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What ever happened to quality?

 

Paulusthebrit

This has been a bad year for us especially in the area of some of the purchases that we have made.

We are careful shoppers; we investigate before we spend our hard-earned money on almost everything. We use the principle of “buying the best you can with the resources you have at the time”. Yet, some of the bigger purchases we have made, we have needed to return because of manufacturing faults, part failures or damage, and these products returned were what would have been considered quality products. They have ranged from suits and shirts to cameras.

For the most part these goods have been replaced or repaired smoothly and quickly, with the exception of my camera that I am still waiting to be fixed under warranty 45 days later.

The main issues I have, is that these returned goods have all been items where there is an expectation of high quality and durability.  It is a complete waste of my time to take a faulty/damaged product back to be fixed or replaced by a supplier. In the case of the camera there have been so many photo opportunities missed that can never happen again.

Great brands can be tarnished by poor quality products and poor after sales support.

Will I buy another product from a manufacturer who has supplied a faulty product?
Will I buy a product from a store that treats me, the customer, as the problem?

Probably not.

Now don’t get me wrong, the customer is NOT always right, but if the customer has used a product for a while and knows how something behaves normally, when something does go wrong the expert is the customer not the retailer or the manufacture, or at least they should be made to feel like that. To be told by the manufacturer the item is acting normally when you know it isn’t, demeans the customer, causing the trust in the entire brand and the retail outlet to be lost.

If the customer has a problem, you as a retailer/manufacturer have a problem, so listen to them carefully.

I understand that it is difficult to make sure that every product is perfect in every way, but if something does go wrong it should be rectified quickly. If retail/manufacturer staff attitude towards the customer is poor, blaming or just downright rude, it may be time to consider retraining  the staff or closing the doors on your business as word of mouth reviews travel quickly, this is especially so in the age of social media.

Customer service is not just about “selling” it is about an ongoing relationship with your customer. Great after-sale service can make a bad experience a positive one for both the customer and the manufacturer. The solution all comes down to the attitude of the staff dealing with the customer directly and the manufacturer providing technical support.

There is no substitute or shortcuts to the following…

  • Great products that people want (not what you want to sell them)
  • Great quality control and quality assurance
  • Qualified customer support team (knowledgeable, understanding and approachable)
  • Great after-sales service and support

Get these simple steps right and you are well on your way to having happy customers.

The best action to take is to get quality right first time, check and check again before an item goes out the front door and if something does go wrong fix or replace it quickly.

idealog

Paul S Allen

Article also published on idealog 

 

 

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Technology versus the personal touch

Paul S AllenThere’s an assumption – be it in government or enterprise – that people have the understanding and the skills required to use technology.

For example, filing company returns has to be done online, and accessing assistance in some cases can only be done via a website. So many services require people to have an internet capable device/smart phone to get the best value or benefit. But what about those who for one reason or another do not or cannot get access to the internet? Should they be penalised or disadvantaged?

This is a reminder to all:

* Not everyone has access to the internet! Of those who do, not everyone has access to quality broadband infrastructure. New Zealand has one of the poorest broadband infrastructures in the developed world.

* Not everyone has a mobile phone! Not all mobile phones are smartphones.

* Not everyone has a Facebook account or is connected to the world via social media.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love technology. It can be a fantastic tool for social interaction and productivity. I love my gadgets and hardware, I love broadband connectivity. I have met (virtually) many people both here in New Zealand and all over the world because of social media. But these virtual networks will never replace real, personal and physical interactions that are important for normal human life experience.

The more I use technology, the more I start to value walking into a shop and interacting with the staff or picking up a telephone and talking to someone, rather than sending emails or status updates to each other.

The online experience should enhance offline personal interactions – not replace them.

I have been shopping around for a walking stick for my wife who has a long-term debilitating illness (Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I did not just want any walking stick; I wanted one that was practical and most importantly looked good.

We had seen a few around and found a great selection on the Disability Resource Centre website, but the small thumbnail gave no impression as to how it felt or how true the colours were. It was only when I called into the showroom in Auckland on a recent trip and spoke with the staff that I chose the right size and colour. The staff were incredibly knowledgeable, helpful and friendly, especially important for the type of purchase that I was making.

Now I have seen how this organisation works and who the staff are, I would have no problem using their website for other orders, but if I lived closer I would still prefer to call in person.

Technology can be a great benefit for many and even provide a way to communicate with the outside world, but to assume that everyone has access or adequate services is a mistake.

No matter how good your website is or how accurate the information, people often need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas around with and who can give an immediate response to questions.

Making the assumption that everyone will use your app, visit your website, read the information, or even know where to start looking, could alienate the people you need to connect with.

Social interaction doesn’t just mean setting up a social media account – it means a real person connecting with a real person.

Paul S Allen 

Also published on Idealog Magazine 

idealog

Forgiveness vs permission: A cautionary tale of retroactive legislation

by Paul S Allen

Blog originally posted on idealog.co.nz 9 October 2011

I have often heard from leaders the saying “It’s better (easier) to  ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission”. This may be so, but it  does not ever justify the actions of those asking – it merely “fixes” a  problem.

To me this is laziness, ignorance or incompetence on  behalf of the leader, whether that leader is in government, private  sector or community organisation.

There has been debate recently about a certain piece of legislation, the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill, that the government has tried to pass under urgency.

The discussion has mainly centred around one aspect of the act – the application of the bill – and not necessarily about its content. The area of concern was the proposed retrospective application of the bill to justify the illegal actions already taken by the Crown and its officials, to reach an outcome in favour of the government.

I have no issue with using initiative and decision-making on the front line, but it needs to be done within the bounds of delegated authority, or by mandate due to exceptional circumstances, but even this mandate can be worked out ahead of time.

To do the best you can with the information and resources that you have in hand at the moment of decision is excellent, but to decide on a course of action that you have no authority to take, then ask for that action to be justified later by retrospective minutes or law changes is asking for trouble. Allegations of fraud, corruption and a lack of transparency will cause organisations or government to become tarnished.

So what can be done to prevent this from happening?

Setting and enforcing clear lines of delegated authority, spending levels, policies and procedures, including situations of exceptional circumstances, can avoid many allegations against organisations and governments.

A person (leader) or government that finds themselves in a situation where they have breached these guidelines or policies needs to be held to account, and to rectify the circumstance.

Once a course of retrospective legislation or policy decision has been requested (note, I have said requested, not taken) the credibility of that organisation has been lost, and its leadership needs to seriously look at the tenure of their positions for the sake of their organisation, no matter how popular or charismatic those people are.

The Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill, although not perfect, has passed after the removal of the retrospective clause.

But the fact that the government has proposed to use retrospective legislation in the first place should stand as a warning to all. The question is will they try to do it again: and if so, for what?

idealog

Paul S Allen

thewaterside.co.nz.

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