Today has been spent funeral planning for Dad’s send off, we’ve discussed Dad’s wishes with him before his death, as a family since and with the priest who will be taking the service today. The next week or so will be spent pulling together a tribute/euology/speechy thang that I’ll say on the day. I discussed it with Dad the week before he died, he was quite traditional in his views and I was worried he’d tell me no but I thought I had to let him decide, but he didn’t say no. In true Bobby fashion he was pragmatic ‘Won’t make much difference to me, I don’t have to listen to ya’ and as ever ready with advice ‘…make sure it’s good, but don’t waffle on for too long’.
I’m quite relishing the challenge of pulling something together, of gathering memories, thoughts, quirks, habits and Bobby’isms. I reckon speaking it on the day will be a killer, but I want to do it, and I want someone who knows Dad to do it so he gets the proper send off he deserves.
One of the things we realised when we started reminiscing was how much of Dad’s life we don’t really know about, and how important it is to try and capture memories while they’re fresh for people. So we’ve decided to give people postcards at the funeral to scribble down a favourite memory of Dad….and what better implement to be used for such a purpose than an Ikea pencil! Dad *loved* those chubby Ikea pencils – he’d pocket a handful every time he went, nothing like a bargain….and ideal size for tucking behind your ear when working on DIY projects. I thought I’d chance my arm and get in touch with Ikea and see whether we could buy some pencils for the occasion, I decided to use the live chat and spoke with Surinder. Transcript as follows:
|Surinder (16:40):||Hi, thanks for contacting IKEA! My name is Surinder, how can I help?.|
|User (16:41):||I have a rather odd request! My father died last week and we”re planning his funeral….he loved Ikea pencil”s and I wondered if it would be possible to purchase a box to use at his funeral?!|
|Surinder (16:44):||Are these the ones that are available in the store to use for customers?|
|User (16:45):||Yes, that”s the ones – we were hoping we could acquire some for people to use to fill out a memory postcard!|
|Surinder (16:46):||Which is your local store please and how many are you looking for and when do you need these by|
|User (16:47):||My local store is Bristol, the funeral is next Thursday (and it may be possible for someone to come and collect or we would pay for postage) and we”d ideally like about 100.|
|Surinder (16:56):||I will ring the store for you, it may take a little while or you ok to wait?|
|User (16:57):||Yes of course, thank you|
|Surinder (17:08):||The person I need to speak will not be available for about 10 minutes, is it ok to wait or can I call you?|
|User (17:08):||Yeh happy to wait, am online anyhow, thanks|
|User (17:10):||Hi Surinder, I”ve just been speaking with my brother and his local store is XXX if that helps/is easier?|
|Surinder (17:11):||Thats fine I can contact them for you aswell.|
|User (17:12):||Brilliant, thank you – I think XXX would be easier because we actually live two hours from the Bristol store, but my brother lives around the corner from XXX. Thank you.|
|Surinder (17:20):||When are you able to go to the store (XXX)|
|User (17:22):||I”m sure it would be possible one evening between now and next Wednesday, or maybe at the weekend. I”m sure my brother could be flexible to suit them.|
|Surinder (17:29):||You can go into the store anytime and speak to any co-worker and say that you have spoken to the contact centre and XXX (Marketing Manager) has authorised 100 pencils for you to have. If you have any problems please ring the contact centre on XXX and ask to speak to me. I will not be available on Friday 23/11 or Sunday 25/11. Somedays I am here til 8.00 pm|
|User (17:30):||That”s brilliant, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. You don”t know how much my Dad would have loved that!! Thank you.|
|Surinder (17:31):||You are welcome. Hope everythings go well for you. I am sorry to hear about your father.|
|User (17:31):||Thank you|
So there we have it, Bobby’s funeral will be complete with memory cards and his beloved Ikea pencils. An amazing piece of goodwill marketing by Ikea and a brilliant result for us. Love it.
Last night as I was busy enjoying @PizzaCafeNewton and watching the Apprentice Final, I received a phonecall on my landline. The conversation went as follows:
Caller: Hi, it’s Ben (cant remember his proper name) calling from Santander. Just to let you know this call may be recorded for training purposes.
Me: Uh huh
Caller: Can you confirm the first name of your address please
Me: Um, could you tell me what you’re calling about please
Caller: Um, I need you to confirm your address details first, they’re DPA requirements. I’m from Santander.
Me: Sorry Ben, I’m not sure I’m that comfortable confirming my details to you
Caller: Why not, it’s DPA requirements…Data Protection Act
Me: Well, yes, but I’m still not that happy with it. You called me, how do I know who you are (while really thinking I’d rather be enjoying my evening)
Caller: I’m Ben, from Santander
Me: Yes I know you say you are, but I don’t know that. I’m not that comfortable to be honest
Caller: *Long loud huffff* Oh well I can put something in writing if you want
Me: Yes please, that would be great, thanks.
Am I missing something here. I get called at home, by a bank, requesting my details – when I say no, they don’t even offer a number I can call them on (not that I’d particularly trust that either). Not sure whether it’s spam or just shite customer service but I’ll live without knowing what I’m missing for now.
This is the third instalment of my experience with Virgin Media and so it might not make sense without the back story; if you’re interested in that you can read Virgin Media – the best and the worst, which details what happened over the Christmas break with my lack of broadband and the response from the @virginmedia twitter team, and you can also read my attempts to make sense of my response to that in Service recovery Virgin Media style.
This post serves two purposes, to update on the response from Virgin Media (in case anyone out there is interested) and to pick up on the really useful comments and insights that the service recovery post led to – thank you to everyone who discussed it with me on the blog and on twitter, your reflections were really useful.
