Welcome to the UK's leading blog on customer service, customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. The blog is written and edited by Darren Bugg, alongside a team of expert guest writers. Darren Bugg is a marketing and customer service expert with 30 years experience working at a senior level in this field. They also offer a wide variety of training courses in customer service, customer..
If you didn’t already know what GDPR is, then you probably do by now!! There is a strong chance that you have recently been bombarded with emails and communications from companies trying to get you to re-sign up to their services.
This is because from 25 May 2018 GDPR is introduced in the UK. And it has important consequences for all businesses, both large and small.
So first a very quick introduction to GDPR. To summarise, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means that businesses need to get consent from their clients to use and store the personal data they have now, and any they collect in the future.
There are a number of strict rules and very material fines for offenders who fail to adhere to them. And remember that GDPR is not just a one-off date. Businesses need to stay compliant from now on.
The new regulations are generally good for customers. Many businesses, however, face the very real prospect of their customer databases being decimated and having to implement costly changes to their processes, privacy procedures and record keeping to avoid large fines.
What do businesses need to do?
Firstly ask what personal data you currently hold or process. How was it gathered? Where is it stored? What do you do with it?
Next, check the data consents that you have in place. You may have given ‘opt out’ options when you collected specific data (for example from customers), but these are invalidated by GDPR, so using this data for any purpose where consent is required could lead to prosecution. You may have to re-obtain consent from individuals where you are unable to demonstrate that they have given affirmative consent.
Businesses also have an obligation to make individuals aware of their rights. As part of the data collection process, consider whether you need to update your privacy policies or T&Cs.
Have a clear plan for what should happen in the event that you experience a data breach. Understand what data you hold counts as personal, where it’s kept, who has access to it, your mechanisms for spotting a breach and who it should be reported to.And although SMEs with fewer than 250 staff might have a bit more leeway, the reality is companies which regularly use personal data and contact customers will be subject to the key GDPR rules. In practice is better to be safe than very sorry. Yes it’s a distraction. Yes reading and understanding the details of the rules can be turgid stuff but, yes it is very important.
Review your current data
Businesses need to undertake a comprehensive review of the current personal data they hold on customers and contacts. Understand what you hold and where you hold it. Most importantly you need to understand how you got it. The broad rule of thumb is if you didn’t get explicit permission from somebody to hold and use particular personal data, you need to ask for it.
Update your policies and procedures
Make sure you update your ongoing privacy policies to be GDPR compliant - spelling out how you collect and store data, what data you will collect and how you will use it. And you need to put new ongoing data procedures in place. Make sure that you renew permissions from ‘inactive’ customers every year. You need to make sure you can easily access all the personal data you have on any particular customer if they want to exercise their rights to be ‘forgotten’ and be deleted from your database.
What constitutes personal data?
Be warned - personal data is defined very widely. Personal data is more than just a name and email. It can include anything from an IP address to political leanings and ethnicity. Personal data can also include data stored on anything from a spreadsheet to a mobile phone - not just a marketing database.
Make it easy for customers to give permission
It is good practice to make it easy for customers to update and change their data and communication preferences. Staff training on what constitutes personal data and what you can and can’t do with personal data is also important.
Data from suppliers
Also remember that if you either bring in personal data from suppliers or they use your customers' personal data to provide services, you should review the contractual commitments of all the parties involved, and any practices and policies a supplier may have which could impact your own GDPR compliance and wider reputation.
Use GDPR to your advantage
It is not all bad news for businesses. Indeed, GDPR could represent an opportunity rather than a curse.
Once you have sorted out your existing data and found the right and compliant way to process new data, then you need to see if you can use GDPR to your advantage. In the short-term the likelihood is the size of the database (that you can legitimately contact) will shrink significantly - which is why a lot of companies are desperately emailing you to get your consent to send further communications.
But a bigger database does not necessarily mean better. Remember that after GDPR you will have a contact base of customers that really want to engage with you and hear from you.
If you target these customers in the right way they can be far more valuable to you than a huge database of people who can’t remember why or how they signed up to your services in the first place and continue to ignore (or get angry about) your communications. Your loyal customers can be crucial advocates and supporters for you if treat them correctly.
