Which doesn’t look like any relationship I’ve ever had.
Another January, more High Street woe , more stories of how customer service is declining.
My belief ? Service is actually improving in the UK. But far too slowly compared to other countries and the best online providers.
Why? Because it too often focuses on transactions rather than building relationships.
And if you focus on transactions, CRM and cross-sell , you slowly become disconnected. You think “inside out”. Like the company. Not the customer.
I’ve recently been on a trip outside the UK and would like to share 5 examples where the service focused on relationship building.
1 – The Customs Official Who Smiled
Anyone who has been to Singapore Airport will understand why it consistently appears in the Top 3 airports in the world. From free wifi , to a sublime check-in experience, to free cinema’s and botanic gardens – it’s as if Disney did airports. My stand out moment? Being presented with a tray of sweets by the Customs Official (!) , greeted by my first name , and wished a pleasant stay. Not the experience I got on returning to Manchester. Singapore Airport provides the same function as everyone else – putting planes into the sky – but they do it differently.
2- The Restaurant That Doesn’t Say No
You are the last customers in a restaurant – it’s well past closing time. You order a final couple of drinks, but they have run out of vodka. You’d be asked to change your drinks order or offered something else, right? At Again and Again they didn’t do this. The owner got on her moped, disappeared for 5 minutes and came back with a new bottle. Leaving two customers she had never met before sitting alone, and trusting that they would be there when she returned.
This tiny six table Thai restaurant is run by a Mother and her daughter. The service can be a bit slow as Mum has to cook everything from scratch and the daughter helps out in between doing her homework. But the service is provided as if you were a guest in their home. Which , funnily enough, you are. They live upstairs. And that’s the trick – by treating every customer as a house guest – you have turned a transaction into a relationship.
3- The Bank That People Love
Whilst I was away I had to phone First Direct. My comment on Twitter speaks for itself:
First Direct continue to be a worldwide benchmark through their utter obsession with focussing on the relationship they have with you.
I’m amazed that whenever I mention them on social media I always get fellow fans joining in and adding their own experiences.
Fans. Of a bank. Aren’t we meant to hate them?
4- The Hotel That Apologises Before You Complain
A Hotel puts on a beach fireworks display. Fireworks are aimed at the guests rather than the sky. Several guests have their dinner ruined as they dive for cover. An unfortunate incident but no-one was hurt. (And if you were sitting in the right place it was actually pretty funny.)
But the Buri Rasa Koh Phangan then did something amazing. Some businesses would say something stupid. It issued a letter to everyone in the hotel – apologising and refunding one nights stay. For everyone. No argument.
By showing extreme honesty, by compensating customers before they had a chance to complain , it ensures everyone goes home happy and tells this story.
5 – The Bar That Threatens To Kill Rabbits
Imagine you go for a drink and the first thing that happens is the manager introduces herself and lays a pet rabbit before you. She then threatens to barbecue it unless you agree to eat there. This is the slightly unconventional service offered at Jip Shop , who have transformed an ordinary bar into somewhere memorable through humour and just being….weird.
Jip will tell you that she only manages the shop. The owner is actually a tyrannical cat who refuses to pay the staff decent wages. The rabbit , Dollar , was captured by the cat and employed as a mascot. Dollar is seeking freedom by jumping from table to table to help guests. (I swear no hallucinogens were involved here).
I went in a fair few bars whilst I was away but which one stands out? Lesson for us all – Be memorable.
The death of the High Street is exaggerated – it’s just going through a necessary cycle of renewal. The big brands who forgot about relationships needed to make way for the next generation. Hopefully it will be a generation who understand that the only way to compete with online is through memorable and surprising experiences.
By the way – we went back again to Jip Shop again. Dollar survived: