Who are our customers? Part 2

You may remember my recent blog (if not please check it out regarding the differing treatment of customers by an airport car park service. In that I mentioned that there was another way to treat customers and this was evidenced in a recent trip to Casablanca. My experience there put me in mind of Michael McIntyre’s story about a bus journey (  but my journey involved a taxi driver not a bus driver.

Some colleagues and I were strolling around the city (against the advice of the local rep) trying to find a particular restaurant that, according to the reception at our hotel, wasn’t far away. Up to the next major road junction by the Hilton hotel and take ~~~~ street and the restaurant is on the left, simple. At present they are replacing the tram network in the city so large parts of the roads are building sites, the major road junction in the directions given by our hotel being a great example of this. Plenty of piles of rubble and fences stopping pedestrians wandering into dangerous places.

After about half an hour wandering around trying to find the street we were none the wiser but somewhat hungrier. We decided to pop into the Hilton hotel and ask directions. Unfortunately, they had not heard of the restaurant. So we were left standing outside the Hilton considering our options when we were approached by a rather tall local (the tall bit isn’t important). He mentioned that he was a taxi driver and asked us if he could help. We pointed out that we were looking for a particular restaurant but we knew it was just across the square (albeit one that was difficult to cross because of the rubble etc.) so that we wouldn’t need a taxi, just directions. Rather than try to sell us the idea of the taxi he walked to the curb and started pointing at one of several streets exiting the square and tried to describe the directions. At this point several of his compatriots joined in, trying to get us to get into their taxis.

When it was obvious we still hadn’t ‘got it’ our tall saviour said that he would walk us across the square, by a somewhat circuitous route due to the building works, and show us the relevant street. After we all congregated on the other side, having dodged many cars, taxis and bikes, our tall friend then pointed out the next part of the journey to us. He, obviously, picked up on the look on our faces and saw us for the idiots that we were and said that he would walk us to the next junction. This walking taxi ride continued in the same vein until we actually reached the restaurant we were looking for. At that point the ‘taxi driver’ mentioned that this actual restaurant whilst good was very ‘touristy’ and that if we were looking for better local food and atmosphere he knew of a better restaurant a few streets away. So we continued our ‘taxi ride’ for a further 15 minutes or so.

When we arrived at our new destination the taxi driver took us into the restaurant, introduced us to the owner and insisted that we should get great tables and great service. At this point he bade us goodnight and turned to leave.

So, how is that for customer service? The taxi driver went the extra mile, literally, on foot. He expected nothing from us yet he was prepared to help to his best ability. Unfortunately we left Casablanca the next day. If we had stayed and needed to get anywhere I know who we would have contacted to provide the transport. He would have loyal customers for as long as he needed them and not only that (much like I am doing now) I would be telling everyone I know to use his services. How do your people deal with those that are not your customers YET, do they drive them away or do they turn them into advocates. Do they help everyone to the best of their ability or do the minimum requirement to get by?

….oh, and our friend the taxi driver. Of course we didn’t let him leave. We paid him more than we would have if he had driven us there in his taxi and we paid for his meal with us. He was a very happy man. You see another important learning point is that if you provide exceptional service you can charge a high price for it AND people will not mind paying.


Who are our customers?

Returning from another trip abroad I was standing by the bus stop at the airport, as instructed, waiting to be picked up by the bus to take me back to the car park where I had left my car for the past three days. I was shortly joined by several families who had no doubt received exactly the same information as me.

It was quite chilly and the wait was a little longer than I had expected but eventually the mini bus bearing the right corporate logo turned up. I showed the driver my ticket and he let me onto the bus with my carry-on luggage. As the father of the family behind me stepped forward to join me he was stopped by the driver telling him he could not bring his luggage onto the bus and demanded to see the gentleman’s ticket. The man obliged and passed a ticket similar to mine to the driver. This was immediately thrust back from whence it came with the gruff statement ‘you don’t want this bus your one will be along in a minute’.

