Trying to #fail better

Often private sector companies are held up as the bastions of customer service – think Amazon, think Apple, think Dell. According to the marketing experts your level of customer service is your organisation’s unique selling point. Now, thanks to globalisation we have homogonised products and the only way to stand out from the crowd is to provide excellent aftercare.

Last week I had the misfortune of being involved in a road traffic accident on the M8 during rush hour. We were all fine except my dented pride and even more dented car. We’d been on our way to the King’s Theatre to see Grease and passers-by must have thought they were travelling backwards in time when they passed my mum, daughter and me standing on the hard shoulder, dirndl skirts and voluminous petticoats billowing in the bitter wind.

Pretty soon Strathclyde police were with us, closely followed by the Amey Highways tow truck to remove my bashed car from motorway. The tow truck driver made us laugh, and the constables couldn’t have been nicer. They let us sit in their car till my dad came to rescue us, they took us to the nearest police station to use their toilets, they even offered to take us to the theatre to catch the show. We considered accepting for a second or two then thought better of it.

The next day I thanked PC Meikle and PC Brown via Strathclyde Police on Twitter (@KeepPeopleSafe) and a few hours later Strathclyde Police thanked me for my comments. Brilliant.

At the time I knew I’d hurt my leg on the dashboard but I hadn’t realised how badly. Two days later my zombie leg was swollen and making me limp so HimIndoors insisted on taking me to A&E. I was checked out and X-rayed by lovely people so again I thanked them on Twitter via @NHSLanarkshire. Again a few hours later they thanked me for my comments and wished me a speedy recovery. Again, brilliant.

The morning after the accident I phoned ATG Tickets to explain what had happened and to ask if they could change my tickets for a later show. “No”, came the answer. “If you’d phoned at the time we could have done something for you but not now.” But I was in a car crash, freezing on the hard shoulder before the show and in the back of a police car when it started. “I appreciate your mind was on other things but I can’t help you.”

I complained on Twitter (@GlasgowKings). Some people retweeted and pointed out the shoddy customer service. No reaction. Nothing. Nada.

I tried the production company on Twitter (@greasemusical). Again, no reaction. Nothing. Nada

So overall I dealt with three public sector agencies. All gave brilliant service, all with a smile and great aftercare. 10 out of 10, give yourselves a gold star.

I tried to deal with two private sector companies. Massive #fail and I can’t even find your official complaint form on your websites.

So after my ad hoc secret shopping exercise I’ve come to the conclusion that the private sector could learn a thing or two from us civil servants and local government officers. Aside from our customer service and our effective use of social media, how about learning some common sense and common courtesy.

I can fly again

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in on a motivational talk given by Alan Brodie of Mindstore. It was aimed at getting local businesses to think differently about employing young people with learning difficulties (not the current politically correct term but better English than the alternative).

It was a fabulous session and I tweeted it on the council Twitter account, much to the amusement of followers more used to school closures and gritting announcements.

But what Alan said applies anywhere, anytime, especially if a bit of creativity is needed so I thought I’d share some of his observations with all of you.

  • the quality of our thinking affects the quality of our performance
  • we live in extraordinary times. To be successful we need to be extraordinary too
  • extraordinary businesses are run by extraordinary people – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Dave Briggs, Mary McKenna (couldn’t resist the last two)
  • successful people have the ability to bounce back when things don’t work out first time because they manage their stress well
  • successful individuals and organisations are positive – they don’t do negativity
  • use the delete key in your mind to get rid of negative thoughts
  • choose positivity – it costs nothing and rubs off on other people. ‘Try’ is an excuse to fail
  • if you want to influence people, think about the language you use and make it more optimistic
  • we all used to be kids with great imaginations – what happened? Practise using your imagination. You used to be able to fly for goodness’ sake!
  • successful people are futurists – they recognise the past but they start right here and look forward. They make brand new futures
  • goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable don’t stretch people. Nelson Mandela’s goals weren’t realistic but he exceeded them
  • encourage people to think differently. Don’t ask how, ask why. If we thought realistic and achievable kids wouldn’t learn to walk
  • left side of brain is for lists and spreadsheets. Right side is for art and imagination. Successful people use their brains differently. Left side of the brain wants to look back, right side is innovative and looks to the future.
  • school exercises the logical left side of the brain. Einstein failed physics at school but was brilliant at violin. If he’d kept with the left side we’d have known him as a concert violinist playing other people’s music but the right side of his brain was working and he thought outside the solar system never mind the box
  • we’re at our most creative when we’re the most relaxed. Help staff manage stress and they’ll be more creative
  • when you take a break don’t have coffee – it makes the brain more active in the same way as stress and makes you use left side of your brain
  • Lewis Hamilton describes getting himself ‘snug’ before a race rather than hyped up. This is the perfect state for great performance
  • 30 seconds spent somewhere relaxing in your imagination equals an hour spent in the same place in real life

I hope some of this resonates with you the same way it did with me. Before every meeting I’ll be flying myself to Cape Verde for that 30 second holiday I’ve always promised myself. Who wants to join me?