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Smooth-sailing service


Peter Ellen explains the importance of satisfying your customers

September 2, 2013 12:57 by

As I write this I’m travelling back to Dubai after a three-week trip abroad – a holiday that combined both pleasure and business. The final part of my ‘holiwork’ included disembarking from a cruise ship and flying from Copenhagen to Dubai, which soured my otherwise enjoyable vacation.

First of all, once the end of the cruise was in sight, I ceased to be a passenger or customer and became an inconvenience, or at least that’s how I felt.

Although was not checking out until Sunday, I was unable to purchase a newspaper after Friday and – for extra annoyance – my bathrobe was taken without notice while I was having dinner on Saturday.

Now, I sort of understand the requirement to place bags outside the cabin by 2am, to be out of the cabin by 7am and to be off the ship as early as possible – but why is it necessary to deprive passengers of newspapers and bathrobes when we still need them, having already packed? I guess the answer to that question will lie somewhere between “we need to wash it for the next occupant of the cabin” and “if we don’t take it, then you might”. Whatever the reason, it left a bad taste in my mouth, as it would any customer.

Secondly, arriving, checking in and waiting at an airport (any airport of any size) is always a disappointing experience for the Economy passenger/customer. The airport is crowded and organised to maximise sales from the Duty Free outlets and other retail stores, so ‘airport tourists’, wandering around with children, carts, bags and mobile phones, obstruct people trying to get to their gate. But, the thing that really gets me is the waiting – although on this occasion it has enabled me to write this.

Airlines have to take account of security – and we are all grateful they do – but there is a limit to how long a person will wait before they become irritable and ensuring the safety of passengers is interpreted as disorganised service.

The goal should be to satisfy (or even delight) the customer, in order to encourage referrals and repeat sales. We have to consider the customer’s experience first. For my holiday, the final part of the experience was probably more important than any other – as it’s the piece that is most easily remembered. For any service, the total time and experience needs to be considered, not just parts of it.

I’m only using cruise ships and flying as examples of service. Service is key to business success anywhere – only by delighting your customers can you expect to gather referrals and win repeat business. Just one dissatisfied customer will tell up to 20 people of their dissatisfaction. It’s also worth noting that satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal, only delighted customers are guaranteed to be loyal and advocate your service, so this should always be your goal. Service does come at a cost, so the service-price relationship has to be understood – if the customer wants rock-bottom prices, then may have to accept poor service, but often he will still expect the best the business can provide.

You can only use lack of resources as an excuse for so long and if you can’t delight your customers at a price they can afford, then question whether you’re in the right business.

Peter Ellen is Operations Director at Nexus Insurance Brokers He has worked in the sales industry for 28 years in senior management positions and as a consultant. To contact Peter for advice with any insurance and investment advice please email him at [email protected]

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