Wednesday, January 12, 2011

British Business Let Down by Poor Customer Service

2012 could be a great opportunity for British businesses to show the world how little they care about their customers.

That's the implication of this article on the BBC, where Michel Roux Jr., a Michelin-starred chef, claims that poor service is rife across the country.

Unfortunately, most people don't disagree with him. We've all experienced grumpy waiting staff, unfriendly faces behind the counter and the general messages of 'go away, don't bother me' from employees who give the impression that customers are the problem.

The paradox is that while we all realise that customer service is a weak point in Britain, we don't seem to be doing much to fix the problem. We complain about the service we receive and turn around and do the same thing to our own customers. And let's not forget that the 'internal customer' (ie the people you serve in the business you work for) is just as important.

Perhaps we justify it on the basis that because we receive lousy service, that's all our customers expect. And let's be honest, trying that bit harder takes a little more effort.

But the rewards are there to be had. Do you go back to the business that was rude to you, or simply indifferent? You might, but if you could choose between it and one which offered a pleasant customer experience, which would you prefer?

Why not make a real effort to improve your customer service? Start with your own attitude towards customers, internal and external, and don't let your emotions drive your behaviour. Listen to what your customers actually want and try to give it to them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Endeavour to anticipate their needs. Use simple words like 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry' where appropriate.

Wouldn't it be great if by 2012 we were a nation recognised for delivering exemplary customer service, and reaping the benefits of customers coming back for more?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Increased UK Fuel Prices are Driving Businesses to Complain

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have added their voice to the growing chorus of frustration over the recent hike in fuel prices.

In the last month or drivers have seen the cost of unleaded and diesel fuel jump by as much as 10p per litre. That's a lot if you're filling a up an 80 litre tank two or three times a week, which some do. The hike is down to a combination of oil price rises, a fuel duty increase on 1 January and the new 20% VAT rate that arrived on 4 January.

The FSB have reminded the British government of their commitment to introduce a fuel price stabiliser. Quite how it would work has not been spelled out, but in essence the duty would reduce or increase to balance the impact of VAT on oil price fluctuations.

The FSB also point out that in the UK of every one pound spent on fuel, 62p goes to the tax man and only 38p is kept by the supplier. That makes the UK's network of filling stations a massive tax collecting operation.

While other European nations do the same thing, the rate of tax they charge is less. On average for every Euro spent on fuel on the continent, just over half is kept by the supplier with the balance going to the state in taxes.

According to the FSB taxi drivers and hauliers will be 'severely affected' and the increases in fuel costs 'are placing a straing on already hard-hit businesses cash flow'.

Unfortunately, speaking to the BBC this weekend Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that the fuel price stabiliser is a 'difficult issue' and he doesn't 'want to raise people's hopes too far'. That's despite the Conservatives having initially proposed the measure back in 2008.

Economic recovery will, inevitably, push fuel prices even higher as demand for oil increases. This is an issue that won't be going away.