Thinking about customers

I like going to the Institute of Customer Service events.  I have been a member for a dozen years or so, ever since I was at North Tyneside.  I wear my badge with pride.  There are so many big things that I need to think about such as where technology is going, new ways of working, the internet of things, open data, the regional economy, bringing young people into ICT etc.  The list seems endless.  The customer is one of them.

Sometimes the only way that I can get time in my crowded head is to go to an event.  It guarantees me some focussed attention.  Perhaps I should try mindfulness again?

I find writing about the subject a help as well.

The latest event was up in Edinburgh.  It is a place that is very easy to get to.  It is a simple train ride and if I get the timings right I can leave from my local station.  Getting back is not so easy and it is weird seeing your house flash past from the carriage window, only to have to get the train back up from Newcastle.  I think all trains stop there.

It was hosted by Edinburgh University and had presentations from them, Scottish Water and the Institute’s customer insight team.

Customer service is a hard trick to pull off.  Sometimes I feel like the grand old Duke of York, neither up nor down the mountain we need to climb.  Helen on my table said that it was like snakes and ladders.  You make your way up the board only to slip down on a snake.

The interesting thing though is that no matter what kind of market you are trading in or what kind of organisation you are we all face the same issues.  How do we understand what our customers value?  How do we get our people to think about providing the kind of service that they wish to receive? How do you satisfy your customers even if you can’t fulfil their wishes?

It is always interesting to see how others tackle such opportunities.  It is good to have the opportunity to think about applying their lessons to where I work.

There was a lot of talk about empowerment, empowering managers to empower their people and giving people the confidence to be empowered.  I was reminded of Nordstrom and using good judgement in all situations.  I realised that in these financially straightened times being controlling is not an option. Being authoritarian is a luxury we cannot afford.

We also talked about how the behaviour of leaders and managers needs to reflect the values of the organisation.  Does our behaviour always live up to expectations?  I’m not so sure.  As customers become more savvy our behaviours become even more important.  It is the only thing that we can differentiate by.

I had plenty to think about on the way home.  I’d flown past my house before I even realised.

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