Service Makes the Difference

At Freelance World we’ve spent two years changing our culture to become client-focused. Everyone in our business understands that service is the key to everything that we do and that great service leads to happy clients, referrals and business growth. It’s really not rocket science, but why do so few businesses get it?

How often are you served by someone who continues having a conversation with their colleague and ignores you other than to tell you how much you need to pay? That happens to me in Tesco’s all the time (maybe its’ me???), Superdrug are good at it too as well as countless others.

How much does it take to engage with the customer, say hello and swap some words about the weather? That’s not hard is it, but you’ve got to WANT to do it.

So many simply take your business for granted. Well, hello! There is another way, and it’s not difficult. It doesn’t take years of training or thousands of pounds. It’s a decision that can be made in an instant and then drilled into the business.

We’ve had to get rid of people who were technically good at what they did, but who had no interest in the customer. They didn’t care. Sorry, but you’re not for us then.

I was catching up with some of my business magazines today and was reading March’s issue of Director, the IoD’s monthly mag. In there is a profile of John Griffin, the founder of taxi (think about this!) business Addison Lee. Addison Lee’s account billings in 2009 alone totalled £89m. Granted they’re in London, but that’s one hell of a lot of taxi fares.

I love how John runs his business. Here are a few quotes: –

“They’ve lost the plot he claims, turning his ire on the competitors’ drivers. “I look at them and think, ‘if that’s what we’re competing with, bring it on!’ It’s time they woke up and started doing customer service courses.” Brilliant, how refreshing is that!

“He is proud that 99.3% of all bookings turn up on time; his motto is “who cares wins“; he credits a 3% rise in bookings last year (when the market was down due to the credit crunch) to good service.” Remember, this is a taxi business!

“Service, he argues, is remembered long after price is forgotten. Which is why he’s so relaxed about his competition. “Even if I half-trot I’m overtaking them. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And that’s what I am.”

Now, remember what John’s business does. It’s a taxi company. Not a high-tech, online web business. It’s a good, old-fashioned commodity business. We all use cabs after all. It just goes to show that you can apply sound business principles to anything and make a real, meaningful difference. It’s also a lot more fun, for both employees & customers to work in that kind of positive environment!

So what are you doing in your business to make a difference?

3 thoughts on “Service Makes the Difference

  1. Great blog. Customer service is now more important than ever. The consumer nowadays has so much choice. It’s so vital that every staff member realizes this. It’s easy to loose a customer. Your employees need to understand the importance of every level of customer service. They need to be passionate about ur business and engage with ur customers. Great blog, looking forward to ur next one.

  2. Guess the first thing to say is welcome to the world of blogging Alasdair :-). Good to see another local joining the band wagon and really look forward to seeing what you’ve got to say.

    Have to be honest and say that I mainly read technically based blogs, comes with the terrority of being a Web Developer I guess, but the business side of things has really started to grab my attention a lot more over the past year with me starting part-time freelance work.

    Things for me started with an ex-colleague wanting some help with a web project. The job went well, the client was very impressed and therefore gave recommendations to others. I’ve now got a nice little managable setup, and I’m pleased to say not just local, that I can run along side my full-time work.

    What I found surprising while talking to these and potential clients was really the “lack of service” and work quality being offered by their previous Developers and high-charging Agencies that I was including as part of my standard service. Without going into detail it really comes down to what I think are simple needs for any web service these days!

    As you say, a bit of personal touch, a lack of overheads & my experience really enables me to match up against some of the “the big boys” when it comes to quality, but at a lower cost. That’s a great feeling to have 🙂

    So I’m bit of an amateur when it comes to the business side but what you’ve said here strikes a chord which is good to know. I’m looking forward to seeing what else you have to say.

    All the best,

  3. Thanks Kev. More to come, hopefully you’ll enjoy them too. Be prepared for some rants!

    Hey James, thanks for that. Bloody hell, took me ages to read all that 😉 Thing is, service isn’t a “business” concept. It’s everywhere and anywhere in daily life. It’s at the railway station, it’s at my favourite coffee shop Tinderbox, it’s in the pub, it’s in tesco. Most people get it so badly wrong. But it’s not difficult.

    We used to own a roofing company. That’s about as un-techie as you can get. What’s your image of a roofer? A hairy-arsed builder, in a tatty van, his boiler suit covered in silicone or tar, ‘cos that was pretty much the norm.

    What did we do? We asked the guys to wash their vans every evening so they were clean and shiny in the morning. They turned up at the client’s site in a shirt & tie then changed into their *clean* overalls, and that was after presenting their business card to the client. They were polite and well-mannered.

    Like I said before, it’s not rocket science.

    So it doesn’t matter whether it’s business, the Uni, the corner shop, or your local boozer. It’s just about caring and loving what you do 🙂

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