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How not to do Customer Service

If your Customers take the time to leave feedback – positive or negative, do take time to read it and do act on it. Any steps that will improve your Business, including Constructive Criticism can only help.

Ryanair are famous (notorious?), for example for being quite explicit in their “you get what you pay for” operation. Don’t check in at home? You will have to pay through the nose for checking n at the airport, for example.

This allows them to run a very lean model and keep prices ultra low. If you don’t like it, take your Business elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you want to fly somewhere, have only hand luggage, don’t care what seat you have and follow all check-in procedures to the letter, yes you really can fly to Europe for a fiver.

I’ve heard that if you have a complaint, their policy is to ignore the first one anyway. Lots of people give up at that point if they don’t hear back, so Ryanair only have to deal with those that persist with a follow-up. No staff time wasted on snowflakes.

That model works for them as any flax just bounces off them. As a small Business owner, that can be damaging, possibly even fatal. Please do reply to criticism, or at least amend your practises so that the issue is less likely to happen again. I have become more explicit in my quotes, my pre-course information sheets and my cancellation policies so that there is no scope for misinterpretation. My Clients know what they are getting, how / if they can cancel and the costs involved for instance. If they don’t like it, that’s a shame, but it does decrease my time spent dealing with queries.

Take time (or get a friend) to review your paperwork, your website, your Policies from the point of view of a Client. Do you understand costs, explicit and hidden and do you know what will happen if you need to cancel for instance? The more streamlined your Business, the more profitable it is.

If you want an independent review of your procedures, do get in touch with me as I can help you see your Business from a Client’s eye. See my Website at for more information.

Finally, how not to do Customer Service. I’ve recently started to use InPost for my shipping as it’s convenient and cheap. I dropped them an email to say how good it was, along with a couple of suggestions:

Why does Yellow Pages still call me?

First published 2013, updated 2023

Once upon an Era, Yellow Pages was king. That doorstopper of a Directory dropped on my parents’ doorstep once every few months, Trade vans prowled the streets with Find us in Yellow Pages’  on a bright yellow sticker on the back, semi obfuscated by ‘Watford for the cup’ and ‘Clean Me’ written into the grime.

Then a cat appeared on the scene. Thomson was his name, the cheeky upstart. The Virgin Atlantic to Yellow Pages’ British Airways. Always thinner, but somehow trendier and more useful.

Then Tim Berners-Lee gate-crashed the game. His Internetweb thingy seems to have caught on. ‘Google’ is now a recognised verb and no-one uses Yellow Pages any more.

Do they? Yellow Pages and Thomson are still around, but the tomes are thinner and – be honest – when did you last pick one up?

Update 2023 – I think they have almost given up and gone completely online, however I did receive a printed Yellow Pages Business Directory last week. Straight to recycling rather than cluttering the house.

Think – Do you ‘Yell’, ‘QXL’, ‘Bing’ or ‘Google’ something you are searching for. Go where the money is. Google is so dominant, any money paid elsewhere would need a phenomenal return to match the returns from Google.

I cannot see why they still have a team of Sales Consultants to sell advertising space. OK, so they both have websites to complement the  Directory, but why not drop the Directories and Sales Staff? You have to move with the times and as many a bookshop has found out, mainstream printed media is declining as fast as Google’s Tax bill.

Drop the hard copy and concentrate on online advertising – even then, competing against the Google juggernaut is uphill. You’ve missed that window. If Yellow Pages or Thomson had realised the power of the Internet, they could have made a great impact before Google came along and spoilt the party. Too late now.

What should we do? Get someone in your Business to advertise on every site going – but only for the free ads. Some sites have their SEO sorted and appear in Google, others don’t, but with so many out there (the ‘long tail’) there is no point finessing it with paid listings. Google has, what is it, 80% of the Search market? Pay someone to get you results in Google and, if appropriate, use Adwords (but use an expert to prevent too much money being wasted).

Everything else paid for is just a waste of time. Don’t believe me? What happened to QXL, the British equivalent of eBay? The number 2 auction site. Type it in. It’s now Danish. Would you try and sell anything on QXL? Would you try and advertise anywhere but Google? If you’re thinking ‘yes’, then turn it around. When did you deliberately go to a non-google search engine to look for something? For ‘you’, read ‘your customers’.

