Archive for April, 2008

Tagged by Mousie

The Rules:

(1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. (2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. (3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. (4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1- I am 77% addicted to Coffee.

2- If I was a superhero, I would be James Bond.

3- If I was at Hogwarts, I would be in Gryffindor.

4- I used to work at Pontins and there’s still a bit of “bluecoat” in me.

5- As an ex-electrician, I can’t help noticing (and commenting) on shoddy work wherever I see it. This drives my wife mad.

6- I am addicted to Sudoko.

7- I am addicted to cruise holidays.

OK. But it’s my blog and I can change the rules if I want. I was tagged by  http://mousethinks.blogspot.com/  but I think that 7 things isn’t enough. Last year, I answered 50 questions. Some of them made me think quite hard. Answering some of them upset me, but I think I learnt a bit about myself.

https://caravanparkmanager.wordpress.com/2007/06/15/50-questions/

So- I’m hitting the ball back to you, Mousie. How about you do the 50 questions?

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The Customer is Always Right? Wrong.

Another unhappy customer grabs me today. Won’t even wait till I get to the Reception Counter. Starts discussing her complaint in the shop, rather than somewhere more private.

Asks me for a “goodwill gesture” as a “faithful customer” straight after “I’ll be calling my MP”. Well, that is an empty threat, but it is hardly likely to engender my goodwill.

Finally says “well, I never signed my contract, so you can’t enforce it”. So I go to the back office and check. It’s signed. All the contracts are. You don’t get to buy or site a caravan here without signing. And it’s signed by both husband and wife.

“well, your contracts are illegal, anyway”. No. They are a legally binding contract. They are based on a model contract that was developed in consultation with the Office of Fair Trading. Recently reviewed following further OFT consultation in 2005. How less illegal can a contract be than one that is specifically approved by the government body set up to protect consumers?

The caravan industry gets bad press from time to time. Usually caused by an operator who does not comply with industry standard practice. Our trade association has close ties with local and national government departments, and consults and advises on how we can adopt “best practice”. I’m proud to go along with this. It makes excellent business sense to run your business in an ethical, transparent, fair and even way.

However, this customer, being treated exactly the same as others, isn’t happy. She wants special treatment. Special treatment that will allow her to sell an 18 year old caravan to an unsuspecting purchaser. All she cares about is getting paid.

She doesn’t care that the buyer will be buying a worn-out caravan that does not comply to current standards of safety, energy efficiency or heat insulation. Yet she thinks that I’m the one in the wrong, by refusing the sale. If she carried out the sale, she would be giving her buyer genuine grounds to be very, very unhappy. But if the complaint hit the media, it wouldn’t be “I bought this caravan privately and it’s not the caravan park’s responsibility”, would it.

Oh no. It would be “rich unscrupulous caravan park manager sells death-trap caravan and buyer is almost poisoned by fumes from old-fashioned water heater”.

So, throw your sling-shots, madam. I am looking after my customers. Even though you’re not.

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On a similar topic,  I found the following article:

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One woman who frequently flew on Southwest, was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.

Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’

In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, and is typically used by businesses to:

  1. Convince customers that they will get good service at this company
  2. Convince employees to give customers good service

Fortunately more and more businesses are abandoning this maxim – ironically because it leads to bad customer service.

Here are the top five reasons why “The customer is always right” is wrong.

 

1: It makes employees unhappy

Gordon Bethune is a brash Texan (as is Herb Kelleher, coincidentally) who is best known for turning Continental Airlines around “From Worst to First,” a story told in his book of the same title from 1998. He wanted to make sure that both customers and employees liked the way Continental treated them, so he made it very clear that the maxim “the customer is always right” didn’t hold sway at Continental.

In conflicts between employees and unruly customers he would consistently side with his people. Here’s how he puts it:

When we run into customers that we can’t reel back in, our loyalty is with our employees. They have to put up with this stuff every day. Just because you buy a ticket does not give you the right to abuse our employees . . .

We run more than 3 million people through our books every month. One or two of those people are going to be unreasonable, demanding jerks. When it’s a choice between supporting your employees, who work with you every day and make your product what it is, or some irate jerk who demands a free ticket to Paris because you ran out of peanuts, whose side are you going to be on?

You can’t treat your employees like serfs. You have to value them . . . If they think that you won’t support them when a customer is out of line, even the smallest problem can cause resentment.

So Bethune trusts his people over unreasonable customers. What I like about this attitude is that it balances employees and customers, where the “always right” maxim squarely favors the customer – which is not a good idea, because, as Bethune says, it causes resentment among employees.

