One topic that I return to again and again in this blog is the importance of going above and beyond for customers.
It’s the one thing that every company can do, that gives them an edge.
I am obsessed with customer service. Not just because it’s good for business but because I genuinely love my customers. I’ve never regretted a single second that I have spent making life a little easier for our users or talking about ways to improve.
I’d like to tell you a story about something that happened to me last week. It might sound like a shaggy dog tale but bear with me.
At BigChange, we use our Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand whether we are truly bringing value to customers. It indicates a customer’s willingness to recommend your brand. Recently, we noticed one customer – who has been with BigChange for many years – had given us a neutral NPS score.
When I dug a little deeper, it turned out that they were still only using part of the system that they had signed up for over two years ago. They weren’t using all our new features and hadn’t been looking closely at the updates. This company had also taken on a new starter, who was now the main BigChange contact there. This new hire had given us the NPS score.
There was only one thing to do. I decided to go and meet him and find out how we could improve his experience of our system. The only hitch was that the company was based in Milford Haven in South West Wales.
I shan’t go into a long rant about the poor state of transport links in this part of the world – that is for another blog, about how improving the rail lines and roads would supercharge business growth in Wales. I set off at 5pm on Tuesday, naively thinking I would have a smooth journey.
I decided to get the train from Wakefield. I love to travel by train, as it gives me a chance to work. The closest I could get to my destination from here was Cardiff that evening. I have a railcard because of my hearing disability, so I got a good rate for a seat in first class. Nevertheless, the train was filthy on the Birmingham to Cardiff leg. The journey was so bumpy that it was hard to work. One particularly violent jolt sent my dinner – sushi and an entire pot of soy sauce – all over my suit. I was completely splattered.
I stayed overnight in Cardiff, as my meeting was the following morning in Milford Haven. The train from Cardiff to Swansea took an hour. From there, it was a two-hour train or a 1.5-hour taxi to Milford Haven. I was pushed for time so I flagged a cab. She told me it would cost me £150 to go 60 miles!
I negotiated her down to £100 and when we set off, she began driving at breakneck speed. When I told her to slow down, she said: “What do you expect for £100?”
She needed to stop to use a loo, so we pulled in at a truck stop. I bought us both a hot drink. She hit the gas so hard when we left that my tea ended up down my shirt.
I can’t imagine what the customer must have thought when I arrived, stained, shaken, and barely on time. He was so gracious and I found him to be extremely intelligent and knowledgeable; a real technology whizz. I spent five hours there and the session was extremely useful for me as well as him. I explained all the functionality that they hadn’t used yet, and he recommended some ways we could improve.
The Managing Director kindly dropped me at Carmarthen to get the train home. The only train I could get took three hours to get to Cardiff and then a two-hour train to Birmingham. By the time I got there, I had missed the last train home and had to stay over. I headed back the following morning, still in that dreadful suit.
You can read this story and think, ‘What a nightmare’. It’s true, that I feel like I have gone to the ends of the earth for this customer. But I mean it when I say it was an absolute pleasure. And that I would do it again, in a heartbeat. I’m really happy that I got to spend quality time with a valued user, and learn more about what we could do to help him get the most out of BigChange.
I don’t know what the trip cost me in fares and hotels (not to mention my dry-cleaning bill) but it’s worth every penny. The return on investment is enormous, if that customer feels valued.
I may be the founder and chief executive of this company but visiting customers is still the most important thing I do. If you run a company with customers all over the UK – or the world – you must be prepared to travel and meet them. Trust me, you’ll be so charged up by these sessions that you won’t care about the miles travelled or the challenges on the way.