Since the most recent post I’ve had a visit from a Principal Technician, Mark, who phoned in advance to arrange a convenient time, who called to let me know when he was running late and who was incredibly pleasant and (as far as I could tell) knowledgeable when he got here. He has reassured me that if we have any further problems it is due to the network and not our equipment and most importantly he left me his contact details so I could get in touch direct with him if we had any future concerns. At this point in time we’ve had continual broadband, no problems and great customer service. So I feel quite satisfied but a few comments on my last post have got me questioning whether my expectations are too low?
I do think though it is a sign that we see these kind of responses as “awesome, great or impressive”.. I think we have grown to bad Customer Service and our expectations are pretty low…[comment from @wimrampen]
I suppose I agree with Wim, my benchmark for customer service is evidently extremely low. My benchmark is born of my experience though. For example, on Friday evening I spent over an hour on the phone to Orange trying to register a sim card. After 62 minutes of a recorded message telling me my call would be answered shortly, I decided to give up and get on with my weekend and sort it when I return to work on Monday. That is the environment within which I was pleased with the personal touch from the Virgin Media twitter team. On the same post @MartijnLinssen shared his experience with Telfort, his former ISP, he quite rightly observed that seemingly Virgin Media had made the better investment in how they sought to resolve my difficulties.
Wim also warns of relying on myths, something so very true to my own approach, see this post about the need to rely on evidence in the design of services. Wim clarifies:
There is little argument about the Service Paradox, but it should also be clear that this will only work as long as it remain incidents. It is not recommended to implement a service recovery strategy as means to increase Customer loyalty.
I feel the need to take responsibility at this stage for possibly mis-representing Fabian Segelström and Jeff Howard’s post, eek. If that was the case I’m sorry. They in no way imply that Service Recovery opportunities should be created or exploited, more that their resolution leads by lucky coincidence to improved satisfaction over all. In an attempt to right this wrong misrepresentation, and in trying to understand more, I came across a journal paper, Why service recovery fails: tensions among customer, employee, and process perspectives. The findings of this literature review support my earlier hunch that this wasn’t about employee incompetence but more about a dissonance between the people working within a system and the different elements of it:
Findings – It is argued that service recovery often fails due to the unresolved tensions found between the conflicting perspectives of customer recovery, process recovery, and employee recovery. Therefore, successful service recovery requires the integration of these different perspectives. This is summarized in the following definition: “Service recovery are the integrative actions a company takes to re-establish customer satisfaction and loyalty after a service failure (customer recovery), to ensure that failure incidents encourage learning and process improvement (process recovery) and to train and reward employees for this purpose (employee recovery).”
So there you have it, it seems that Virgin Media responded well in terms of my customer recovery and I get the impression that there is some internal dialogue that should lead to process and employee recovery. I only hope so. This was also picked up in the comment left by Guy Letts, his experience was similar:
Clearly there are many individuals there who are competent and who care deeply. Actually that’s usually the case with the individuals – as you rightly point out. I used to run a large support operation and we recruited to a high standard, as many do. It’s the empowerment, the systems and the policies that are often sub-standard – and that’s down to top level leadership not just investment.
As Guy points out, the responsibility lies with top level leadership, so I hope that those who hold that role within Virgin are listening. If they are and they’d like to share that with us, and/or they’d like to discuss any of this further, I’d love to hear from them.
If you type Hinton St George into google, this map is the first thing you find:
and to be honest it’s about all you would need, it’s tiny.
Last Friday myself and Ferg had the pleasure of visiting Hinton St George, on the recommendation of Mark. It hadn’t been the best of weeks, I didn’t get to leave work early as planned and it was all a bit of a rush to get there; but it was truly fabulous and definitely worth the effort of getting there.
We stayed overnight at the Lord Poulett Arms where we ate and drank the night away.
We had a fabulous room complete with an old fashioned bed, one of those ones that makes you feel like a kid because it’s so high your feet don’t reach the floor. The bathroom, just across the corrdior, had a beautiful free standing iron bath that also made you feel a little special. The view from the room was also truly awesome, check out the rose, postbox and red phonebox….could you get a more ‘quaint English village’ look?
The Lord Poulett Arms was a fab place to stay, the only criticism is that it was a little busy on the Friday night when we arrived and when shown to our room we weren’t told the times for breakfast. We didn’t realise this until after everyone had left for the night and hesitated a guess at getting down for 09.45, assuming it would probably finish at 10am.
When we got there on Saturday morning we were greeted by a lady complete with hoover cleaning the pub. I think she saw the look pass between us, the ‘oh bloody hell we’ve missed breakfast’ look. What then happened was really ace customer service in action. She checked whether we were expecting breakfast, explained that we should have been told it finished at 9am, apologised that we hadn’t been and offered to get us something, but it wouldn’t be cooked. She then proceeded to get us fresh coffee, cereals, fruit, yoghurts, fresh orange juice, toast, two types of jam, butter, marmalade, croissants…and not once did she complain (despite the fact we were obviously holding her up from her cleaning duties) and when we came to pay she apologised again.
I am so glad that we missed brekkie! What we got instead was a really lovely start to our day, we hadn’t had to get up hideously early (looking civilised before 10am on a weekend is hideous to me), and I really felt that her customer service was above and beyond what was required. After brekkie we took a stroll through the village (took about two mins) and went to the local Personal Services Store (am saving that photo for a work presentation!) and managed to grab a jab of *the* most amazing jam I’ve had in years.
Made by the wife of the man who runs the village shop, and served in the pub, at the ridiculously cheap price of £1.85 the Strawberry and Gooseberry Jam is worth a trip to Hinton St George all in its own right! Go on, check it out, Somerset at its best.