I had an extremely circular conversation with Becky from the Co-Operative car insurance team today. I was very (very) good as I didn’t allow any hint of frustration or incredulity slip into my voice. Nonetheless, having had a 20 min chat with the Co-Op Home Insurance – my home insurance provider – Customer Services team who ended up assuring me in unequivocal terms that the included legal protection policy extended to motor cars and all things related Becky insists that the home insurance part – “nuffink to do wiv us” – are wrong.
“I asked and my manager says no…”.
Can you see how good I was not to get frustrated or be incredulous? The Co-Op is The Co-Op is The Co-Op, end of discussion. The letterheads are similar, the font identical, colours the same etc etc. I already buy insurance from them and they provide the electricity. It’s The Co-Op and that’s as far as I care.
Not for The Co-Op apparently. We are one but we are totally different is how they operate. I suggested to young Becky that she might like to direct her manager towards page 24 of the home insurance policy document which, sadly, I have read. It is very specific in the exclusions and cars ain’t in it. Anywhere. Nein. Nada. Nach. You get the idea. Deaf ears because….wait for it….”my manager says no”.
Gotta love joined up thinking in companies. It is doubly frustrating because I want the Co-Op to be good. I am emotionally invested in their brand, which is something they just don’t seem to get.
After all that the quote was twice that of elsewhere. 25 min on the dog’n’bone, but I did hang out all the washing and do the dishes so not really a loss of time.
This isn’t an angst ridden post so feel free to read on. It is a reflection on the tortured thoughts of what ought to be a simple enough thing. As an incentive to read through I have put a crazy list at the end. Do you have the insight to guide/direct me to what to do that makes me happy and pays the bills? Bringing this up with people that are apparently settled and content often yields surprising disclosures, so I know I am not alone.
Thinking of all the people I am fortunate enough to know who I really believe are happy and settled in their own heads with the path their life has taken and I can’t even stretch to five. Even then I can’t be sure.
As a vegetarian friend acknowledges, it is because they are fortunate enough to live in the wealthy Western world that they even have the time or luxury of making that choice. The reverse holds true if one was an African subsistence farmer just aiming to survive from one day to the next. They haven’t got the luxury of worrying about superfluous things. I guess that is why we see immigrant populations who are lucky enough to step away from a ghastly situation at home and come here, to The West, as willing to do the jobs we don’t want to. To them we have everything and even the crappiest jobs are an unimaginable improvement for them. It is too easy to look down on them for doing the jobs we don’t want for money so low we would never stoop that low. They must look at us with a similar reversal of amazement.
We have the luxury to worry about personal fulfilment in our lives and careers. however as we become products of environment and it is the human desire for more, better, warmer, faster etc etc that spurs us into where we are now. We agonised about the right school for our daughter and not just having a school. I agonise about having the right job when I have money in the bank, a Ti bicycle, a warm house, a pc and and and…
All that aside, I feel that this is a tipping point in my life when I have the flexibility to choose. Making the right choice is the question. I am great at many things and equally I suck at many things as well. It is getting the blend right that is so elusive. If I got the blend right I’d be so on it. I am hampered by a lack of formal education as I left school at seventeen. Back then I was so fortunate as I knew everything and there was little I could be told.
[As an interesting aside I found my first driving license w a photo on from when I was seventeen. In my head I was every inch the veteran, but looking at the photo I don’t look like I had even started to shave regularly. I can barely bear to think what I was like to be around. Quite punchable I’d imagine]
And now I feel like squandered opportunity for education. However, working in a ski resort and hitch-hiking across Australia with little money taught me a few lessons my university going colleagues missed. How to parley this into something useful?