Of course there are plenty of examples of bad employees giving lousy customer service. But trying to solve this by declaring the customer “always right” is counter-productive.

2: It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage

Using the slogan “The customer is always right” abusive customers can demand just about anything – they’re right by definition, aren’t they? This makes the employees’ job that much harder, when trying to rein them in.

Also, it means that abusive people get better treatment and conditions than nice people. That always seemed wrong to me, and it makes much more sense to be nice to the nice customers to keep them coming back.

3: Some customers are bad for business

Most businesses think that “the more customers the better”. But some customers are quite simply bad for business.

Danish IT service provider ServiceGruppen proudly tell this story:

One of our service technicians arrived at a customer’s site for a maintenance task, and to his great shock was treated very rudely by the customer.

When he’d finished the task and returned to the office, he told management about his experience. They promptly cancelled the customer’s contract.

Just like Kelleher dismissed the irate lady who kept complaining (but somehow also kept flying on Southwest), ServiceGruppen fired a bad customer. Note that it was not even a matter of a financial calculation – not a question of whether either company would make or lose money on that customer in the long run. It was a simple matter of respect and dignity and of treating their employees right.

4: It results in worse customer service

Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency, took it even further. CEO Hal Rosenbluth wrote an excellent book about their approach called Put The Customer Second – Put your people first and watch’em kick butt.

Rosenbluth argues that when you put the employees first, they put the customers first. Put employees first, and they will be happy at work. Employees who are happy at work give better customer service because:

  • They care more about other people, including customers
  • They have more energy
  • They are happy, meaning they are more fun to talk to and interact with
  • They are more motivated

On the other hand, when the company and management consistently side with customers instead of with employees, it sends a clear message that:

  • Employees are not valued
  • That treating employees fairly is not important
  • That employees have no right to respect from customers
  • That employees have to put up with everything from customers

When this attitude prevails, employees stop caring about service. At that point, real good service is almost impossible – the best customers can hope for is fake good service. You know the kind I mean: corteous on the surface only.

5: Some customers are just plain wrong

Herb Kelleher agrees, as this passage From Nuts! the excellent book about Southwest Airlines shows:

Herb Kelleher […] makes it clear that his employees come first — even if it means dismissing customers. But aren’t customers always right? “No, they are not,” Kelleher snaps. “And I think that’s one of the biggest betrayals of employees a boss can possibly commit. The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.’”

If you still think that the customer is always right, read this story from Bethune’s book “From Worst to First”:

A Continental flight attendant once was offended by a passenger’s child wearing a hat with Nazi and KKK emblems on it. It was pretty offensive stuff, so the attendant went to the kid’s father and asked him to put away the hat. “No,” the guy said. “My kid can wear what he wants, and I don’t care who likes it.”

The flight attendant went into the cockpit and got the first officer, who explained to the passenger the FAA regulation that makes it a crime to interfere with the duties of a crew member. The hat was causing other passengers and the crew discomfort, and that interfered with the flight attendant’s duties. The guy better put away the hat.

He did, but he didn’t like it. He wrote many nasty letters. We made every effort to explain our policy and the federal air regulations, but he wasn’t hearing it. He even showed up in our executive suite to discuss the matter with me. I let him sit out there. I didn’t want to see him and I didn’t want to listen to him. He bought a ticket on our airplane, and that means we’ll take him where he wants to go. But if he’s going to be rude and offensive, he’s welcome to fly another airline.

The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, that businesses are better of without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service.

So put your people first. And watch them put the customers first.

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Did it!

I’ve been pondering having a proper web site for months, maybe years. Up till now, I’ve pointed my url at my pages within directories of Caravan Parks, like UK Parks and Caravan Sitefinder.

Only problem is that from that page, people can navigate to pages belonging to my competitors.

I’ve enquired from firms that will build pages, but many seem very expensive. I had someone build a web site for me a year or so ago, but it was absolutely full of spelling mistakes and he couldn’t even get it hosted for me. “All I do is design ’em” was the comment. If only there was a way of building a web site as easily as building a blog page.

Well – I found it. At my local Staples store, I found a slightly tatty box on the clearance shelf called “Mr Site – Takeaway Website”. I thought… let’s have a go. It says on the box “seriously easy to use” and it really is.

Everything’s browser based, and it took me half a day to get a website of nine pages up and running. I think it looks pretty good… but that’s just me. If you want to have a look, it’s at www.breakawayuk.com .

