Delighting your customers – Are you a swan or a panicker?

I had a tough one this week, a franking machine that had the weirdest fault and did not respond to any of the usual fixes. The customer was getting fractious; the fault was really an odd one and seemed to relate to a drive motor, which was not driving. I replaced the motor, confidently powered up the machine and hit the go button. The motor had been tested out of the system and worked fine. My great moment fell flat as the motor failed to run, so I went to the board that controlled the motor, checked the connections, which were OK and tried again, no joy.

I ordered a replacement board and popped it in, still no joy. By this time the downtime hours were racking up, colleagues and technical support gurus were making suggestions, most of which I had tried already, there were no fault codes to give me any clues and I could have spent the next month there trying various theories. I decided that enough was enough. The customer does not pay her maintenance contract just to watch me struggle; she wants to get on with the riveting task of sending her mail out, strange but true.

The chance of a replacement printer unit came up, a customer in a town some 60 miles away was upgrading their system and they had the kind of printer unit I needed, so I called my colleague and broke lots of rules to get that unit passed to me.

I installed it, the customer is now up and running. I still have to fix the unit and put it back into the system but at least the pressure is off. I can fix it in my own sweet time and at least the replacement can be useful until such time as I am ready to send it back.

It is true that most faults are fairly easy to sort out. These units don’t, on the whole, give us much trouble but occasionally we are stumped and we should admit it. Most of the time the error codes are fairly explicit and guide us to the area of the fault; this time they were of no help and neither was the advice. I did get an agreement to have the unit shipped back to a workshop where they will get to the bottom of the fault, write a report that might help with future faults and ship it back.

That’s great for adding to sum of our knowledge but all that the customer wants is a working machine. Sometimes this gets forgotten in our keenness to get to the bottom of a tricky fault.

With the replacement units I also left a supply of free consumables and a couple of my best jokes; after all, the most important thing we do is delight our customers, everything else is best kept behind the scenes.

Some years ago I was talking to a friend who runs a bed and breakfast guesthouse. In front of her guests she was the perfect hostess, she dealt with their requests without fuss and glided through the front of house jobs portraying the image of perfect calm and confidence but behind the scenes she was a screamer.

She likened her job to a swan gliding along a river, above the surface serene, beautiful and calm, below the surface the feet paddle like crazy in order to stop itself from being swept over the waterfall.

Shouldn’t we all try to be swans?