All Fur Coat and No Knickers!

My grandmother used to say this when I was little.  It made me laugh but I had no idea what it meant.

Well now I do.  And brother I have had more than my fair share of Fur Coats of late!

A few weeks ago we attended an event that had gone all out bows and whistles.  The presentation was excellent.  Unfortunately, not a single member of the hosting team welcomed us.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that they were more concerned with how much the thing had cost.  So concerned where they that they needed the required results to cover the cost that they tipped over into making delegates feeling ‘unwelcome’ and rather more of a necessary evil.  We did not register our interest and left well before the end.

Like many other people we number amongst those that were unfortunate enough to buy one of those faulty tumble dryers.  I went on-line in February of this year and registered our appliance.  The automatic reply said that they would contact me within eight weeks.  At the end of October (or 26 weeks later!) I received my first communication.  It was a letter that read “we’ve written to you previously to inform you…our records show that you have not yet registered…”  Well alright then, but you’ve haven’t written to me previously and I took it upon myself to register.  When I telephoned the ‘hotline’ I got a rather sullen telephone operative who confirmed that the machine was registered.  I said that I was no longer interested in the repair because Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd didn’t actually seem to know what they were doing.  I opted for a replacement tumble dryer - she mumbled something about five days and ended the call.  I now have no idea about the next steps.  No doubt that will be yet another call that I instigate.

My in-laws are in their early 80’s and live in social housing.  In June of this year someone turned up to carry out a gas service.  Telling them that the fire was ‘broken’ he removed it, boarded up the hole and sealed the gas pipe.  They were informed that a replacement electric fire would be provided and they would be able to choose the fire and a surround.  After several telephone calls and visits to the ‘drop in’ centre, its five months later with winter around the corner with still no sign of a fire.  In addition to her age my mother-in-law is in quite poor health.  I recognise that they have central heating but sometimes she needs a ‘bit more’.  I telephoned the customer service line and explained the situation.  A very pleasant man took my details and clarified that there was a problem with the supply of the fires and it was taking up to a year for installation.  I asked if I might speak to the person responsible.  Apparently, that’s not company policy.  Could I e-mail him perhaps?  No, that is also against their rules.  The telephone operator would send an internal e-mail and the person would get back to me within 48-hours.  The problem with supply is just one of the many reasons that my in-laws have been given regarding the lack to movement.  Another, given by a sub-contractor, was that the housing association is broke and going out of business!  Over a week later and I still waiting for the promised ‘phone call.

In my previous blog I talked about a local accountancy firm who invited us to their ‘businessbootcamp’.  They were going to show us ways of how to improve our business.  Having clearly demonstrated how not to do a thing – I went as far as to tweet my blog to them.  After not responding to the tweet they sent the confirmation e-mails.  Now I’m not professing to be an expert on social media, but what I have learned is that the key to social media is interaction.  I looked through their newsfeed and noticed that despite sending out informative tweets multiple times a day at no point do they actually interact with anybody.  So not only have they confirmed to me once that they don’t know what they’re doing, they went on to do it a second time.

Every example that I have given above demonstrates an absolute lack of the basics.  You can provide the best presentation in the world, but if you don’t make the delegates feel welcome then you’ve just wasted not only your time and theirs but what is likely to be a considerable amount of money as well.

Despite Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd telling me in their letter that ‘safety has always been the chief concern’ this is a perfect example of ‘right hand and left hand not knowing what the other is doing.  Whirlpool’s systems processes and communication strategies aren’t aligning.  And yet they expect me to believe that my safety is their primary concern.  Well, I don’t!

In relation to the invisible fire - it would seem that there is a deliberate policy in place to make it as difficult as possible for customers to get through to the right people.  Not only is this a case of mixed messages being given to customers but it’s also a disaster in terms of PR.

Finally, in respect of the business ‘experts’ wanting to give me advice on how to improve my business - this is a classic case of an organisation being set to ‘transmit’ mode only.

Within all of the instances I have referred to there are a combination of issues at play including: poor supervision; appalling communication; ineffective training; lack of review and monitoring and last but by no means least – abysmal customer service.

In summary – here’s my theory as simply as I know how to put it:
As a minimum just do your job:
- do what you say you’re going to do;
- no if’s, no but’s, no maybe’s.

If you want to be perceived as good:
- do your job (as described above);
- do it well (with a smile on your face & in your voice, willingly and, over & above).

If you want to be perceived as really great:
- do your job (as described above);
- do it well (as described above);
- do it consistently on all occasions!

Surely I’m not the only one to think that this is not rocket science?