To recap what I have either done or dabbled then herewith a selection;
Been to over 40 countries (even been arrested in Russia – for failure to pay a bribe)
Ski boot fitter and general ski technician
Offsider on an onshore drilling rig
Offsider on a helicopter
Press-ganged bush fire crew
Hospitality – collecting and cleaning glasses in various pubs/bars
Geologists assistant (all the hump work)
Pick-up truck canopies & accessories
Trainer and consultant around Opportunity Management
Started, owned, run and sold a successful organic veg box business
Major account management (publishing)
Volunteered time to various worthy things
At this point the post could get even more circular and even more rambling and a real danger of “pity me” creeps in. If you are the possessor of the magic bullet for me then don’t be shy. I wanna hear, however outlandish it may seem.
Dominic is 43, quite self-sufficient, has two passports and wants to do something interesting with the remainder of his life.
Enough of the foul-mouthed frippery of yesterday. Today I assure the easily offended that this blog shan’t provide. If you want grot then go away now.
I am planning a business and, much like writers block I imagine, I have spent several days just staring at my screen and then having Ice Cream moments instead of really good thought. Makes me think I’m idle, which I’m not.
However, this morning pre-0900h, I sit down and by Jove it just starts flowing outta me. So much so that I suddenly realised what I’d blog about to satisfy the insatiable gods of NaBloPoMo.
Ice Cream – oops, just cleaned a bathroom. Very shiny and clean smelling it is to. I really am a modern man (reaches hand over shoulder to give well-earned pat on back). Metrosexual as well. I so need a good hand moisturiser now. The chemicals are harsh and I am a delicate flower.
Ice Cream – in the meantime I have been reflecting on the name and purpose of dominicshadbolt.com In light of the forthcoming business venture and no longer needing this blog to paint me in a better corporate light (who am I kidding, I’m me) and blur my Internet footprint the What About the Customer name can go.
Ice Cream – as NaBloPoMo – a female web user initiative I find out today, hey for me it’s Blovember so I escape with masculinity intact – is requiring me to post every day thus driving the randomness of the posts, I am going to rename the blog, snag a new and less austere theme and make a clear separation between my nascent business and the occasional ranting and general life based observations.
Ice Cream – the ranting actually produces results. What a pity that good customer service is driven by a shouty minority with the time and the tools to take their gripes to Twitter? Still, kudos to Plusnet for picking up on it and fixing the problem.
So brain function, focus and productive work eh? It’s all morning for me.
You’ll never guess the time? It’s Ice Cream o’clock.
Prompted by me remarking that GP surgeries never seemed to operate hours to cater for working folk and not just people with nothing better to do with their time, a British friend that lived in the US for 7 years and is relatively recently back remarked to me, “I miss dealing with companies/service providers that see it as their goal to serve me and accommodate my needs and that don’t expect me to modify my life around their inflexibility”…or similar.
In the UK it is my experience that something as simple as seeing your GP at a time to suit a working person (like they are, grrrr….) is fraught with difficulty. Evenings or Saturday’s? Novel huh?
We pay for this – not as directly as money changing hands between us but through pretty high taxes. Who’s zoomin who?
I am a member and was perusing the latest free magazine. Whether it’s a promo puff or not there was a very enlightening article. Long before it was fashionable CostCo had a customer centric philosophy. Still does.
People make a big deal about transformation, customer-centricity (language mangling that only a management consultant could love and perpetuate), customer centred organisations, customer first blah, blah, etc, etc, etc.
The theory isn’t hard. Start with a respect for your customer and ensure that no matter how big the organisation grows that that respect remains. Alone that will shape your growth appropriately.
The learning from this? The respect for the customer starts at the beginning and the focus should never waver.
This post is me getting ahead of things and guessing the outcome of a chat I intend to have. The reason I am doing this is to show how previous interactions with a supplier can inform customer expectations of future interaction. In this instance I am the customer. Bear with me for the preamble as it sets the scene for my point.
I love to swim. For fitness and not competition but I do 5-7km per week. I – along with many others – am a regular user of the local pool. This is no longer owned by the council as a truly publicly owned and run amenity but has been sold to a third party leisure services provider. I have no idea of the exact arrangements but it does mean that I am now dealing with a private firm and not a public service. They are called Nexus.
