I believe in problems. It’s not that I like them, but I believe in them and appreciate them. Some less than others, but in general I think that often they are gifts.
Problems don’t mean anything on their own, but neither does happiness. Both will pass. What matters is the attitude: both towards problems and happiness. Attitude doesn’t pass. However, it may undergo changes and that’s how development happens.
It is the true test for love. The team is as strong as its weakest link. Problems allow you to see where that weakest link is.
In Izmałkowa Consulting we love organization research. It is the best of all the possible studies. We check how a company functions from the inside, we x-ray it and know what troubles it and whether it is located in procedures, technology, communication or management. In most cases it’s the mix of all these things, but you know what is the most common problem? Bad attitude of employees! Everything else is relatively easy to fix, but the attitude – that’s quite a challenge.
You can carry out rebranding, change the advertising agency and prepare a new, beautiful advertisement, you can sponsor a marathon and prepare an event and you can shower the consumer with promotions, but if the lady working on the helpline is dumber than a penguin and less understanding than a debt collector, everything you do is just throwing money down the drain.
Of course sometimes nothing wrong is happening, or at least not much, and for a moment we can cheat our customers that we’re all nice and pleasant and our whole world revolves around them, but let’s face it: our products are not that perfect and neither is our life. Things happen. Various situations can take place and something can always go wrong. This is not always our fault, but it is our fault when we lose someone who loved us or had a chance to love us.
For me the issue of attitude and customer service is very, very important. As for the attitude – I think that it creates the basis for every relationship, irrespective of whether it’s a relationship with a partner, a friend or a brand. You can forgive many mistakes and imperfections if you know that the intentions are good and everything bad that happens is just the perversity of inanimate objects. I don’t take any bullshit when it comes to customer service.
Why? First of all, because I run a company myself. Therefore every customer is my boss. Every of them requires something of me. The point of honour for me is to make everyone (not only customers) feel better, not worse, inspired, not depressed and loved, not rejected, after talking to me. It’s really important to me.
Secondly, I study customer service for a living so I know how it should be. I know what are the usual expectations and requirements of the companies towards their workers. I also know what are the customers’ expectations and requirements towards workers. Thus, I know how things SHOULD be.
And thirdly, I’m an extremely critical person and I see no reason to turn a blind eye to things and phenomena that are extremely far from perfect. There really is no quicker way to lose affection than as a result of poor customer service.
That’s how the Montmartre mon Amour hotel in Paris lost me. I was supposed to go to Paris. It was to be my first stay in that city so I made a really good research on where I would stay and finally, after long discussions and comparisons I chose a beautiful small hotel. Basia warned me that there was something off with service in this hotel, rather indirectly, by asking me: “How much time are you going to spend in that hotel anyway? What difference would the service make?” Well, in the end I didn’t stay there for long. Actually, I didn’t stay there at all. On Friday I ended up in a hospital, so my flight on Monday was forfeit and I had to move it to Thursday.
-I’m sorry that you’re ill but this booking is not flexible
-But I’m in a hospital! I’ve even sent you hospital certificate from
-Ah, yes, hospital is a terrible thing but you haven’t bought insurance against such events so your booking is forfeit
-But I only want to move it to Thursday and book 4 more days
-We’ll gladly book 5 days for you, but you will have to pay for 6, since this booking is not flexible
Any further discussion was pointless, I already understood that it wasn’t flexible. But it was a hotel. It wasn’t IBM (no offence) or some telecom company (better not to use names). It was a little hotel. If basic human decency didn’t tell the personnel there to move my booking, common sense should. But no! Too bad you’re in a hospital, but your booking isn’t flexible.
A wonderful time in Paris. At my friend’s place and with my friend, instead of being in a hotel
I believe that there are no non-flexible things nowadays. If you want to have a brand and good reputation you need to have the appropriate attitude, and appropriate attitude consists in not using words such as “no”, “unavailable” and “impossible” in your speech. When I came back from my last journey to Venezuela, my newest Go Pro camera turned out to be broken. It was rather sad because I almost didn’t use it – it was a new purchase and it was broken already. During one of the crossings the boat shook me and I shook the camera and when I finally reached land I noticed that it was broken.
-It’s mechanical damage so it’s not covered by the warranty
-But it’s a sports camera. How is it possible that it cannot withstand a boat crossing through a not-so-rough sea?
-True, it shouldn’t have broken, but things like that happen
-If they happen then shouldn’t you have taken it into account when designing it? Isn’t it supposed to handle a bit more than a minor shock?
Well, at least I managed to record a couple of nice videos and the camera broke at the very end of the journey.
-Where did you go? Antarctica? How was it? And in Venezuela – is that where it broke? Are the conditions there good for surfing?
We talked for about 15 minutes about what I recorded, what I saw and where else I’d like to go.
-Alright. I see you really are rather careful and that this mechanical damage was just some bad luck on part of the camera and not your fault. Please send it back, we’ll replace it 🙂
A week later a new, shiny Go Pro camera was already on my desk. Another week later I realized that I sent the camera back without removing the memory card from it.
-We’ve already sent it for analysis in the service department in the US. We’ll send them a message that there is a card inside, but please understand, the chances of recovering it are pretty slim
Five days later I had my memory card on my desk too. They didn’t have to do it, maybe even shouldn’t have, but they did. They did it because they could. Because they wanted to. Because they are nice people. It’s not even about Go Pro being one of my favourite brands now (and it is). It’s about the purely practical approach. When I train people on ethnographic methods I always mention awareness and treating the customer like a human being rather than like a consumer.
Their quality of service matches the quality of the image and videos their hardware captures. And that’s my my affection towards Go Pro is absolute.
When we are empathic and approach people with a human, not corporate, attitude, people reciprocate with the same thing: affection, not claims. I hold about 20 lectures/workshops a year. Do you know how many times I’ve already told this story? I lost 100 euro for that booking. But I think that this hotel lost a lot more. Go Pro probably lost around 100 euro as well, but I did my best to turn that into an investment, not loss, on their part. It’s common psychology – you WANT to reciprocate for what you received. I hate to be indebted so I give as much as I received myself, or more. That’s why before spending a load of money on advertising it is a good idea to check whether we employ kind people.
You can carry out psychological tests or employ assessment centres, but the best way to predict whether somebody is going to care well for your customers and whether they were brought up well is to check whether being kind and aware of what is disgraceful is in their DNA. Obviously, everyone has their own definition what that means, so…
We need to choose people with whom we share a couple of genes – humanity genes – thanks to which we can be human beings rather than corporate drones.