Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Customer Service - can it be delivered in public service?

Sure can:-))

In Germany, probably like in most other countries, one is obliged to register at the place of living. 

So normally that is just a thing you HAVE to do. The agents in the city council office treat you as you would be just a mere "case" for them. More work on the desk.

Not so in Dresden, where I had my most enjoyable memories getting my passport some 12 years ago during the carneval time and it was a whole lot of laughter and joy over there.

Yesterday I was heading towards the same place to register and make myself a "Citizen of Dresden". As it is the time between Xmas and New Year's Eve I wondered whether the place would be open and phoned the general city information. Got through (in Leipzig that line was either taken or you waited for ages, by the way I lived in Leipzig for the last four years, not feeling like a "Leipziger".

Alright I got off the tram in front of the town hall (all the Dresden suburbs used to independant cities and therefor had their own town hall from the late 19th century). All lights shut off in the building - almost;-) I wondered ("Didn't they tell you there would be service until 6 PM? Now it is 5 PM. Almost all dark. Strange."), stepped up the staircase and -surprise- the main door was open.

So I went in, looked around and found my way to the ticket machine (to make the queuing easier). Pulled my number, and expected to wait (saw dozens of people in Leipzig earlier that day when I was over there). No way, a few seconds later I was invited to next free service agent and waived in.

..and off we went, quickly she got the data into the computer, checked name and signed the piece a paper (on a WACOM tablet - so the electronic signatur is right in the computer, without copying and scanning the paper - great lean stuff:-)). We had a nice short chat and told her about my previous visit and how much I enjoyed it.

Five minutes later I was out of the office again and thought:

"Whow. that was customer service I would like to see not only in a city council but also at companies who have paying customers, like car manufacturers, railway companies and any other business type company"

A great example how easily the customer can be appreciated and takes his experience into the world (sure will post the City of Dresden about that story:-)).

Best regards and let's see where there are other fine examples around the world. Feel free to comment and write your story.

Ralf

Monday, December 22, 2008

Memorable Rail Journey - anything changed?

Dear readers of that customer orientated blog,

Have you ever felt the emptiness of your words when talking to a service employee at -any- railway corporation? You feel like a piece of luggage and nobody -from the official body- is appreciating that you are actually paying their monthy salary. I guess I am not the only one around with such memories (and to be honest as I travel quite a lot on the railway tracks, due to my green attitude;-), I happen so see regularly events that are not driving potential customers into the trains but rather drive them out in their car-pooling, using their own car, or just abandon the railways (and talking bad mouth about their experience:-().

It doesn't have to be that way:-))

The only thing it needs is the willingness and courage to see things, talk about them in open public (why not publish in the papers?) and make officials aware that the CUSTOMER is an asset!

Thalys Journey says more on what happened during an almost 10-hour-trainride (could have gone to Boston in the same time almost - not quite as the qeues at the airport in Boston could take another two hours:-().

Toyota, the world leader in corporate learning and empowering people to their strengths, sees in problems always to become better in the future. Am I wrong when I have a different feeling concerning the service problems at railways around the world? Especially the ones in Europe that are talking like they would be THE FIRST customer orientated corporations in the country don't play to REAL CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.


What was good?

Concerning that specific journey the connections between trains (in Frankfurt/Main and Cologne) was about the only thing that was good. Besides that I had to chance to have some rest and could read an interesting book (wouldn't have had the chance in a car;-()

What was bad?

Mis- and Non-Communication was the main driver to dissatisfaction and constant negative rememberance about the journey that started so well.

What have I learned?

Hm, difficult to say. Seems to be that every such event is like closed silo of information (nothing is leaking into the bigger organization and so nothing is changed, as far as customers can sense - you would surely run into similar difficulties again in the future. It is like my former boss always, "We have tackled the problem now, why find out what has been the root cause? Everything is fine now!")

Taking the initiative writing proposal letters to the railway officials seems useless and yet I can tell from own experience after some none-reaction efforts and letters you get to the RIGHT PERSON somewhere in the corporation dschungle:-) And things can change, if the pressure is really too hard and you are not the only one who is making noise. 

Getting papers involved in the issue is quite useful as an event showed during the flooding in Dresden in 2002. In official press bulletin of the German Railway it was that helpers who would help in the aftermath in Dresden would be transported free of charge by German Railway. Turned out -after a call to the press officer- that this offer was just valid to the Red Cross, THW, and other "official" bodies. As soon as I got -while I was in charge of the help organization- the first helper on the phone I told him the story and advised him to get in contact with either a newspaper or a radio station telling them about it.

Guess what? Only a few hours later we got a phone call by the office of the CEO asking what would be the problem about the issue. I told him and had -as we worked officially with the City Council of Dresden together- a few possible solutions to make sure that people wouldn't use the offer for free travels around the republic.

Everything worked out fine and I was surprised what is possible in terms of change and attitude towards customer needs:-))

Wonder how this could work out this time?

What is the next action out of this journey?

Interesting question and I would say, let go and see which intervention would be most useful to get the most for customers (potential, present and future) and the Thalys (by the way, German Railways, are also in need for some change towards customer orientation -but that is another story to be posted soon;-))

Please feel free to tell your stories (let me know and I will add you as contributor and writer on the blog).

Best regards and save and joyful travels around whereever you may be

Ralf

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Customers voice - sometimes difficult to understand

Ten minutes ago I have arrived by taxi from Leipzig Main Station. On my way I asked the driver about the model we were going in. It was a Volkswagen Sharan (pretty nice actually and solid quality so it seems).

I ask the driver, "Nice car. Anything you would like to be better or more appropriate?"

His answer, "It is o.k."

My insisting 2nd question, "Hm, there is probably something that could be better or is already perfect?"

Driver, "Could use less gas or diesel."

Me, "Anything else, as I would like to make the "perfect" car?"

Driver, "No, and this will never work! Nothing will be perfect!"

Me, "Hm, there is a company in India that is willing to design the perfect car and actually produce it in Germany. That is the reason, I am asking you as a customer."

Driver, "...."

....and the talk died:-(

Strange, how can we deliver customer value if the customer isn't willing to articulate what he really wishes? Are we doomed to produce guessing what customers really want? Do we have to get into other media to hear customer's voice?

A strange experience and I wonder how other have experienced similar things.

Best regards,

Ralf

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Transparency and quick customer reply

@safttante has mentioned and brought into the open, what has happened to one of their customers who had bought hot spiced wine earlier.

Walther's, a great producer of fruit juices based in Arnsdorf/Sachsen about half an hour east of Dresden sells flexible 3-l containers that don't have to be refrigerated due to the innovative clip.


Unfortunately this clip is different on the 10-l box and this one has to be finished in one gulp;-)

Real customer service orientated this "error" has been directly communicated with the customer who has complained, put on the Saftblog and -probably- is already well under way to be changed in the near future.

A great example for what LEAN THINKING is: CUSTOMER SERVICE OF ITS BEST.

Looking for more examples of that in Saxony, Germany and the World.