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Delivering excellence, and why it matters

19 February 2016

I've always been a strong believer in delivering a high quality of service and value to my clients. It's just how I work. Recently I was on the receiving end of the kind of service I like to deliver. It was an educational experience, as I had been questioning myself about service quality and appropriate levels of delivery.

I had to make a significant purchase. It wasn't a standard transactional purchase – I wasn't just doing the weekly shop. It was important for me to make the right decisions – I was making a significant financial investment and would have to live with my choice for a long time. But I didn't necessarily know what I wanted at the beginning of the process. I started with a vague idea of what the end game should look like and my thought processes and decisions on each step were shared with my wife – the real decision maker in all this :-)

I didn't have the easiest set of requirements to deal with. And I was aware of the irony given that in my job I place a high value on being able to understand, articulate and translate requirements into a positive outcome for my clients.

What I found early on was that I had been extremely lucky. Lucky that the organisation that I had decided to engage with had given me easy and quick access to people that could take my vague requirements and turn them into a positive outcome for me (and themselves).

How did they do this? They established some credibility with me pretty quickly by being interested in what I thought I might want, and then making suggestions as to what was possible, what was very definitely not, and what the easiest paths to a good result were.

I realised early on that despite the "salesperson" tag, I was talking to people who shared my values around what constituted excellent service and value to the customer.

They were also subject-matter experts and were able to answer my product-focused questions with ease, while making suggestions that turned out to be invaluable to my decision-making process. And they weren't afraid to ask for feedback on where my train of thought was taking me, or of asking me for a decision when we had identified the right product set.

But what really impressed me was the recovery by one of them from a mistake.

It was the kind of financial mistake – a cock-up on the numbers played out in front of me – that could easily have been a deal-breaker. I did initially think at the time that it wasn't going to move forward and that that was it, so to speak.

As I left their premises I could see that the salesperson was pretty embarrassed and was highly apologetic. It reminded me that no matter how great a salesperson is, there are also processes that organisations have to have in place to prevent bad deals happening.

A good recovery

Twenty-four hours later my phone rang, and the salesperson was again apologising for what had happened, and letting me know that he had made a point of raising it to his director in a team meeting that morning. At this point the cynical part of me was thinking "yep, heard that before, get to the point". He continued to explain that as the result of that meeting they had looked at the numbers again (without me being present this time) and there was a desire to "make it right" for me.

Still feeling slightly cynical, but also aware that I had been highly impressed up until the point of the mistake, I agreed to invest another half an hour. The result of this was highly positive as the product selection exceeded my own expectations. And the re-evaluated numbers (and consequent gentle negotiation) also came far enough inside my budget to make me feel happy – but not so far that I was left feeling that I could get a lot more "bang for my buck".

So we did the deal. I made the purchase.

The delivery and after-sales were absolutely spot on. I've had regular contact from after-sales customer experience people who seem to have taken service to a level that you would expect from a five-star hotel concierge, as well as regular contact from the salesperson who I engaged with at the start. Strictly speaking, their job was done from the moment I signed on the dotted line and I wouldn't have blamed them for moving on to the next customer. But they've recognised that there is the potential to build a relationship that benefits both parties in the future.

We're all generally far more likely to gravitate back to an experience of excellent service. It's something I know as a customer. It's something I know as an Account Director here at Ideal. I've stopped having an internal debate about service: this experience has just reinforced what I had always thought. And it's why I put quality of service at the heart of what I deliver for my clients.


Image: hojusaram/Flickr, Creative Commons