Monday, December 17

Little things mean a lot when it comes to great service

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You won’t find this outstanding service approach in any handbook

Mr M Ward is a customer service guru – but not in the traditional sense of the word. You will not see him up on a stage espousing on the greatest and the best – telling us what we should all do differently. He is one of those dedicated and often unheralded master practitioners who delivers excellence by example.

I knew Mr Ward for less than hour but in that hour, he delivered one of the best customer experiences I have enjoyed this last year.

Virgin Media are not perfect. On one side some reviews have declared them as offering amongst the best overall UK broadband packages –if somewhat expensive. The pricey aspect of the package might go some way to explaining why the number of new subscribers dropped by more than 70% in the last quarter of 2017. Customer experience and service surveys are also mixed. report that the company scored almost top in overall customer satisfaction whereas Trustpilot reports that 86% of their customer reviews judge them poor or worse.

For the record, I don’t believe Trustpilot is representative of overall customer perception – it is representative of how loudly a customer will bark if they don’t get their way. However, companies don’t continue to grow if 86% of their customers complain. The real state of the game is that only a very small percentage of the overall customer base – around 0.1% – complained on Trustpilot; we can assume a large chunk of the other 99.9% were reasonably satisfied.

But here’s the point: customers were not satisfied enough to go out of their way to leave a positive review.

This best practice approach is skewed: it ticks boxes, but it is not good enough to make a critical difference.

Aiming for best practice will cost Virgin Media and many other companies customers and money.

Companies need people like Mr Ward – they make enough of a difference to make a customer tell someone. Good service is not good enough. It’s expected of every high-end company. Good service is not enough to make a critical difference. In the noisy, over-busy and stressed world we live in, the critical difference represents what gets you remembered and commented on versus the “thank you, well done” then forgotten.

It’s also the bit I have spoken about many times: the difference between those aspiring for best practice who deliver average overall performance, and those who make the memorable difference and create super-performance.

The difference is not always that great, but boy does it have impact.

In the context of installing a new broadband, digital TV channels and phone, “best practice” forgettable is what you would expect. The phone call 20 minutes before the agent is due to arrive, nudging me in case I had forgotten. The precise and neat setting up of the new equipment. The cleaning up afterwards. The demonstration of the new box and controls. That’s good service. It’s the best practice that all companies try and teach their staff to deliver each and every time.

It’s also what drives the 9/10 or 10/10 response in Net Promoter Score surveys.

So, job done – right? Errr, no

If you aspire to be a super-performer it’s not good enough.

Yes, I would have thanked the agent. Yes, I would have filled in a positive survey. But I would not have told anybody. I would not have remembered the agent’s name. I would have mostly forgotten about Virgin Media unless I encountered a problem which would have probably been at an inconvenient time and I would have given the company relatively little leeway because they are not supposed to muck up. I would not have left them for that but does good service create real loyalty?

Not a chance.

What Mr Ward did – I suspect – has not been written into any customer service best practice handbook.

It was all the little things. The extra effort to make friends with “The Wolf” – my oversized barky and growly German Shepherd. The proactive suggestions about how to get best use out of the broadband when response levels drop. I had back spasms from an injury I picked up moving heavy stuff two days previously and I was struggling to get much in the way of mobility. As well as clearing up all the dust around where he positioned the router, he also picked up the cardboard The Wolf had ripped up earlier which I was struggling with. He asked whether I needed any painkillers from the cupboard. He told me about the performance improvements that the latest boxes Virgin Media was now shipping out to his customers. He made a fuss of the dog when she decided he was now a new friend and wanted attention. He made sure all the devices I had in the house were hooked up and working before he left. This did not feel like an agent doing a job. I felt he genuinely cared and prided himself on being amongst the most proactive and the best.

No single aspect was hard to do but in combination I remembered it. This is what great customer service looks like and companies like Virgin Media should work out what makes this sort of person tick and try and harness it across their staff. In fact, every company should because they change a commodity service into a memorable one.

When a service experience is good enough to make someone write about it, it must be good. The incredible thing is the difference between great and merely satisfied and forgotten is small in terms of effort but massive in terms of impact.

Little things matter.

Well done Mr Ward, Virgin Media Tech id 7380!



About Author

Founder & CEO. Charles is an acknowledged leader in customer-driven performance change using both best practice and emerging next practice perspectives. He leads, mentors and coaches in both strategic and operational initiatives. A strong believer is the potential for "supercompany performance" he innovates using next practice thinking and methods to enhance the business. He researches heavily to retain his reputation as a thought leader, which he has applied across 40 countries, multiple sectors and companies such as Citibank, Nielsen, Microsoft, Vodafone, Tracker and governments in Middle East and Asia. Contributes to business journals and often invited as a speaker or chairman to events all over the world.

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