Promoting the fact that you are a GDPR compliant business, to your current and future customers, can be a great way to win business instead of losing it. If you can demonstrate you take personal data seriously and treat customers with respect then they will respect you more for it. Smart companies can use GDPR to win business by cherishing, nurturing and engaging with their valued customers - which after all is what good business should be all about!
How to get more information
It is tempting to think that new European rules don’t apply to your business. But they do, and they are likely to remain in force after Brexit. The Information Commissioner's Office has a wealth of information to help businesses - including a free guide about how to prepare for GDPR.
COPYRIGHT: materials used in this article first appeared on the This is Money website. We acknowledge the copyright is held by them.
Car mechanics are some of the least trusted professionals in the UK. In fact, 85% of British drivers think they're deceitful, and almost a third (30%) of motorists believe they have been ripped off by a mechanic at some time or another. This is according to a recent survey of 2,000 car owners conducted by the price comparison site confused.com.
The research also showed that, on average, drivers think they've been overcharged by £205 on repair bills, 135 saying they were pressured into paying for new parts their car didn't even need.
Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents said that they resent a trip to the garage, with 21% saying it makes them feel anxious and uneasy and 11% saying they try to avoid it at all costs!
Are women treated differently to men?
There is a stark difference between the way that men and women believe they will be treated by mechanics. Of the women surveyed, 39% said they believed they will be ripped off by a mechanic, compared to 27% of male drivers in the survey.
And nearly two thirds (62%) of female motorists believed they were treated differently to men when they take their car to the garage because of their gender. In fact, over half of female drivers (55%) think mechanics believe that women don’t know much about cars!
Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005) is regarded as the ‘founder of modern management’ and is one of the most famous management gurus ever. He wrote 39 books which have been translated into more than 36 languages. He also wrote a regular column in the Wall Street Journal for 10 years and contributed frequently to the Harvard Business Review and The Economist.
Drucker is known for many famous quotes, and below are my ten favourites, which all have relevance to anyone who works in customer service or who runs a business that aspires to provide exceptional service to their customers.
"The purpose of a business is to create a customer."
"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself."
"Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility."
"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."
"The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity."
"What gets measured gets managed."
"Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it."
"The relevant question is not simply what shall we do tomorrow, but rather what shall we do today in order to get ready for tomorrow?"
And my very favourite Drucker quote:
"Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two and only two functions: Marketing and Innovation. Marketing and Innovation produce results. All the rest are costs."
The Business Show is the UK's leading business exhibition. It includes an exciting blend of highly respected guest speakers, training seminars, interactive features, and industry leading suppliers. The event is now officially the fastest growing business show in Europe.
The show takes place on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th May 2018 at Excel conference centre in London's Docklands.
Every years the Show attracts more than 25,000 business owners who are aiming to improve and expand their companies. It features around 250 seminars, 170 masterclasses, and around 350 exhibitors.
This year’s event features a host of well-known business leaders including Steven Smith, the founder of Poundland, Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Yo Sushi, Perry McCarthy, the original Stig’ from BBC’s Top Gear, and Brad Burton, one of the UK’s best known inspirational speakers.
The event will include a Digital Zone featuring Google's Digital Garage plus also a Start-up Zone, numerous free seminars and masterclasses, speed networking, and the chance to pitch your business idea to a panel of expert business investors.
Have you recently had a really bad experience of customer service? We are looking for guest writers to tell us about any bad experiences they have had involving customer service - and how the problem could have been handled better by the company concerned.
About your Article
1. Your article should contain about 500 - 700 words and must be directly relevant to customer service, customer loyalty, or customer satisfaction.
2. The article must be unique and exclusive. We will not publish articles that have been used elsewhere in other publications or websites.
3. The article needs to be honest and accurate, and you must accept legal responsibility for what you have written.
4. We're not looking for articles that are derogatory or overly negative. Although the article should be about bad customer service, it's important that you also say how the company could have handled things better and give constructive suggestions for future improvement.
If you are interested...
Before submitting your article please first email firstname.lastname@example.org with an outline of your article idea. We will then get back to you to confirm it is suitable for publication.
