A Friday riff on how to be at the receiving end of excellent customer service

I’m in The Bunker this morning (with a huge sigh of relief after 12 consecutive days on the road, visiting four countries, two global hemispheres, three time zones and an awful lot of lovely dental folk).

Aer Lingus and the ground staff at Manchester Airport did try their best to kill me off last night with an evening flight delayed over 90 minutes and then the ignominy of sitting in our aircraft on the tarmac whilst the multi-billion pound operation tried to find just one bus to drive us to the terminal. I arrived home at 22:30 last night, wiped out.

Today a busy one of video and telephone calls with clients, a meeting with Rachel Barrow on business development and a trip to see my super hygienist Nina Ainsworth before I begin a welcome weekend off.

So many customer service experiences over the days in question and I’m reflecting on why so many of them were positive:

  • Emirates flying me to South Africa and back in style and comfort and the air crew making me feel genuinely appreciated, even though they repeat that journey over and over;
  • My accommodation in South Africa – from the hospitality of Wright Millners MD Marc Perotti (and his wife Melody) who invited me to stay at their home in Johannesburg to the hotels and restaurants I visited in Durban and Cape Town with Norman and Alida Cahi;
  • The many courtesy drivers whose back stories I have investigated, from budding tech entrepreneurs, through retired engineers to heavy metal fans;
  • The superb back office teams at Wright Millners in Jo’burg, Durban and Cape Town, for whom nothing was too much trouble;
  • The equally helpful teams at our two workshop venues this week – ETC Venues on Edgware Road in London and the Radisson Blu at Manchester Airport.

It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

I especially want to thank the ground staff at Virgin Trains in Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.

I know how tired I am when I disembark from the Euston train at 20:55 and realise as I stand on the platform and watch the train pull away that my rucksack is still under my seat on the train, with this Macbook Pro and all my gadgets and planners.

I approach the waiting Virgin team member who immediately radios Piccadilly ahead with my seat number. The train arrives there and my bag is sent back to Stockport on the next London train – and I’m blessed to be handed it back exactly 27 minutes later (how lucky am I that the two stations were a few minutes apart?). A narrow escape and a timely reminder that I need a rest (plus regular hard-drive back ups and laptop insurance).

I’ve talked to teams all over the world about customer service – about engaging people with eye contact and a smile, about politely discovering their back stories, about putting the smartphone down and taking the time to chat.

Here’s my mantra:

SMILE FIRST – and people will smile back

LISTEN MOST – and people will tell you their story

ACT RESPECTFULLY – and you will be respected

It’s The Golden Rule isn’t it?

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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

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