I guess I am something of an observer in terms of business. I am forever observing the way I am treated by banks, retailers and airlines for example, looking for things that delight me or things that happen to annoy me, cause me inconvenience or even fail to take advantage of me. When I observe such things I ask myself why did that happen (or not happen)? Was it a ‘people problem’ or did it somehow relate back to the ‘data into information’ problem that we have been discussing.
Vodafone are a giant among giants and if we’re very honest, few people like giants. Vodafone are quite simply everywhere even in my town shopping centre where they have a small outlet that actually doesn’t have network coverage at all or didn’t when I last visited. If you wanted to try out any of their new devices, you had to go out of the shop to get connected! Anyway, that’s just an aside, nothing to do with the point I wish to make but funny just the same.
I travel a lot as you’ve guessed and one day I decided it would be good to have a back-up battery for my Nokia mobile. It was a pretty old model but I still went into Vodafone in the hope of purchasing a spare. After browsing around not getting anywhere a perfectly charming assistant asked if I could help. She explained that the battery I was seeking was no longer made but she said she’d go look if anyone had traded one in by any chance. Five minutes later she emerged with a huge grin and a battery which she promptly gave me, with no charge and sent one happy customer away. This is such a tiny thing but now I think I’ve bought my 5th phone there and currently have three on-going contracts – they are simply nice people to deal with. OK, this is Vodafone in Woking, I know that’s what you were thinking!
Now, did this experience depend on Vodafone’s capability to utilise data – I think not. I don’t think this girl launched a query on some database to see if I was a profitable customer worth pampering, no, I think she behaved as she did because she was trained well and was just a helpful type of person.
Here’s a rule to bear in mind. Nothing, I mean nothing in technology will turn an unhelpful person into a helpful person. Your staff that face the customer directly are more important than anything in this book. Great staff can sell anything, poor staff can sell nothing.