I have come to expect a higher level of service from a private provider. When I started swimming enough to go to a direct debit, all you can eat, payment model for my swimming I had to fill out myriad forms. The most interesting was the Direct Debit form and the fact that (it is the only way to pay for this option) it attracts a £10.00 administration fee!
Get this; I am being charged for their administrative costs. This staggers me. It’s their business. Surely their business model accounts for administrative work that they need to do?
Mrs S. and I have a joint account and Mrs S already has an all you can eat swimming DD set-up. Ahh, I thought, I have a cunning idea which will be both appreciated by Nexus and save me a tenner. I’ll just ask them to increase the amount taken to cover both of us.
*Note: Direct Debit’s (DD) are a unique tool for UK banks. The company needs to be sufficiently solvent to do this. In return, when I sign a DD then the company has the power tio vary the amounts take. It is a good set-up as the consumer can cancel it with a call, the scheme is indemnified and the business can vary the amounts taken. Everyone’s a winner.
“Oooohhh no sir, we can’t do that. Far too complicated, love to help just not poss etc etc etc” What!!!!To cut a long story short I gave up raging against the machine and just paid my tenner and had Nexus set up a completely new (yet identical) DD on our account. Madness but madness mandated in the rules. After all, following the rules is far far more important than applying common sense. After all, an outbreak of common sense might lead to people thinking for themselves and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
That’s the background.
The pool in Thame can get quite busy and the water gets very choppy between lanes. If you have seen a swimming competition on telly or live you’ll notice the lane ropes that they use are many discs strung together. In short, these dampen the choppiness between lanes. In the Thame pool the most rudimentary old school lane ropes are used and they have lost most of their floats. The function of the colour changes in the lane ropes is to indicate, primarily to backstrokers, when the end of the pool is approaching. Something the old school ropes don’t do at all well. Wouldn’t it be great if our pool used the modern (relatively – 30 years old now) lane ropes? Perhaps they don’t own them. Afterall, times are tight so no one is going to be lashing out money on a set of these?
But wait, it turns out the pool has (owned by Nexus and not the local swimming club) these ropes nicely coiled away on the storage drum. “Why aren’t these being used?” I enquired of some staff and a swim coach I know. Reply; “Ah yes. They are a lot more hassle and we only use them for swimming galas.” So this means that the main revenue stream of the regular users get the rubbish old ropes whilst the nice ones are kept for a maximum of four times a year.
Great British customer service. I am not looking to make your experience better because it means more work for me.Wonderful. I feel like a really valuable customer. Thanks, Nexus.
I intend to ask the new in post manager if they could see their way to using the decent lane ropes. Based on the DD madness I reckon I’ll get fobbed off. And that’s even before I have asked the question. Just goes to show how easy it is to get a poor reputation as I am all mentally geared up for a fight which I wish doesn’t happen. Amaze me please, Mr New Manager.
No it’s not. The first post is just an attempt to bring some really simple clarity to a topic that seems – in business circles – to have a lot of smoke and mirrors applied to it. I suppose that if you make your audience blind then you can charge to clear the air. Hey, welcome to the world of average Management Consulting!
Very sadly – for me – I was lying awake at 0530h thinking about the previous post of Strategy vs Tactics. It’s not simple and I think that the other key point to make is that you can also have a sub-strategy to achieve your overall strategy. I have even heard the overall strategic objective of being “there” instead of “here” not being referred to as strategy but a goal. I think these kind of differences are semantics and tend to involve more smoke and more mirrors. Use the term you are comfortable with but understand that the tactics – individual actions – differ.
There is of course the way that you go about achieving the overall strategic objective. I would also call this a strategy. E.g.: do you batter the front door down or tiptoe around the side and look for an open window? I am not trying to teach you individual strategies here – this is the Sun Tzu stuff I referred to in the previous post – suffice it to say that most people seem to go for the batter the door down approach when there are many many more elegant and efficient ways to achieve your strategic goal. They have a problem for some in that they are inherently more intellectually demanding and less about brute force.
Ask yourself, are you smart or just massively strong?