I have to be totally honest with you. I have never really liked Currys PC World. But this has always been more to do with their rip-off pricing rather than their customer service, which is usually fairly OK.
In fact I am writing this very article right now using a laptop computer that I bought from them a few years ago. There was an initial technical problem with my laptop (which Currys PC World refused to solve until I had proved that it was their fault). But aside from that it has worked OK since then, and I have had no reason to complain.
I am a frequent visitor to my local branch of the store, but I have to admit that I very rarely actually buy anything from them. They are a great shop to browse round and try out new products, but then I usually go onto the internet and purchase the same item online at a much cheaper price.
So my view of Currys PC World as a whole is that they usually (not always) offer reasonable customer service, and they have a great range of products. But their prices are nearly always higher than what you pay from an online retailer.
But it seems that Currys PC World has now been caught out with some pretty dodgy customer service practices. Numerous customers have recently complained that they were pressured into paying £35 in set-up fees for a new laptop.
Consumer group Which? Has reported that 108 customers complained of being given no choice but to pay the extra amount when they collected their laptop. The consumer group said it had raised the issue with the firm "multiple times" since 2015, but they still continued to hear about complaints.
Customers said staff had told them computers that had already been set up were the only ones left in stock, meaning they would have to pay a previously unmentioned set-up fee.
The retailer offers a £35 'Knowhow' set-up service. But these angry customers have said that they were not advised it was optional. Under UK consumer law, all retailers should advertise the full price of a product bought online.
A Currys PC World spokeswoman said: "We are sorry to hear that some customers have been charged for a Knowhow Laptop Set-up service on their new machine when they did not request it. While setting up machines in advance enables customers who want the service to benefit from it straight away, it is not something everyone needs.”
"We are urgently re-briefing our stores to remind them that, in the small number of cases where only pre-set up models are available, customers should not be charged for the service when they buy their laptop."
Which? called on the firm to refund affected customers, saying it had first contacted Currys in January 2015.
Alex Neill, the Which? director of home and product services, said: "This issue has been going on for more than three years without resolution and we are disappointed people are continuing to report feeling pressurised into parting with their cash.”
"We want Currys to make cast-iron guarantees that it will put an end to this practice and that customers who've been caught out will be reimbursed."
And please also let us know about it here at The Customer Service Blog so that we can help to expose Currys PC World when they treat customers in this shoddy way. (Don't worry, we will always keep your identity completely private).
Yesterday The Customer Service Blog hit a major milestone. We hit the magical target of 60,000 readers, which makes us the fastest growing blog in the world on the subject of customer service and customer loyalty.
We have readers literally all over the world. This includes over 20,000 people in the USA and nearly 23,000 people in the UK. See the table below for a breakdown of our readership figures in our Top 10 countries, as verified by the Blog's hosting company.
Our target is to have over 100,000 readers by the end of this year. Please help us by spreading the word amongst your friends and colleagues. And don't forget that unlike many other customer blogs, we are completely non-commercial and non-profit making. We do not feature any advertising on our site and we exist purely for educational and academic purposes.
I've just wasted a Saturday afternoon, but in the process I've learnt a valuable lesson, and a lesson which will be of benefit to anyone who runs their own business.
For the last few months I've been thinking about buying a new car, but it's all got a bit stressful, and so in the end I decided to keep the one I've got for a few more months and have some essential work done on it.
The thing I needed fixing was very small and I was quoted £80 to do the work by my local branch of Kwik Fit.
Without going into the technical details, it's something that was only going to take about 20 minutes to do. But before agreeing to the price, I decided to get some other quotes - and my local branch of Wilco Motosave said they could do the same work for £70.
I have used this branch of Motosave several times in the past, and I have usually found their staff to be rude and unhelpful. In addition, their waiting area is unpleasant, noisy and uncomfortable.
But on the understanding that they would do the work on time, I thought I could put up with a bit of rudeness and discomfort for 20 minutes if it would save me £10.
So I booked a slot at 2.30pm today for the work to be done. I even said they could choose the time of the appointment themselves, but I made it very clear that I would be in a hurry and I really needed the work to be done at the time they stated.
