. I try not to do this because frankly I hate it being done to me. I usually post information about what I’m doing, appeals for help etc on my profile or status and leave it to others to engage directly if they are interested.
I’ve found that if I’m linked to an organisation like a hotel – I might get individual messages relating to events which I usually delete. Today, I’ve been targetted by two separate individuals in two different ways and it’s safe to say I’m fed up.
One was a person from overseas, asking me if she could talk to me as she’s got ideas for television programmes and would like to talk to someone about them. There followed a basic list of about five ideas. Great.
I get numerous requests like this on an annual basis and they take up lots of time. People often think they’ve got a great idea for television but have no idea how to take the next step. Well, let me give it to you straight – go to an established independent production company in the UK and ask for a hearing. Unless you are hand in hand with someone within broadcasting that’s one of the only ways to be heard. And another fact, less than five per cent of those ideas will get beyond first base. I know this because I’ve tried it many times, and yes, I’ve had some success.
Hearing the ideas, explaining how tv works, helping with contacts takes a lot of time and effort. Plus I don’t know how the system works in Australia (where this person is purportedly based), it could be totally different but I doubt it. And if it’s America, you’ll probably get all literature posted back to you unopened.
So, harsh as it may sound, I declined the message. Only to get two more with lots of question marks and exclamation marks as though I’ve done something heinous. In the end I send a brief reply outlining the above. So I’m now giving notice – if I don’t know you well on LinkedIn and you want that type of information – I’ll give it to you at my normal daily working rate. Please DM me, I’d be more than happy to hear from you.
Don’t yell at me with your marketing message on LinkedIn – that’s not what I like. Tell me quietly and I’ll consider…..
The other message came from a man asking me to buy his book. It’s related to raising money for charity, it’s a dreadful personal story. The first time I received this message, I replied in some detail. I’ve received it again, the same message clearly sent out as a round-robin request a few months later.
How do I feel about that? My empathy is the same but I still feel like I’m being barked at in a very personal way. If I want to buy a book I will, please don’t try to make me guilty enough to buy it. I went through a hard time with a terrible illness a few years ago and I started to write a book about it – but don’t worry I won’t send you personal messages trying to sell it to you. I’ll let you know about it in passing and the rest is up to you!
Is there an etiquette to this type of marketing? I don’t really know. I just know what really annoys me.
And by the way, I’m holding a DIY PR day for business women on October 23 in Swindon to help you do your own PR stuff. If you are interested – just contact us through this website. I won’t be sending you direct messages on LinkedIn!
Today, I decided to talk about a week where social media has really started to show its power.
I’ve been taking social media seriously now for the last two years, sometimes feeling as if I’m too embedded in a virtual environment – a bit like that scene from the Stargate movie where they put their heads through the ‘watery’ porthole which sucks them in….
But I think it’s paying off in so many ways. First and foremost it’s the friends I’m making all over the world – I can’t believe that someone from Singapore, or San Francisco finds anything I say remotely of interest. This week, I’ve connected with Jason in America (no I’ve never met him) and we’ve decided to mutually appreciate each other for a month. So choosing positive key words to describe someone you’ve never met – and probably never will – across Twitter. Might seem a bit pointless but it’s strangely fun and all in the best possible taste.
Also I’ve been flagging up a DIY PR event we’re holding in the south west next month for women in business. I had four inquiries on the first day I started tweeting about it. I wasn’t expecting that!
With my even more business-like hat on I’ve got two lots of paid work in the last two weeks purely through messages put across on social media. How did that happen? I think it’s a question of engagement and being there – that simple, replying at the right time. And, of course, we are good at what we do…
None of that covers the countless RTs we’ve enjoyed and I’ve enjoyed from people all over the place – as you can tell Twitter is my favourite site though I’m also active on Linked In and Facebook.
On the downside I did have one nasty attack as well. Someone thought it would be funny to call me names – I didn’t know this person so I just blocked them. After saying ‘sad little man’ – if, of course it was a man at all.
Get tweeting – don’t be afraid to show off a little….
All in all, I’m enjoying my time online and it’s paying off in unexpected ways. Long may it continue….
We all know it was all over the news yesterday, don’t we? Among the chatter and noise, there were a few voices of reason – saying ‘shut up!’, ‘contempt of court‘. I responded to a couple. Is this going to be the case where the social media chatter and speculation and judgements cause a court case to collapse? Is that in anyone’s interests?
That’s all I plan to say on that matter. However in a quieter corner of social media land, I stumbled across an interesting debate on whether or not it is legal to ‘name and shame’ a company online when they’ve not paid their bills or allegedly given bad service. I joined that chatter as it interests me as a journalist – though, I’m no lawyer.
It was a timely debate because only last week such a message about a company in the Bath area was put on Twitter and I flagged up how damaging that can be with the social media outlets we all have access to these days. It’s easy for someone to vent their spleen over such things. Within seconds though, many Tweeters had defended this company and supported it. I felt it right that I re-tweet those comments to redress the balance. For me, the fact that that happened did re-dress the balance. So even if that company had that negative comment on its Twitterfeed on its website, for example, the positive comments would come in behind and cancel out the effect. If the company then went on to deal positively with that complaint (as it should any way), a negative can become a positive.
So back to the debate. Can you post statements online about a company’s bad service, non-payment or any matter about a company or organisation – would that make you subject to legal action? My answer is yes, you can put anything you like online about a company even if it’s defamatory. But like anything, beware the consequences. We do live in a democracy and we should have freedom of speech.