When the aggrieved father started to point out that the logo on the bus was the same as the one on the ticket the driver said ‘I know, but this is #### what you want is’. A distinction that neither I, nor any of the other people being left behind in the cold had made, nor one that the lady on the phone had made clear to any of us.

Once we were on our way, just the driver and me in the mini bus, which could easily sit a dozen people, the driver radioed in to say he was returning with one passenger – the one he was told to pick up. From that point I was treated well, my name was used and was shown good attentive service.

On the way back to get my car, I kept thinking about those back at the bus stop. I appreciate that our cars will be in different car parks and that the mini bus that picked me up will not be going their way, but the name of the car park company is the same. As a customer, should they not expect good service from any part of the business that they are paying good money to use? I am not saying that the driver should have picked them up, but I am sure there are better ways of communicating with people (who are not “my” customer) with respect so that they are not immediately alienated.

I will continue to use the company as it is convenient for me; I am not so sure that those left behind will be doing the same, even though the poor service was not provided by the part of the business that they were paying. In the current climate we are all looking for customers, we know that we must provide exceptional service to existing customers if we want return business. Also, we need to be on the lookout for future clients; by definition these will come from people who currently do not do business with us. Therefore, surely we should provide exceptional service to those who are not currently our customers but who have the potential to be, otherwise why would they use our services in the future? In short everyone we come into contact with, is the potential life blood of our company, treat them with respect, help them the best way you can and smile :)

There is another way, see my next blog about the taxi driver from Casablanca.


I feel sorry for the people on the front line

Sorry for people on the front lineA quick trip into one of my local shops to pick up a paper is providing me with a revealing insight into the how the business is run. It is a small store for a major PLC retailer……

I was in the queue behind an elderly gentleman, who like me, had just gone in to purchase a paper. The shop assistant handed him a small leaflet, whilst waiting for the till receipt to be printed. He indicated that he didn’t want it. “But I have to give it to you” she protested; reluctantly and very politely he took it from her. “If you then want to give it back to me that is OK!” she then added. Somewhat shocked he returned the voucher and left. I took the voucher when it was my turn, keen to see what all the fuss was about.

It was a two for one voucher for Merlin Entertainments Attractions. Every time I go in I get handed one of these presumably “because they have to”; even though I go in most days (convenience!), there is no appreciation that I have a small wad of these now. Or at least a street bin has!

It got me wondering about what this woman had been told would happen to her if she did not comply (how would anyone actually know?) with every customer. I also wondered whether the income received for this labour intensive “promotion” was worth the potential alienation of customers. They may be better walking around local streets and just pushing them through letterboxes. I also wondered what training she had had as to how to “sell” this leaflet and why it was important for her to do so – “I have to give it to you, but you can give it back” doesn’t seem to be a very effective selling technique.

Today my wife purchased some greetings cards. She was asked (bizarrely) if she wanted to buy a gift card for £10.00. When she declined the shop assistant indicated that if she bought a card and put £10.00 on it, the shop would add £5.00 and she could then use the gift card to pay for her purchases saving her £5.00. This is odd behaviour; I can only imagine the poor woman is tasked with “selling” more of these gift cards and has worked out that this is a good way of upping her performance. Of course, it is costly for her employers – the card comes at a cost, the discount is immediate, and it is not what the cards are designed for (they are gift cards, with a delay between the shop taking the money and the gift card being redeemed, if ever!). It all seems a bit desperate…………

So what are you doing that is counter-productive either in cash/profit terms or simply in alienation of your customers? How are your front-line staff actually delivering your messages to your customers? Next!



Mr. Johnson’s Room

Mr Johnsons RoomI had a long journey the other day and arrived at my hotel very tired. I hadn’t actually booked the room myself, my colleague had, but I had the booking reference from him and had stayed there a few times before. The lady I saw on reception was very welcoming and I explained who I was and that I wanted to check in and here was my credit card.