And this is where the problems started
I fully expected to arrive at 2.30pm and have the work finished by at least 3.15pm so that I could go to an important appointment elsewhere.
I arrived dead on time, and handed over my car keys, only to be told that the work wouldn't be done for several hours. I asked why, and they said it was because they were “busy”.
It became quite obvious what was going on. They had experienced an influx of people just coming off the street without an appointment, and they didn't want to turn away the potential business. So people like me who had gone to the trouble of booking an appointment at an exact time, were being pushed to the back of the queue so they wouldn't lose the business of the 'walk in' customers.
As you can imagine I was pretty annoyed about this, but in the end I managed to negotiate with them that they would have the car finished by 4pm. The manager then suggested that I went off to the local McDonald's to wait there.
I'm not fan of McDonald's (I'm a strict vegetarian and I wouldn't be seen dead in that place) so I walked around aimlessly in the rain for an hour just to kill a bit of time. I then returned to the garage at 4.10pm, fully expecting my car to be ready.
By now I was desperate to get my car back so I could do other more important things. So I was horrified to discover that my car was still up on the ramp - and the work hadn't even been started!!
There were no staff to be seen, so I had a look round the back and discovered all the engineers were together in a huddle, laughing, smoking and chatting - and they clearly couldn't give a damn about the fact that I desperately needed my car to get somewhere else.
I went inside the store and asked the manager what was going on, as they had promised me the car would be finished well by 4pm (which was already an hour later than originally agreed).
The manager’s reply astounded me. He said that his staff deserved a break, and in any case it was MY fault for leaving the premises (that is what he told me to do!!)
So I waited outside in the rain again. And it took another whole hour before they could be bothered to finish the work on my car (a simple job that took them about 20 minutes, once they’d actually got round to doing it). So I finally left the garage at 5pm - two-and-a-half hours after the time booked for the work to be done
So what have I learnt from this experience?
I have learnt an important lesson from this experience which will not only benefit myself in the future, but will also benefit YOU if you run your own business.
I could have gone to my local branch of Kwik-Fit and paid £10 more. I have used them in the past and they have always done the work to a high standard, more-or-less exactly in the agreed timescale. They have a pleasant waiting area with big comfortable chairs, a massive TV to watch while you're waiting, and a free coffee machine with a range of different delicious drinks that you can help yourself to.
So, the next time I need anything doing to my car I will have to weigh-up whether it's worth wasting an entire Saturday afternoon wandering about in the rain for the sake of saving ten quid. I think I know what I will do next time!
If you run your own business, it's worth bearing in mind that most customers are prepared to pay a higher price if they are treated with respect and given good, efficient customer service.
And companies that treat their customers with disdain like Wilco Motosave will eventually pay a heavy price for offering slightly cheaper prices, but with terrible customer service.
No matter what type of organisation we work for, nearly everyone has to deal with an angry or difficult customer at some point in our working lives. Anger manifests itself in various forms. At a low level it could could just be sarcastic remarks, minor rudeness, or a disagreement over prices, delivery dates, or the specification for a product.
But sometimes the anger can be more disconcerting and include things like outright hostility, shouting, swearing, aggressive body language, or even threats of violence.
So if you're in a customer service situation and you are faced with an angry customer, or a customer who looks like they could become angry, what should you do?
Here is a quick and easy acronym to remember when you are faced with a customer who is getting angry. Obviously there is much more to the subject of dealing with difficult customers than simply remembering an acronym. But this quick four-word reminder is useful to take the HEAT out of the situation if things start to get out of hand.
Hear Actively listen to the customer's grievance.
Empathise Empathise with the customer by showing that you understand how they feel.
Apologise Apologise to the customer for their distress.
Take ownership Accept that there is a problem, and show that you are going to do something about it.
Dealing with difficult customers is a massive problem these days across all business sectors. Darren Bugg has devised an innovative half-day course to help organisations to train their staff in dealing with difficult customers and how to turn challenging customer service situations into OPPORTUNITIES to increase profit and develop customer loyalty. The course is run in-house across the whole UK. For more details contact Darren by clicking here or calling 0113 2796844. To see hundreds more articles click here to visit our archive