Defamation can be defended. If what you are saying is true and you have paperwork to support your claim, it’s fine. If it’s your experience and then you claim it’s true, ask yourself can the company defend itself against such claims? If it cannot, you are fine. Truth is the best defence – though there are others such as fair comment and public interest. These are harder to prove.
For me it’s about common sense.
Also beware of ‘malicious’ intent – it’s fine to say “I’m having a problem with such and such company, is anyone out there having problems too?’ but it’s not fine to get Twitter followers to continually malign that said company, especially if they have no direct experience of it. What I don’t know is if it’s fine for people to keep re-tweeting negative messages. I don’t think this has been examined in court yet.
People have a very funny view of defamation and libel. It’s the same with invasion of privacy. As journalists we often come across this. Don’t assume that just because you don’t want something said, that it won’t be expressed.
Don't tell tall stories online - stick to the truth....
I once had a recruitment agency in the Swindon area which threatened to take me to court if I mentioned the fact that one of its former employees was taking it to an industrial tribunal. What nonsense! I almost shrieked with laughter.
Industrial tribunals are public events and the press are informed of them – any journalist can go along and report on proceedings. If someone lies in those proceedings (same with a court) as long as a company is approached for a right of reply, a journalist is free to print that lie with any response (contemporaneously). If the company doesn’t like it, that’s tough and completely irrelevant.
I recently had someone talk to me about an inquest and how could she stop a journalist attending as a family member had passed away suddenly and it was traumatic all round. I gently told her that she couldn’t. An inquest is a public event and journalists are informed. It’s often fifty/fifty whether they will turn up or not – but they are perfectly entitled to do so. In this case, as it happens, no journalist attended.
I had another case where I was producing a short film about a Cheltenham-based company which was clearly ripping people off for thousands of pounds. We contacted the boss – remember, you can only defame a person, not a company – and he responded with legal threats.
The day of transmission, he turned up at the studio with a lawyer and sat in a room with us outlining why we were defaming him, his fellow director and therefore his company. It was a long drawn-out meeting but we knew he had no real defence. The pivotal moment came when I said ‘you’re right we are defaming you’. He was silenced by this. I went on to say ‘but there are defences for doing so and one is ‘it’s true’. His solicitor nodded in agreement. The item was aired that night.
The funny thing was, about two months’ later, I had a call from this man’s solicitor. He wanted me to know – and laugh ironically – at the fact that he had been employed to defend this business man’s honour (and I use the term loosely) and had not been paid! Probably never was!
It’s the Easter holidays and I’ve taken a few days off to spend time with my children. I’m not alone in this of course.
When I do take time off with the children and we spend a few days out and about – one thing which really bugs me is poor customer service – those occasions when, as a customer (often a customer with children) you are treated as though you are at best an irritant and at worst, a complete idiot.
There are few thing which rile me in life – but one is being treated with disdain when I’ve behaved appropriately and with good manners. I’m not the only one though – these last few weeks on Twitter I’ve seen some of my followers and those I follow, complaining about several companies including John Lewis, Jamie Oliver‘s Bath restaurant, an expensive farm shop and restaurant in Devon and others. I’m just one person – but I can remember these tweets and who tweeted them (and I’m not even trying). So to all of you business people who think social media doesn’t matter – this is one of the powerful reasons that it does.
I’ve said previously that I once complained about Thames Water on Twitter regarding their very slow response to a major water leak outside my house. To my amazement, the tweet was answered, an apology and explanation followed. This company didn’t know I was a journalist, I was a customer who was fed up – and the company responded. Good on Thames Water. It made me feel that they had listened to me – and that counts. Making a customer feel cared about is valuable beyond measure – more valuable than even what you charge for your services.
But my little gripe today is quite different and very specific. This week I went into a town centre car park and took my ticket at the entrance, ready to pay on foot when I finished. On returning to the machine, it said my ticket was invalid. Great. What now?
Well I know what now because this has happened to me more than once. I had to drive down to the lower floor, park up, go to the ticket office. Have a lecture about how I’ve kept my ticket too close to my mobile phone and wiped the magnetic strip – so be careful next time. In reality, I’d kept the ticket in an outer pocket of my handbag for easy access (I’m like that) and my phone was inside my handbag inside its own zipped case (yes, I really am like that). I said I didn’t think that the mobile phone had anything to do with it – and if it did, where was a notice in the car park to warn people about this design fault? As most people who park there probably have a mobile phone in a pocket or bag. Blank stare followed.
Having handed me a new ticket, I then march off to another machine, pay the money and leave. Thus a simple task becomes a ten minute labour. That was last week and I haven’t bothered with town since – in Swindon we’re lucky and have lots of options when it comes to shopping so I’ve avoided the town as it’s too much hassle.
So a problem occurs – and as the customer I’m made to feel I’m at fault and have to go to extra lengths to sort out this problem. This is a council-run car park and I couldn’t help but feel I got a public service, job’s worth attitude (which seems to be within some public service employees).
I highlight this because the week before a similar thing happened at the Swindon Designer Outlet Village (which I don’t hesitate to recommend as a great place to go). An invalid ticket message came up again – I went to the customer service desk and they checked it out. The ticket machine had failed to print clear data on the ticket. Then, without hesitation and without any blame, they gave me a free pass to get out of the car park. For me, these staff gave the impression that they wanted me to feel good about the place – AND COME BACK AGAIN TO SPEND MONEY!
Treat all customers with respect.....
A little thing, but it shows that making a customer feel good is the best way of getting repeat business. Do you agree?