Richard Maun – customer service

better business blog

Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation


What Makes For Good Customer Service?

4 July 2010

I want fireworks on my icecream...I'm the customer, so go on - delight me!

I want fireworks on my icecream...I'm the customer, so go on - delight me!

Ok, it’s no secret, but sometimes I just have to lick something and that something is ….icecream. We have a range of shops and deli’s in Holt and so we’re pretty well served on the icecream stakes. We can do better than an orange Mivvy or a tub of something yellow and waxy, as per Walls c.1975. Oh, I remember that they made both icecream and sausages…what an obvious product combination. There was probably more of an overlap in ingredients than I care to imagine too.

The point of this happy rambling is to tee up the story which I will now tell. As is my habit I sometimes head out of the office for a tub of something cold and soft. A week ago I ambled into a shop, that had served me well the week before, and striding up to the counter I smiled and said:

‘Ah hello, can I have scoop of maple and walnut with one of those crispy thingies please?’

‘No. You can’t,’ and the assistant handed me a tub containing just icecream.

‘But I had a crispy thingy last week!’

‘No, they’re only for people eating in, not for take aways.’

‘But the other lady gave me some….’

‘No! That will be £1.80.’

I paid up and wandered out of the shop. Should I have made a scene and asked to see the manager? It seemed a trifle petty to haggle over a crispy thingy, worth all of 2p, but I did feel cheated because the week before I had ordered a couple of scoops and the assistant had given me a variety of crispy things. I was delighted and vowed to make the shop my icecream-stop of choice. But oh not any more. How cruelly I had been deceived and now how let down I felt. They weren’t interested in delighting their newest customer; they didn’t even listen to him.

People Have Emotions

My delight from week one turned to disappointment in week two as I felt they were charging a premuim, but now only supplying a standard product. Added to the fact that I wasn’t listened to, it made me wonder how customer loyalty has to be maintained at all times. People all have emotions and being told you’re wrong in a shop full of old ladies, with flapping jug ears, was not a great experience. The child side of me (we all have one) felt hard done by and so and in the best tradition of people who get poor service, I told everyone I met about the lack of crispy things at that particular shop.

What Happened Next…

It was hot this week (you might have noticed), so I decided to give the shop one more chance, in the spirit of consumer testing. This time I marched in and without hesitation asked for:

‘A scoop of maple and walnut and a scoop of creme brulee and a wafer please!’ Ha! I was full of technical jargon this week!

‘Of course’, said the assistant, with a smile.

‘Were you the lady who served me last week?’ I asked

‘Yes’, she sighed, ‘I thought you had asked for sprinkles!’

Choose Your Moral

She did give me a wafer, although her colleague had given me three, but I wondered as I licked, what the moral of the story is. Perhaps it means that you have to know what to ask for to get good service?  Perhaps you have to ask for three wafers in life, if you want three? Maybe it’s about making sure your staff know what the product is and have authority to do that little bit extra to delight the customer? Or, it could be that if you’re serving someone you have to listen to them and help them to articulate what it is they want. Guessing, or just saying ‘no’ isn’t going to win you many new customers.

You can decided what great customer service means to you. I’m off to get licking, because today is my birthday (5th July) and I love birthdays, so it could be a three scoop day… (Happy birthday to you too if this is your special day as well).

Our Task For This Week

If we have a new project, or customer, or team meeting perhaps ask ourselves how we can delight those present? We might buy them a cake, or finish the meeting on time, or stroke people a bit more for their efforts. Whatever we do, we can all provide people with excellent customer service and feel good about doing it.

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Thank you for reading to the end and remember to eat some icecream if you’re in need of a treat in the hot weather…

Next week is a brief introduction to the Child Ego State…which is part of the next series of blogs about Transactional Analysis.

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Product Knowledge Counts

15 February 2010

Flickr Creative Commons: credited to malias

The giant iGoggleSunny smartphone even has a door!

How much do your staff really know about the products or services they work with? Here’s a little story about ignorance.

Having decided to go out and buy a smartphone, I popped into our local shop and picked up the best selling uPooh and its chief competitor, cleverly called the ACME Rectangle. Choosing between two rather similar cuboid gadgets is never easy so I asked the cheery looking chap behind the counter for some help. I hefted the Rectangle and asked:

“How is this different from the other one?”

“It’s faster,” he replied loftily.

“What does that mean?” I asked innocently.

“It means it’s quicker,” he replied, as if that would settle things, but he was wrong.

“Yes I know what ‘fast’ means,” I said fixing him with a mild stare, “but what does it mean in terms of performance?”

“Oh, I don’t know that. I’ve only just started here.”

Well that seemed fair enough; everyone needs to have a first day at work and so I relaxed and was about to let him off with his ignorance when he mucked it up by adding:

“Yes, I’ve only been here four weeks.”

What!? You’re in a little shop that only has about 10 different handsets on offer and after four weeks you know nothing about your top two products and expect to sell them on the back of ignorance? I wanted to say all this, but I decided just to think it instead, to spare his blushes. You only have to spend a couple of hours on Google to round up some high quality information, so I have little sympathy for someone who hasn’t bothered to find out about their products in four weeks. He did offer to get the owner of the shop to call me, to discuss the handsets and dazzle me with an attractive tariff. Ten days later the owner has yet to call, so I can only assume that he doesn’t want my business. Perhaps he’s a millionaire and owns a little phone shop as a hobby?

This kind of lazy attitude always puzzles me because, not only am I unlikely to buy from them, I’m also going to tell my network that they offer a poor service. The high street is littered with the retail wrecks of beached businesses and although some of them will have been hit by harder trading environments, my hunch is that at least 50% have been hit by incompetence.

How much do you know?

If you’re going for a job interview you need to know about your CV (I’ve met people who haven’t). If you are selling a product your expert knowledge brings credibility,which builds trust, which eventually wins sales. If you manage a team, you need to know what they know and what gaps they have…or you could be losing business just through ignorance. Successful selling starts with knowledge: What do you need to find out about?

Finding Out

There’s a range of useful information packs in the shop and if you’re in the mood to find out things perhaps start with one of the coaching packs, which both contain useful questions because sometimes knowing the question is what really matters.

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Riding the Rocket

How to manage your Modern Career

Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish



Bouncing Back

How to get going again after a career setback

Published 2012 Marshall Cavendish



How to Keep Your Job

Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in

Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish



Job Hunting 3.0

Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age

Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish



Leave the Bastards Behind

An insider's guide to working for yourself

Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish



My Boss is a Bastard

Surviving turmoil at work

Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish


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