Hello PPMA members and friends

Some of you will be aware of my misfortune at the start of my trip to see friends in Luxembourg a couple of weeks ago. Let me just say, by way of advice to you all, make sure you have a spare set of car keys with you when you go on a driving holiday! We did not and in the act of locating our GB sticker managed to lock the keys in the boot of the car.

As a consequence we spent the following 26 hours seeking to extricate the keys from said car boot, parked as it was in the car park at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Folkestone. It was the third locksmith who attended who managed to pick the lock on the car door, thereby enabling us to find the lever which induced the beautiful sound of the boot clicking open.

As you can imagine, I became very familiar with the limited facilities available at the terminal. The experience felt a bit like a mix between Tom Hanks in the film of the same name and Steve McQueen, pacing the wire fence and wondering if there was a way to escape.

Now before this blog merely becomes a piece of therapy for me, the point I want to make is about customer service. The staff at Eurotunnel could not have been kinder and more helpful. There was one person in particular who went far beyond the call of duty to organise a bed and breakfast for us, a lift to and from the terminal and some other necessities, given everything was in the boot.

You could say that someone merely took pity in exceptional circumstances, but what I did witness during my stay in the terminal, particularly when a broken rail caused considerable delays, was a consistently high level of service and great patience, often when faced with unreasonable demands and behaviour.

Recently too, we have all witnessed the tremendous contribution the games makers and other volunteers have made to the success of the Olympics. Many of us invest in customer care training as part of our strategies to ensure that the customer experience of our organisations is the best one. I do not doubt that they make a difference, in terms of setting out organisational expectations and equipping people with the tools and techniques they need. However, I wonder if those who deliver exceptional customer service, the ones who really give you a positive feel about the service provider are born and not made.

Are they, like the Olympic volunteers, people who simply have at their core, the desk to make peoples’ lives better? All the training in the world will not necessarily make people go the extra mile. If these are the people who we really need to turn good into excellent customer services, how do we identify this through our selection processes?

The customer experience we had caused us to make our great escape from the channel tunnel terminus with a smile on our faces. I should say though that when we stopped at the first petrol station in France, the diesel car was filled up with unleaded. The French mechanic with whom we spent a further three hours again demonstrated good customer service, despite the language barrier, but he found me perhaps a little less inclined to see the humour in the situation!

Martin