For some reason, despite the best efforts of Dr Stephen Covey I have an annoying tendency to drive around with barely enough fuel in my car.
So it no surprise, one day last week, when I was en route to a meeting in Chester and needed to stop off for a ‘£40.00 splash and dash’ at my local filling station.
As I got out of the car I became aware of a man in bright yellow corporate apparel making a bee line for me.
‘Good morning Madam’. I hate being referred to as Madam. It makes me feel like a granny.
‘Good morning’ I replied.
He launched straight away into his ‘Would you like to try our new all singing, all dancing, super efficient fuel today? Special offer, discount, buy £40.00 of fuel to qualify‘ routine.
Those who know me will be aware that I’m not someone who buys on impulse. I need time to consider even the most ‘obvious’ of deals, such as this ‘no brainer’ so I politely declined thinking that would be the end of the matter. It wasn’t.
‘How much fuel are you buying today, Madam?’
‘£25.00‘ I replied, at which point it became apparent that the man dressed as a canary was going to dispense the fuel for me and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.
For some reason the idea of someone ‘serving’ me felt wrong. It felt oppressive. It felt uncomfortable.
Hard to believe from my photograph, I know, (that Jim Hawkins has a lens that lies for sure), but I am old just about enough to remember a time when being a petrol pump attendant was a reasonable job. It was the norm. It was all part of the fuel buying process. However nowadays, to me it feels inappropriate and yet, someone in the marketing department of this particular fuel distribution company decided that reintroducing this approach was providing ‘added value’ and would probably result in enhanced sales.
As it happened I bought less fuel than intended in order to avoid qualifying for the ‘minimum purchase special offer’ so that marketing mogul was wrong.
This little incident made me start to ponder the following;
- What does customer service really means in 2013?
- What actually qualifies as ‘added value’ when we are purchasing from or experiencing another business?
- What is appropriate as a safe yet professional communication style that works for both business AND customer?
It seems that on this particular occasion, from my perspective they got all 3 wrong.
Of course we all try to do our best in this regard but so often we get it wrong. Knowing how to hit the right note not only takes time it takes careful planning and is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ strategy. Giving staff the skills and autonomy to recognise when to ‘back off’ has to be factored in so that we not only get it right first time, but that we get it right every time?