The workshop won’t allow it!

How often to we hear that one part of an organisation will not allow another part to deliver a service because the policies and procedures get in the way of common sense?

He is a local example of what happens in practice.

I have been talking to a motorcycle dealer recently about the option to change my bike.

Now the sale team have been really good at giving me access to ride the bikes that I wanted at a time that suited me. They have fed me coffee, and spent time trying to understand my needs.

Despite their best endeavours the dreaded computer systems managed to get in their way at regular intervals.  I have been asked for me address, and email address on a number of occasions, by the same two people for different computer systems!

In conversation the other day I found out that because this particular branch of the dealership is too successful they register some sales via their other dealerships. You will never guess why – because the supplier sets the dealers targets on an annual basis to sell units.

If they appear too successful then the supplier increases the targets to the point that the dealership begins to lose revenue! so, the dodge is to register units at different dealerships to disguise the success on one branch. making efficiencies

This makes good business sense for the dealer who is bound by the stupid rules of the supplier, who doubtless thinks that it is being clever.

The rub for the dealer in question is that this means that they have to travel backwards and forwards up and down the motorway to register vehicles at different locations to bend the rules set by the supplier.

Step back and hopefully you can see the madness in this target. The waste and additional cost that is incurred by the dealer to bend the rules to maximise the income from the supplier and manage the outcome performance at the year-end.  Not to mention the impact upon the customer!

This is sadly not unusual in businesses, who for reasons best known to themselves put in place silly rules and procedures in an effort to control the market place.

In reality of course the same number of units is sold in the market place what ever the supplier decides, but because the rules the dealer has to manipulate the data to make the system work.

So that’s seems pretty normal, but then the stupidity really starts. I have received a great service from the guys at the front line trying to sell me a bike, they have done what they can to help me make an informed choice about a replacement bike.

All is going well, until I receive a call from my nice sales guy to tell me that I must pay a bit more cash over as a deposit because ‘ the workshop aren’t very busy today and want to work on preparing my new bike’ sounds good I thought, but then the bombshell.

The workshop won’t start the work until I have topped up my deposit to cover their costs!!

Guess what the sales team don’t run the business the workshop does! Now in truth it’s not the fault of the workshop manager. It’s his boss.

You see even though this is a small dealership they have very clear lines of demarcation. Functional specialisation on steroids.

They clearly have separate profit centres. If the workshop do work for sales and it does not follow through to a sale then the workshop loses out financially.

So the system quickly begins to breakdown from a customer perspective. What starts life as great customer service ends up as a trade-off between sales and the workshop and guess what –  the customer loses out big time.

Now it does not have to be this way. It’s a relatively small business, it has two locations. The systems in place plausibly look like they are adding value to the business, but in truth they all run around with bits of paper and talk to one another all the time, so what’s the need for a CRM style system.

Functionalisation is driving cost in to the organisation. I know from the relationship that I have built up that the margin on the sale is not huge, so why burn profit undertaking bureaucratic nonsense that makes life worse for the customer.

And as for the supplier of the product –  well it is a great product, but its relationship with its dealerships is based purely on number of units,  and yet its philosophy seems intended to be more customer centric.  The lesson here is about the unintended consequences of targets against longer term vision.

In the end I take delivery of a vehicle that does not have all of its accessories fitted. Some did not turn up in time, other bits are still awaiting for collection at the other franchise.

I need to spent time at some point going back for rework. In effect lost time and effort for the workshop who did not get it right first time, because the parts did not arrive at the right time.

Great product, with enthusiastic people trying to do the right thing within a system that makes it difficult to get it right first time: can the leaders spot the room for improvement I wonder?

Do you see parallels in your own organisation?

We help leaders to purposefully reflect upon their current challenges, and identify practical and pragmatic ways of getting balance back into the demands upon your life, and delivering positive results in work and life.

Our one to one support will help you to cut through to the nub of your personal challenges and help you to facilitate a way forward that will give you: –

  • Clarity around the key business issues that you are facing and a clear approach to tackle them
  • New capabilities, and capacity to meet future challenges 
  • Greater personal job satisfaction
  • Strategies to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations in your working life

To find out more about how we can help you move your business forward please follow this link. Helping leaders develop new habits

Fake Tan, and the Tudors

£30 to remove fake tan!

I know can you believe it?Tan by artur84

I was talking to someone recently who had hired a lodge at a Medieval Hall near Preston as part of a birthday celebration.

Now bare in mind that this is a venue used for weddings, so they will have made a few grand during the day on the hire of the venue, food, champagne for the toast etc.

Now most decent venues usually do something to make the night one to remember for the couple. You know flowers, chocolates in the room, a bottle of bubbly.. Well they do non of that!

Not many would expect a £30 charge if you get fake tan on the bedding now would they?

But there it was a notice in the room giving the incumbents fair warning that a charge would be made for getting tan on the sheets.

Fortunately the birthday party had all been on holiday, and so did not need to apply fake tan. So far so good, however,

It gets worse!

The group involved in the birthday party sleep over got charged a premium the following morning!

Yes, they slept in the beds! And as a result got charged an excess for the change of linen after they had left.

You could not make it up.

Customer service from the dark ages. I suppose that it is in perfect keeping with the age of the venue. But in this day and age how long can it keep going with this type of behaviour?

Sky junk mail

A few months ago after 13 years as a loyal customer of Sky we parted company. A hopeless situation.making efficiencies

I was looking for a better deal they just wanted to up sell me broadband and phone.

A targeted sales operation cynically positioned as a way of reducing cost. After a good 40 minutes of chatter I gave up and terminated the relationship.

Ever since the marketing department had bombarded me with deals to entice me back. How ridiculous can it get?

If the customer services function and the sales/ marketing departments considered working together the could retain more customers. Instead they are set up to compete. That’s why the fees are so high in the first place.

Lots of money poured down the pan chasing customers. Why not try something novel and look after the ones you already have.

What a mad world we live in!

Sky if you are reading this please do us a favour and stop sending us junk mail with offers in them. It’s too late you had your chance and you blew it.

Emergency Mental Health Care

Insight into the operational reality at the front line. A complex world of competing demands brought about through functionalisation, and stereotypical thinking.

Mental Health Cop

Last month it was announced that a newly invigorated Care Quality Commission will undertake a review of emergency mental health care.  This follows on from several things and is much broader than the issues arising from the Adebowale Report – recently, this independent Commission into policing and mental health in London which has national implications.  The Adebowale Report made 28 recommendations, two-thirds of which relate to health and social care and so it was well said that “The Metropolitan Police can’t do this alone”.  It was (partly) in response to those issues that the CQC announced their review.

What else could be done? – well, most operational police officers could list a range of things from our experience and if anyone thinks I’ve missed any points here, you should feel free to let me know or add a comment to the blog below.  I’m going to make sure via…

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We would like you to come back to us…

One afternoon I reflected upon how much we were spending on watching TV.

We had been loyal customers of Sky for 13 years.P1040211

We needed satellite because we are in an area that gets poor reception, and for a long time Sky was the only option. Then someone told me about free sat boxes.

As Sky had been my supplier for a long time I phoned them to ask them what they could do for me to reduce the cost of my TV package. Of course the phone number you call in to cost me money as I was not a sky phone customer!

The usual IVR sent me in all directions and I eventually got through to speak to a human being. It was quickly very clear that my customer loyalty stood for nothing.

The agent spent 35 minutes trying to up sell me broadband and a phone package and tried to trade my TV package down by turning off elements of the current deal. She was evidently targeted to up sell to customers rather than listen to the customers nominal value

In the end I gave in, and served the 31 days notice required to terminate my relationship with Sky. In the meantime I purchased a free sat recordable box, easy to install.

The free sat channels are brilliant and the recording facilities are equal to, if not better, than the Skybox.

It’s been about a month since we became free from Sky. Guess what – as a ‘valued customer’ I have just received a flier through the post telling that I was a loyal and valued customer, and that they would like me to come back to them with a 25% discount for a year!

What a pity that they don’t empower their frontline agents to offer such discretion to existing customers a false logic if ever I saw one. I bet that they have a target to get former customers to return to Sky. It will be a different department. I cannot wait to see what they send me next…. What a mad world we live in.

Then the inevitable happened. I received a phone call from Sky asking me if I had received the flier about discounts for valued customers.

The agent I spoke to obviously had no information about me as a client, or the recent history. Obviously not, she was probably from a different business unit, with a different set of objectives to the other teams that have contacted me in recent weeks.

I quietly explained what had happened, and the irony in her phone call. She quit the call quickly as she was clearly not going to meet her target to get me back as a Sky subscriber. It’s obviously not her fault, she has a job to do and bonuses to make.

A crazy world –  a company is prepared to  waste so much resource losing my custom,  and then trying to get it back! Multiple that by hundreds or probably thousands.

They have an internal industry of worker bees who in systemic terms are adding no value to the bottom line.

How different is your organisation I wonder?

Experience suggests that a better understanding of what is actually going on at the front line from a customer perspective will give leaders a more informed diagnosis of the real problem that exists and the actions that can be tested to solve it.

We help leaders to purposefully reflect upon their current challenges, and identify practical and pragmatic ways of getting balance back into the demands upon your life, and delivering positive results in work and life.