Yellow Pages Call Centre Staff. Move on. No-one pays for advertising in your catalogue any more. Why should they?

Update 2023

I get approached by Businesses purporting to have exclusive connections to categories of Businesses – Schools, for instance. “Sign up to us and we’ll guarantee you exclusivity in your area”. Exclusivity to your website maybe, not to the Schools – who are free to pick and choose their suppliers. Don’t fall for it, it’s about £500 a year at the basic level and you could spend that marketing yourself directly to many Schools.

Every now and again a niche Directory of Services appears on a Facebook Group page (Drone Photographers, Health and Safety Trainers etc.). Someone has spent ages crafting a website displaying a list of providers. Very noble, and if there is a free basic listing, go for it. It might just help with your Google presence. Speaking of Google, however, realistically anyone looking for your Services will use Google. Don’t waste your money on premium niche Directories unless there is a tangible benefit that Google does not provide.

Business Principle II: It’s good to talk

First published 2012

Years ago, when I was in my first job, I supervised a sandwich student during his placement year. After he graduated he joined us full time. ‘Sharpy’ was quite a character. On the short side but made up for it with by throwing himself into everything – from work to the Maltesers reject carton when we toured the Mars factory in Slough.

He would also talk to anyone and everyone and I’m sure his Facebook page lists more friends than most. His LinkedIn profile is certainly comprehensive.

To cut a long story short, he moved to the States and he is now a VP at ARM, a high tech design and manufacturer of Computer chips. This no doubt is due to his hard work but also talking and Networking like mad.

They say that most good jobs are not advertised and it’s who you know, not what you know. By having a large ‘little black book’ of friends and associates, by being the first to buy a round or by bringing a wallflower into the conversation you will make friends and they will remember.

Be nice to everyone and make lots of friends at all levels from the cleaners to the Managers. Payback will come from unexpected directions.

When I had made a bit of money I decided to treat myself to a decent car. I don’t usually scrub up and the salesman at the BMW Showroom obviously decided I was a tyre kicker and I was in and out in 5 minutes. If he’d spent that 5 minutes getting to know me more rather than prejudging, I might have walked out with a Beamer rather than the Lotus Esprit that I eventually bought.

Going back to my first job, there was another Graduate who confidently informed us one day that one should always ignore waiters the first time they approach your table. We stared at him incredulously. Firstly because it’s terribly rude to anyone whatever their position in the world, secondly because by befriending him, you never know where it will lead (especially on return visits) and finally, everyone knows that one never criticises the service or food before it’s all been served.

No idea what has happened to him. Somehow I doubt if he’s a VP anywhere – unless Daddy’s sorted it for him. OK, so personally I’m not VP anywhere, but I do run my own show and talking to all and sundry has brought me many benefits over the years.

Next time: Make sure there’s a drink in it for everyone.

Business Principle I: The Godfather meets the Water Babies

First published 2012

Mario Puzo’s book and Cinematic hit – The Godfather – dealt with a fictional member of the Mafia – Don Corleone – head of the Corleone Crime family.

Not a good start for a Business Principle, but bear with me.

Don ran a number of ‘businesses’ to bring in the Lire, namely protection, extortion, gambling and union racketeering. All of which are extreme versions of legal enterprises and made to work by the threat of, or actual use of violence, but I am concentrating on a side to him that you see at the beginning of the book and one of the guiding principles of his operation.

The book opens with a party at the Corleone Household. The Don is in his study, receiving visitors, all with one thing in common, they need something from him. It may be a loan or a favour or some help retrieving something of theirs (say, an outstanding debt from a third party). One at a time, the Don receives them, listens to their request and either accepts or declines.

If he accepts, the request is noted and he arranges for it to be carried out. In time, of course, he expects this debt (monetary or otherwise) to be repaid with interest. This could be in a month, a year or a decade. When the Don himself needs something doing, he will check his book and find the most appropriate debtor. There will be Senators, Businessmen and women and people in high office with influence, all of whom are in his debt and all of whom know that a refusal will offend.