I still need to do a bit to improve it… a few photos on the nature page, and I need to try the “advanced” mode to play with text sizes… but it is truly easy to use.

If you’ve yet to bite the bullet… I recommend Mr Site.

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A series of events

I have had a kind of morbid interest in aircraft accidents for a number of years. I guess it helps to deal with a fear of flying by knowing exactly what can go wrong, and knowing how unlikely it is to happen.

In the early days of flight, there would be one event, and a place would crash. Nowadays, with the improvements that have been made in the light of previous incidents, it is necessary for a whole chain of events to occur before a crash happens.

An incident that sticks in my mind is the crash of two 747 “Jumbos” at Tenerife in 1977; especially because this occurred only a couple of years before I flew to Tenerife on holiday… somehow things seem more real when it is at a place you have been to.

Basically, after a whole series of mistakes and problems, a KLM 747 took off while a PanAm 747 was still taxying on the runway, and the resulting crash killed 583… which was until 9/11 the highest loss of life in an aircraft crash.

I’ve just found a very interesting blog written by a pilot, and in his archives he posts about the Tenerife incident:

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The two Boeing 747 jumbo jets involved were initially headed to Las Palmas airport in the Canary Islands, but it had been closed due to a terrorist attack, so both jets were sent to Los Rodeos airport in Tenerife, which was a small airport that wasn’t easily able to accomodate large passenger jets.

There was only 1 runway and 1 taxiway at the airport, and other diverted large jets were parked on the taxiway, so aircraft wanting to depart would have to go on the runway and taxi all the way down to the end before turning around and taking off.

A KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 747 was ready to go, so it was cleared to taxi down the runway to the end, turn around and wait there for further clearance. At the same time, a Pan Am 747 was given clearance to taxi down the runway behind the KLM 747, then to turn off the runway on a short taxiway so as to clear the runway for the KLM 747 to take off.

This sounds like a good time to add some thick fog, so let’s do that. Fog started to form around the Los Rodeos airport, limiting the visual range to between 1/4 and 1/8th of a mile of visibility.

Now check out this diagram. It’s a simplified drawing of the airport at Los Rodeos, and it sort of shows what happened.

The KLM plane taxied all the way down to the end of the runway and turned around. The Captain, perhaps wanting to make up some lost time, initially attempted to take off but was immediately stopped by the First Officer who pointed out that they didn’t have clearance. So the plane sat at the end of the runway, in heavy fog, and waited for clearance.

Now the Pan Am 747 was told to taxi down the runway in the fog, and then to take the 3rd exit on the left so as to clear the runway. The runway charts weren’t very detailed and there was some confusion on the part of the Pan Am plane – if you look at exit ‘3’ on the drawing, you’ll see that if you are planning on taking it, you need to turn sharply to get on it, and then turn sharply again to get off it. That’s not an easy thing to do on a 747, so the crew assumed that the controller meant they were supposed to go to taxiway ‘4’ and clear, which is a gentle turn and which would be a lot easier for the 747 to do.

(I cut n pasted this next paragraph from Wikipedia as their wording is perfect) “he KLM crew then received an ATC airways clearance; a clearance to fly a certain route after take-off, but not permission for the take-off itself. The captain may have mistaken this for a take-off clearance. He released the brakes of the aircraft and the co-pilot responded with a heavy Dutch accent with words that could either be “We are at take off” or “We are taking off”. The control tower was confused by the message and asked for the KLM plane to stand by. However, simultaneous communication from Pan Am caused mutual interference. All that was audible was a heterodyne beat tone, making the tower response inaudible to the pilots. Coincidentally, Pan Am was reporting they had not finished taxiing. Either message, if broadcast separately, might have given the KLM crew time to abort its takeoff.”

Because it was really foggy, the KLM plane couldn’t see the Pan Am plane down the runway. The airport control tower couldn’t see either aircraft, and unfortunately the airport didn’t have ground radar either.

While the KLM crew had started its take-off run, the tower instructed the Pan Am crew to “report when runway clear”. The crew replied: “OK, we’ll report when we’re clear”. On hearing this, the KLM flight engineer expressed his concern about the Pan Am not being clear of the runway, repeating this concern a few seconds later, but he was overruled by the captain. The flight engineer did not explicitly challenge him on this decision.

How unfortunate that the company culture of KLM at the time was such that the captain’s word was not to be questioned. The Captain on the KLM flight was one of the most senior and respected Captains, and had even appeared in KLM advertisements. If the flight engineer had felt more confident, perhaps his warnings would have been more forceful.

