disney world

We’ve all had it, security guards, safety people, bouncers, council staff, hotel staff even the HMRC. In train stations, airports, paying bills and attempting to buy stuff. At Disney World over summer I was constantly told to “Keep behind the Yellow Line” – I brought a whole tram-bus thing to a standstill when my foot was on the yellow line, note not beyond it, just on it and just one foot!

Sure you can complain, but where would sound logic and reason get you? Nowhere. You are also in the right, you know it, your friends know it – even strangers watching you lose your temper through frustration know it!

However an eloquently worded letter or tweet will only get you a response along the lines of: “we work to ensure great customer satisfaction and we are sorry to hear about this incident, these incidents are rare and your feedback will be used to improve our training programmes.” Sound familiar? Of course it does, then the following week, the same happens again, and again…

What happens? People like you and me, give up, maybe look for another bank – but they’re all bad. We maybe go off and look for other suppliers at work, they’re all pretty much the same too. However the one thing we do stop doing is complaining.

The world is of course messed up and I’ve noticed that there is even more of a mess in the dark times of the credit crunch induced recession. There are very few companies that seem to actually want to do a good job.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of complaining about a late train or some transport or public service type frustration, you’ll likely find that the person answering your complaint is actually outsourced. There are third party companies who are in business to answer complaints. So let’s face it, if you’re in business to answer complaints, it’s not really in your interest that those complaints get resolved, root causes are found and the issues are fixed.

The world becomes more messed up when you deal with someone who just repeats the same company blurb over and over again, without even wondering if it’s rubbish. In Manchester our Metrolink public transport system has expanded – however the contingency process hasn’t! So when the trams fail, your ticket isn’t valid on a bus that covers you to the destination you’ve actually paid for – just part of it! However, there are still lots of people shouting out which busses to use – none of them take you to the end of the line where you were trying to get to!

When you think about it, companies must also go out of their way to employ people who will repeat what they want them to – not analyse it to see if its right, query it or kick it back up the chain. In my opinion it must actually be more difficult to recruit people like this. I frequently think of a sketch on Futurama – “You’re not paid to think, a mindless worker is a happy worker.” Certainly to find workers that will accept constant abuse for being a jobsworth, who have no ambition or initiative must be quite a skill.

A couple of weeks ago we tried to get a quote from a supplier and was told we couldn’t get a quote due to the fact that our account had been closed. It could only be reopened if we promised to spend 50k with them. I later found out that I’d asked for a quote several months earlier for this amount and never got a response so went elsewhere! I also asked them to detail why they had a 50k threshold on a cash with order account, which enabled us to keep the door open to ask for pricing and cost essentially, nothing. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with the answer! Oh, and an ERP upgrade was eventually blamed.

Last week I found that our new TNT postman had not bothered to go to all the houses near me and shoved them in my letterbox. I tweeted a legitimate question – can you put these back into a Royal Mail box – I don’t know the answer, I still don’t know the answer and was told that they were sorry to hear it but if I take further time out to call their customer service centre on a premium rate number then they’d look into it. Well, I realised I wasn’t actually their customer and thought I’d let the Royal Mail cross-charge them (they better had, for the shareholders sakes!).

I don’t know why I attract incidents of this – it could be that I have somehow got tuned into it through setting up business processes with technology like CRM’s and ERP’s, then going for ISO certifications. I may be a business process nerd.

However, I just really can’t see what the difficulty is in giving a great customer experience and really asking simple questions to see whether you are or not. You can hide behind technology, whether you’ve got it, not got it or just not using it and a lot of people do these days. If you can enable a complaint process to be outsourced, implement ERP’s to annoy your customers and embody with them with processes that prevents potential customers even getting quotes it just seems so pointless.

If technology hasn’t done this that or the other for you and you’re using it as an excuse – I’m sorry even as a technologist, I would have to advise you to throw it out, get a paper and a pen and start writing. Start from starch, get out there and speak to your customers – they’ll ultimately tell you exactly what you need to do!