Today we are trying out our new Customer First training programme as part of our membership of the Institute of Customer Service, prior to it being launched across the wider organisation. It’s all gone very well with a dozen or so willing volunteers getting involved, making positive noises about what is working and constructive comments about what is not. Thankfully there is more positive noise than the constructive type.
We’ve covered many things, especially around the relationships that we have with the people that we service and rely upon us for their services. We were asked to think about the impressions we have of customers as providers and asked to come up with impressions we have of providers as customers. The vast majority of impressions however were negative, with only a few positive, it was much easier to find bad things to say than good things. Customers were ignorant, selfish and impatient whereas suppliers were rude, condescending and didn’t listen. Sound familiar?
We then did an exercise to identify who our customers were, internal, external, personal and corporate. We were split into four teams with each group starting a list of the different groups of clients. Each group moved on, when requested, to the next list and in this way each of the lists was built up. By the end of the exercise we had four lists which were almost identical to each other, with only some minor differences between the external and internal groups. The point of this exercise, which came across well, was that our customers were very wide ranging and almost everyone that we deal with on a daily basis is a customer.
Here is the rub then, all of us are, at least those of us who work here, both suppliers and customers at the same time. We are either at one side of the counter providing services or at the other side consuming services. In our own roles we rely upon so many other services and supply to those self same services simultaneously that it’s very difficult to decide when you are being a suppler or a being a customer. This is especially true of such a large and complex organisation like ours.
So customers haven’t got a good word to say about suppliers and suppliers haven’t got a good word to say about customers yet we play both roles, at the same time and so the truth is that we haven’t got a good word to say about ourselves. For some reason there is a dichotomy in that we see these tasks as independent. We know that we give a good level of service to our customers, as good as they should expect but we are far from happy at the service we receive.
The truth is probably much simpler and easy to explain, we remember bad service always, excellent service sometimes and good services is taken for granted. But the antidote is that we should always aim to give to our customers the levels of services that we would kike to receive from them. If we do, then we probably will.
You can find out more about the Institute of Customer Service here.