Anyway, the KLM plane rolled down the runway toward the Pan Am plane. Both Captains then saw each other’s lights in the fog, which must have been…unpleasant. The Pan Am Captain immediately added full power in an attempt to make taxiway 4 in time. The KLM Captain was going too fast to stop before hitting the Pan Am 747, so he immediately started to pull the nose of his plane up in an attempt to fly over the Pan Am 747 and avoid a collision that way.

It didn’t work out.

The bottom of the KLM plane slammed into the top of the Pan Am plane, which tore the Pan Am plane apart. The KLM plane continued for a few hundred feet, then crashed back down onto the runway, caught fire and exploded.

All 248 people aboard the KLM 747 died, as well as 326 passengers and 9 crew members aboard the Pan Am 747. 61 people aboard the Pan Am aircraft survived, including the cockpit crew.

So let’s summarize:

1. The KLM 747 started to take off without a take-off clearance.
2. The KLM captain did not abort take-off when the Pan Am crew reported that they were still on the runway, as both the tower and the Pan Am plane were talking at the same time, which results in the radios broadcasting static instead of anything useful.
3. The Pan Am 747 continued to exit 4 instead of exiting at number 3 as directed by ATC.
4. The KLM Captain emphatically told the Flight Engineer that the Pan Am plane was clear of the runway when the Flight Engineer expressed concern.
5. There was use of non-standard phrases used by the KLM co-pilot (“We’re at take off”) and the Tenerife control tower (“O.K.”).
6. Heavy ground fog prevented either plane from seeing each other on the runway until it was too late.
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Sulako finishes with saying

one of the most valuable things I have ever heard from a Transport Canada Inspector. This was years ago, and I was attending a Pilot Decision Making course. He said “Any time anything isn’t totally routine on a flight, sit up and take notice. Double-check your procedures and double-check your checklists, because the first link in the accident chain has already been created, and your odds of crashing just went way up.”

Every time “Seconds From Disaster” is shown on National Geographic, these wise words will come to my mind.

For the original post, see http://sulako.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html

For a very interesting read… http://sulako.blogspot.com

I’ll add Sulako to the blogroll…

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Fantasies Forever Finished

You know how some men have a thing about Nurses? I don’t know whether it’s the uniform or the caring attitude.

I dated a student nurse many years ago… and what I can say for certain is that she must have worked and studied very hard, as she always fell asleep in my company. I’ve always really hated needles, but it was almost worth the dog bite and the tetanus booster to meet her.

More recently, a nice Aussie nurse took a blood test from me in A&E, and she understood how nervous I was and was really gentle and reassuring.

I’ve always thought of “Mousie” (see links on sidebar) as being the same. Gentle, caring, and dedicated.

However, in her latest posting, http://mousethinks.blogspot.com/2008/04/door-mouse.html my illusions are shattered. I always thought that if I ever needed another blood test taking, here was someone that would make it less of a traumatic ordeal. Yes, yes, I know, it’s just a needle. A Needle! A big pointy sharp needle!

Maybe it’s from the joys as a child of having the school bully insert his geometry compass in my arms and legs at regular intervals, maybe it’s from the big lump that swelled on my arm after a jab as a child, I don’t know. I’m just scared of needles. I need a nurse who is kind and understanding, and doesn’t tell fibs like “it won’t hurt”. Mousie, I thought that was you.

Make a good bouncer indeed!

Then again, anyone who treats Chavs like that is OK by me………

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Fancy Dress Party

A man with a bald head and a wooden leg is invited to a fancy dress party. He doesn’t know what to wear to hide his head and his wooden leg so he writes to a fancy dress company to explain his problem.

A few days later he receives a parcel with a note: Dear Sir, Please find enclosed a pirate’s outfit. The spotted handkerchief will cover your bald head and with your wooden leg you will be just right as a Pirate.

The man thinks this is terrible because they emphasized his disability, so he writes a letter of complaint. A week passes and he received another parcel.

Dear Sir, Sorry about the previous parcel. Please find a monk’s habit. The long robe will cover your wooden leg and with your bald head you will really look the part.

The man is extremely furious now, because the company has gone from emphasizing his wooden leg to drawing attention to his bald head, so he writes a really rude letter of complaint. A few days later he gets a very small parcel from the company with an accompanying letter:

Dear Sir, Please find enclosed a tin of Golden Syrup. Pour the tin of Golden Syrup over your bald head, stick your wooden leg up your arse and go as a f*****g toffee apple.

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