“I can’t see that we have a booking for you Mr. Johnson and we are fully booked tonight.”

I suggested they try and look up my colleagues name and then they would see that he had booked two rooms.

Yes, they had a booking for him but not for me.

Also, Mr. Johnson had already checked in.

Well, I commented, a Mr. Johnson may have checked in but I was clearly another Mr. Johnson (with a booking reference and confirmation email!).

Ah, but sir your confirmation email isn’t addressed to you it’s addressed to Mr. C……

Well however you look at it Mr. C has booked two rooms and I would like one of them.

But Mr. Johnson has already checked in.

And so it went on.


Is it possible that you have given my room to this other Mr. Johnson?

Well, I don’t think so.”

“Well, I know you don’t think so but is it possible?”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Ok, could you then establish whether this other Mr. Johnson had a booking or if he was booked under another name?”

“I’m not sure how I would do that.”

“If Mr. Johnson was in his room you could try and ring him and ask him.”

“Good idea………………..I’m afraid there is no reply.”

“Did he leave a mobile number when he checked in?”

“Good idea………..voicemail, but I have left a message.”

“I need to eat.  What time does your restaurant close?

“9.30 Mr. Johnson”

“Well then I will go and eat and perhaps you can see if Mr. Johnson- the other Mr. Johnson- replies to the voicemail”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Well, if you are fully booked, even though I have a confirmation email, perhaps you could find me another hotel?”

“I don’t know if we can do that?”

“Perhaps you could find out, that would be useful?”

“OK, I’ll do that.”


Half an hour later- I got a call from Reception- “Mr. Johnson, the other Mr. Johnson has phoned in. He has replaced a colleague called Mr. Worthington at tomorrow’s conference so we do have a room available.”


I know I should have taken the opportunity to give some feedback and maybe tried to improve matters for the next Mr. Smith or Jones who books there but I was tired and whilst feedback is the ‘breakfast of champions’, “discretion is also the better part of valour”……….


Is there anything else I can help you with?

Anything I can help you withI had to contact my old home insurance company the other day. We have moved house and despite having cancelled the insurance and the direct debit on the previous house we got renewal papers through.

What struck me first was how expensive it would be compared to the prior year. We live in an age where companies love to get new business by offering attractive first year deals but then look to recoup any first year discount as soon as possible. This doesn’t necessarily drive the most effective client behaviour as it encourages clients to shop around but I guess they work on the basis that a significant proportion of clients can’t be bothered to do so. They benefit from the inertia factor. The focus appears to have shifted from looking for long term/lifetime clients and offering them loyalty discounts for staying, to, chase new business and try and retain them for as long as possible.

Linked to this, when I phoned to explain that I didn’t want to renew I had the normal range of – for new policies press 2 etc but if you wanted to cancel then it was a “hot line” -presumably you got through to someone who was more highly trained and whose task was to try and retain you. I explained my situation and the fact that I no longer needed the policy so would not be renewing. They dealt with that part of the call but wanted to know where I lived now and of course what cover I needed on my new house. Reluctantly I gave them my new address so that they could send a confirmation letter about the cancellation but I explained that I already had cover on that property and did not want a quote. Later I did receive the cancellation letter with of course a quote – which was significantly cheaper than the renewal! I didn’t switch.

I’m not complaining about the call which was dealt with well overall but once the business part was dealt with the employee said- “is there anything else I can help you with?” I know that companies want to take every opportunity to “upsell” but what is this phrase for? No other need of mine was identified or even questioned. So, I replied “Could you wash my car for me?” Stunned silence. I then had to explain that I was joking but that the joke had a point. Why were they asking this question? They explained that they had been told to…….. I refrained from giving some free coaching and suggested they take the matter up with their Manager because this phrase on its own is meaningless and doesn’t reflect well on their company. I’m tempted to get a quote from them now and see if there is anything else they can help me with!