Chris Lane, A Puncture, The Piano Lesson & The Health Club

A true story about a puncture, a piano lesson and a health club – and a valuable lesson for all businesses…

Many years ago I worked for a major bank at a time they were trying to reinvent themselves (can’t for the life of me think why they needed to do that!!!). Every member of staff was put through a “process” in an attempt to get us to buy in to the new “look and feel” and we were TOLD what the new mission statement was.

There is a huge difference between words and actions!

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I can remember clearly the comments from virtually every member of staff – suffice to say virtually nobody had bought into the master plan – probably because they weren’t consulted – yet they were all expected to spout the party line to customers.

Given the current state of banking in the UK I’m sure I don’t need to explain further that the management thought they’d got it right, the staff didn’t and the customers suffered as a result.

The issue for me is that when staff don’t believe in what they are doing or don’t have a customer focused ethos, the mission statement of the business is meaningless. You have to buy into the concept

Meanwhile, back at the health club…

We were overwhelmed with the positive response during the first few days of our launch and this morning I was catching up a little and was extremely fortunate to find an inspiring website – Chris Lane – – that really spoke to me.

You know when sometimes you find yourself reading more and more (and the words really meaning something to you) – this was one such occasion for me.

As you probably know, I’m fanatical about customer service and the post on Chris’s blog (copied below) is a perfect example of how I think all businesses should behave. I believe we do things because we want to and when you put the customer first, because it is the right thing to do (rather than thinking “what do we get out of it”), the benefits are amplified.

The piano lesson beckons

If this happened to you my guess is you wouldn’t keep it to yourself…


Provide outstanding customer care when things go wrong!

I believe there’s a difference between customer service and customer care.

Service is the actual performance, while care is the ethos behind it that:
• reflects the core values of the company delivering it,
• delights the customer, and
• exceeds their expectations by so much they tell ten people and come back time and time again

In his best-selling book "Setting the Table", Danny Meyer describes customer care as when something happens FOR you and not just TO you.

Good customer care is a whole different experience. Sometimes outstanding customer care only shows when something has gone wrong.

Let me share an example with you from my club some years ago, although I was away when it happened.

A member came to the club around 3.30pm with two children aged five and six years. She dropped off one child at a class at the club, and returned to her car to take the other for a piano lesson in Guildford, only to find it had a puncture. In a panic she ran back into Reception and asked if we would call a taxi to take her child to Guildford for her piano lesson on time, while she rang the breakdown service to fix the puncture.

Good customer service would have been to do that with sympathy, quickly and efficiently, perhaps offering her a coffee while she waited at least an hour for the breakdown service.

But let me tell you what my Duty Manager, Charles, did off his own back ... remember, I wasn’t there!

He told the club member the child was too young to be in a taxi on her own and offered to personally drive the child the ten miles each way to her piano lesson, at his own expense.

Before leaving, Charles called our handyman and asked him to swap her tyre over for her while she sat in the clubroom watching her first child in her class.

The mother collected her first child from our class when it finished, then drove over in her now drivable car to collect her other child from her piano lesson.

Now THAT is outstanding customer care!

That is what The Ritz Carlton Hotel Group call the “WOW" in service.

How can you put a price on the goodwill and great word of mouth that it would have brought us . . . but, you know, it just made us feel good!

Customer care is training people to serve clients in an outstanding fashion. If you don’t have great people working with you . . .now THAT is another story!

Have you ever asked a person when they applied for a job whether they have the "Soul of a Servant”?

know I’ll like Chris Lane if I ever meet him. When someone really cares about their customers you immediately know the kind of person they are. And if you are seeking a business mentor maybe you should look him up – here’s his website – Chris Lane

There is far too much poor to non-existent customer service in every industry – rise above it and your business will be seen as excellent and you’ll develop a band of raving fans!

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