Last week I overheard a conversation in Harrogate’s Bettys Harlow Carr gardens coffee shop that left me somewhat dismayed.

A woman was talking to her friend about her builder/joiner and said how impressed she was with him because he turned up on time and actually came when he said he would and that his work was steady!

This struck a chord with me as our customer service manager is always talking about the importance of the whole client experience.

It was therefore pleasing last week to get direct feedback from one of our customers who received some of our sample skirting boards and architraves, who called to say that it pleasure to receive a “real sample” rather than just a “slither of wood”. Not a huge customer award but rather a snippet that says we are doing the small things well.

So why has customer service got so bad? And why if products or contractors appear on time do we feel obliged to think we have had good service?

It prompted me to undertake an informal survey, which leads me to a rather stark conclusion – It’s because we have let it get that way.

What I mean by that is we now accept and to an extent enjoy things being the same wherever you go, be it the supermarket or petrol station in the UK. Yet in the States (each year I go when I go skiing) I find people who want to give you good service and leave you with a good experience. So if they can do it there why can’t we?

The answer seems to be in getting everyone to believe in the same thing.

Starbucks has its Little Green book, John Lewis has its customer promises – “Never knowingly undersold” and others have their own unique ways of delivering the whole customer experience. But how do we do it in a sector that often thinks picking up the phone is the height of customer service?

In the end, after large volumes of coffee I had a Eureka moment that I have managed to distill into 5 key pledges which we are implementing within Period Mouldings and its sister company Period Joinery as you read this article. These are:

  • Treat people like you would like to be treated – people like to feel that they are being listened too and treated with respect.
  • Deliver when we say we are going to deliver – This can sometimes prove difficult as issues arise but communication is a key tool in ensuring we do not disappoint
  • Go that little bit further – just go out of your way to do a bit more and hopefully those bits add up to a whole lot more in the customers eyes
  • Don’t hide if something goes wrong – If we make a mistake pick up the phone and be truthful. OK it does not always help the customer but most times they do understand.
  • Finally, always look to improve by learning from past failures – so many companies say that they do, yet often it is only lip-service. At Period Mouldings we have “coffee post-mortems” to establish key lessons – this can often get heated but always proves productive.

What I am not saying is that we have not found areas we can improve. But we have a philosophy that we would like customers to experience not only the receipt of quality reproduction period products but also updated period service, where the old fashioned values of pride in your work and customer respect are exercised in a modern efficient manner.

So perhaps my dismay at overhearing the conversation was misplaced as it made me think about what we have to do to ensure we listen, communicate, advise and deliver.