Our one to one support will help you to cut through to the nub of your personal challenges and help you to facilitate a way forward that will give you: –

  • Clarity around the key business issues that you are facing and a clear approach to tackle them
  • New capabilities, and capacity to meet future challenges 
  • Greater personal job satisfaction
  • Strategies to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations in your working life

To find out more about how we can help you move your business forward please follow this link. Helping leaders develop new habits

Virgin on the ridiculous!

My broad band has been patchy for a while.

The line had dropped out at regular internals over time. Like most I put up with it for quite a while, but my family complained more and more about the patchy signal as it affected them streaming TV and music.

The download speed was not the best, but the package represented reasonable value for money.

Then I became aware of Yorkshire Broadband from a good friend of mine, who had been using it for a long time. So, I did my research on their easy to use website, and gave them call.

I was soon through to a human being who spoken confidently and clearly about the product. They gave me good advice about the best package for me, and I was signed up.

They took care of the transfer of the line and terminated the current service. Emails, text and phone calls kept me up to speed on the progress of the transfer to the new service.

In the first few days I need to get some advice about my wi-fi signal. A quick call to the UK call centre helped me to solve the issue with sound advice.

This was achieved because the agent had the right skill set and a good knowledge of the technology. A refreshing change from the normal experience of call centres.

This is in stark contrast to another provider who confidently miss sold me a TV, Broadband, and phone package that I was trying to sort out for my father recently.

The small print in the contract showed that the package did not in fact have the TV channels promised. A phone call to the company eventually enabled us to unpick the sale.

A series of three agents spoke to us about the decision to terminate the arrangement. Despite the questions asked, and conversations during the phone call no one passed on information to the next person in the chain.

Each time the story was repeated for the benefit of the supplier, rather than me as the customer. In the end I was passed through to an Indian call centre to an agent who then tried several attempts to sell me an alternative package.

It was clear that each agent had their targets to meet to process my call, and attempt to sell me an alternative. In the end I got what my father wanted – an ending of the contract that we had been miss sold, and a promise that nothing has been done to terminate the existing package. We will have to wait and see!

All of this could have been avoided.

It was complete waste of time from a customer view-point. At point of sale the nature of the phone call had focused upon the detail in the TV package, as I knew exactly what my father wanted.

The agent went for the sale by failing to be specific about the package, and in effect made false promises.

He could have saved us all a lot of wasted time, and the company a lot of money. But, targets drove him to push for a sale and get his performance for the day.

I very much doubt that the link will be made between the call handler and the cancellation of the contract. This will be handled by separate functions set up with targets and response times.

If only they measured what matters to the customers, they would learn so much more! Alas, they will continue to mislead customers by chasing false targets in the belief that they are offering good service, instead of focusing upon what matters to the customer.

It’s true Yorkshire broadband for me!

Your call is important to us…

Like most of us I have a busy lifestyle and sometime need to be able to sort out banking stuff on the move.

I received a flier through the post from my bank inviting me to set up a special password that would allow me easier access to my accounts without the need to remember the name of my first cat, my grandmothers maiden name, the colour of my first car, and the details of a payment that I made a week ago in a supermarket .

Great idea, or so it seemed at the time. So I filled in the form and returned it as directed. The flier said that I would get a call from an agent to set up my unique access. When that did not happen I noticed an email in my spam list inviting me to call them to set up the access.

They save the time, you make the effort! So, I pulled out all the history information that I knew that I would need to get past security laid it all out in front of me and made the call.

The IVR kicked in and I entered  a string of numbers for sort code and account code, date of birth etc. etc. eventually I got through to an agent who calmly advised me that the section that I needed to talk to had closed for the day and that I should ring back! With that the phone went dead.

So much for good old fashioned customer service! Of course it was not the agents fault, she was only following orders: It was all about the design and management of work.

Will anyone notice, will anyone bother to listen to the tape and learn from their mistakes? I doubt it. The system works perfectly from a management view point.

The IVR routed me correctly through a series of checks to filter me and ensure that all the data that was needed to minimise the length of my call time was collected at my time and expense.

The average handling time would have been well within target. The problem from a customer point of view was that I did not get the service that I needed.

Does anyone care about creating value for the customer?

So much for phone banking, now where is my cheque book!

Scottish Power it goes on….

To my surprise I received a letter today from my utility company telling my how sorry they were that I had made a complaint.

The letter, computer generated obviously, gave me a complaint reference number a seven digit number, so they must get a few!

The letter outlines a three stage process to resolve my complaint. The letter tells me that If the complaint cannot be dealt with immediately it will be passed to the Customer Care Team, where a dedicated member of this specialist  team will resolve my query with 10 working days –  keeping me fully informed of progress throughout.