Now let’s move this to a somewhat more legitimate business (as well as personal life). Whilst we do do things in expectation of an immediate-ish return (all businesses, profit making or otherwise do), sometimes we do someone a favour, not expecting a return. Holding a door open, baking a cake for a poorly neighbour, giving up your seat and so on. We don’t expect reward, it’s just something that we do. Occasionally, however, this act leads on to a reciprocation some time down the line. Do enough and the chances are high that something good will happen to you at a random point later (in the forelife, not the promised, but not provable afterlife, that is)

People remember things and if you help someone in a fix, or go the extra mile without expectation you will be pleasantly surprised one day.

About a year ago, I was working in my Day Job. A Company that I was working alongside were in a fix. They had a final deadline that day and looked like blowing it, so incurring cost overruns, loss of face with their customer etc. I knew what needed to be done and for the price of a bit of food to keep me going, sorted them out with a couple of hours work. I gave them my number in case there were problems the next day but they never rang.

Until last week, when I got a call out of the blue.

They were in a fix again, had remembered me and still had my number. I was booked, this time on a commercial basis and sorted them out. It should also lead to more work – they were over the moon with what I did and are already talking about passing regular leads on to me.

In my previous blogette, I mentioned Ryanair and its approach to Customer Service. Can you imagine anyone ever rocking up to Ryanair’s check-in and saying “A friend of mine told me that you helped her out when she had a problem and she’s eternally grateful. She suggested I try you”. Me neither.

It doesn’t always work, of course. Even Don Corleone knew that some of his ‘favours’ would never be repaid – the antagonist might die, move on or just not achieve anything worthy of repayment. That was the chance he took. Those that did repay, paid him aplenty. A good friend of mine has recently been ‘stuffed’ by someone she considered (past tense) a friend. She mentored him for months, getting him started with a business idea (coming up with the idea in the first place) creating material, pushing him and generally trying to get him running his own business. He has done, but in the process has cut her off like a displeased Downton Matriarch. No ‘thanks’, no appreciation for the work put in, no invite to the launch and certainly no financial contribution towards the hundreds of hours spent. She wasn’t expecting much, if anything, in return but common courtesy would indicate an acknowledgement at the very least (Don’s recipients were very grateful, of that you can be sure). Perhaps, down the line he could have fed her some new clients for her Training Company as a ‘Thank You’ and perhaps she could have fed him some clients the other way.

It’s not going to happen. That’s life and she’ll move on. She won’t stop doing people favours without any expectations of a reciprocation. Well, maybe just one person might be exempt. We have to live with that. You can be sure that he will not be as successful with that approach than he could have been if he had acknowledged the debt he owes her (and, in all likeliness, others).

Miss Bedonebyasyoudid.

The Water Babies? Well, two of the fairies in the book by Charles Kingsley were Miss Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Miss Bedonebyasyoudid.

Be nice and do people favours, sometimes even helping out competitors at times. Trust me, you will be better off than if you didn’t.

Next time. “It’s Good to Talk”

Business Principles – some ideas

First published 2012

Everyone has an opinion on how to run a business, from Michael O’Learey’s “Hook ’em with a low lead-in price, then charge breathtaking amounts for absolutely everything over and above the bare seat whilst not spending one unnecessary Euro” to James Dyson’s and Steve Job’s “Get the design right and the rest will follow” to John Timpson’s “Upside Down Management – If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job” style where his hands-off approach devolves power and financial responsibility to local shop Managers.

In the same way, as customers of businesses, whether it’s the local paper shop, a car showroom or even your local pub, we also all have our own opinions and we all know good and bad service when we encounter it. Phrases such as “Well, I’m never going back there, again” and “He was chatting to his colleague all the time whilst serving me” abound, as do “You’ve got to try this new place, the service was amazing” and “The Manager apologised for it being out of stock and brought a replacement round personally, the next day”.

 I’m no exception and following (in later Blogs) are a few of the principles that I abide to.

If anyone else wants to comment on any of my principles or add any of their own, then I’d love to hear from you.


  • I will never travel on Ryanair simply because of its attitude to its customers
  • I am now on my second Dyson after believing for years that Vax was the way to go
  • ‘Apple creep’ is happening in the household and, although I baulk at the prices charged, I love the IPad.
  • I have not had the need to visit my local Timpson’s since I read John Timpson’s Management book, but have a watch for repair just waiting for me to remember to take it in and get it assessed. If the service matches the principles of the book, I will be a very happy bunny.

So, onwards and downwards. Principle I – The Godfather Principle.