In the unlikely event that I am not satisfied the Customer Service Director will review it personally. Apparently I can also contact the Ombudsman if I am not happy.

Well those of you who read my last blog will know that I escalated the call to the Customer Care Team on the day and they intervened to sort out the cock up created by the system.

So now the computer has generated yet more waste by sending me a letter.

I have no doubt that the performance indicators for both the call hander and the customer care team log a positive outcome to my complaint which I have no doubt will be closed within the 10 days set as a target.

A bonus may even hang on this! All of this is costing Scottish Power to fix, but it’s not helping me the bill payer –  its all waste and pouring our money down the drain.

I cannot wait to see what the next letter says.

Scottish Power to your elbow

I took advantage of the energy deals that were around in the autumn of last year and switched supplier to cap my rate.

All went smoothly until this week.

Out of the blue I recieved an email from Scottish Power telling me that they had increased my direct debit by 50%.

To say that I was surprised was an understatement! How could this be I wondered, I took time to calcuate my last years consumption to make the transfer.

The Scottish Power computer told us how much we needed to pay. A good deal, and the job done. making efficiencies

So, I thought that I would make a call to express my surprise and find a solution that suited me.

I waded my way through the usual obstacles of the call routing system that did its best to pursuade me that I did not need to speak to a person and ended up speaking to an unhelpful agent.

Not her fault you understand she had an impossible job in a crap system. No the less her manner left a lot to be desired, and only served to make me more determined to escalate that issue.

She was adamant that the computer said that I owed money and that the direct debit could not be changed.

I quietly explained to her that this was the winter quarter and that I was a new customer, and that as a result the calculation that had been made not three months previously was correct .

She was robust in her view that I had no option but to pay the revised amount.

Now at this point some people would have checked out and put the phone down believing that they had no option ( I bet a lot do, as this is the game that the company want to play afterall its better to have the cash in the company’s account than the customers.You have to keep the shareholders happy).

However, I was quick to advise the agent that I was not taking no for an answer. After a pause, she said that she would log my concerns on the system as a complaint.

Further intransigence on my part finally got her to put the call through to customer services.

The music played out for a good five minutes, and I wondered what was going to happen. Then, all at once the tone of the call changed completely.

At last I was talking to someone with a bit of common sense. The Superviser immediately said that she understood my issue and would withdraw the revised direct debit straight away. Hooray! A victory for common sense.

I asked her if this happened often, oh yes she said it happens when new customers transfer accounts during the winter period.

The computer automatically calculates based upon useage and sends out automatic changes to direct debits and even automates the email to the customer.

I asked if she thought that this might be a training issue for the front line so that they understood this and could respond more effectively to customers in the first place.

Her enthusiastic reply was that there were a number of issues that had to be taken into account with the customer and that the agents did not have all the answers.

She missed my point completely!

However, I did get my problem fixed.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  • They have an IT system that automatically upsets customers on a regular basis, because it cannot cope with complexity. It causes frustrated customers to have to wait in a queue to sort out mistakes at their own time and expense. It drives costs in to their system.
  • They have a call handling system that is not designed against the demands placed upon it from their customers.
  • They have call agents who are not trained to deal with frequent calls.

Now commercially you might think that this makes sense.  How many poor unsuspecting customers will just follow what the computer says?

But what does this do for customer relations and customer loyalty? (Scottish Power proudly boasted in an email to me the following day that they had a 91% customer satisfaction rate, and are in the top 50 most improved contact centres).

What are they rating and measuring I wonder to benchmark themselves with others?

Notwithstanding the impact upon the customer the current system drives lots of waste in to their organisation, driving up their costs.

The system generates a change to a direct debit to my bank, and all the accounting activity that goes on behind the scenes, it generates an email to me.

I phone them and they spend 20 mins on the phone, they update and record info in their systems, and pass calls around to supervisors and other departments whilst I wait on the phone.

The result is that all the automatic actions made by the computer have to be manually corrected, and my bank notified of the change. I wonder how much that cost?

The chances are that they will not even see this as an issue.

The waste is hidden in the flow of work around their system and will be owned and managed by different managers. Each will in turn have a focus upon a target to manage their bit.

No one will have their eye on the bigger picture because they are too far removed from understanding the end to end workflow in practice. If they did they would be very interested to listen back to my call and follow the issue back to its root within the business.

Perhaps if a few more leaders got back into the work and understood the true what and why of performance they would begin to focus upon acting on the system and improving outcomes for customers and share holders.

Until then keep an eye on your utility bills and challenge the providers all the way.

Two times three or six?

I was looking for a bulb for the kitchen recently. The pack of six looked a bargain, until I saw the price of a pack of three! It’s the system stupid!

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