Life is never dull at Customer Street

4 12 2007

I haven’t posted for a little while. It has been so busy here with all the exciting changes we are making to offer our customers an even better service.

Some of the projects have been a bit hush hush as we have to manage the process of rolling out changes for our staff. However, I am pleased say in the past two months we have implemented changes to our customer care designed to increase customer staisfaction and ensure that they get the best out of of excellent directory packages.

The biggest change has been to introduce Account Managers into our sales offices. This means that post sale our customer will have regular contact with the sales team to ensure they are understand what they have purchased and also to ensure that the customer is getting found for the services they offer. This might not sound like a big change, but it has involved hundreds of hours of development, testing and training to ensure we get it right.

We have also done a complete overhaul on the look and feel of QAD. users now have a much more intuitive interface and can easily access information about the case they are dealing with.

This is all amongst the usual demands of a dynamic business. My latest project is getting the fit out done for our new sales office in Huddersfield.

Life is certainly never dull at Customer Street!


A Measurement of Success

30 07 2007

How often does your business get things right? How often does your business get it right when things goes wrong?

Seth Godin rightly notes that sometimes customers are just waiting for your business to do something wrong so that they can complain about a long list of grievances they hold. In fact you may have found yourself doing just this when you have had no opportunity to give any feedback about how you feel you may have been treated.

We want to make it easy for the public, customers and staff to ask us questions or tell us things they feel we need to hear. So to make it easy we have set up a new e-mail address for you to send suggestions to:

Don’t forget if you feel that you have a serious complaint e-mail Graham Armstrong or Accountability Manager.

One measure of success for us is about how well we do things. Another must be how well we do things when it has gone wrong from our customers perspective. If you feel we have done wrong then tell us, tell me, tell Graham and we will do our best to get it sorted out. If we have done well please tell us that as well as people often do forget to say.

Heartfelt Customer Service

25 07 2007

I have just read this fascinating article by David Rance. Essentially he is saying that any forward thinking business keeps Customer Services at the heart of it’s operations and uses it to get valuable feedback on the products the business offers.

All of our staff are encouraged to give the management feedback, we are all quite approachable. I would like to extend that invitation to all of our customers. If you have suggestions for improvements in our products or how we support you just drop me an e-mail.

QaD, A Visionary and our Conscience

19 07 2007

Don’t you hate it when you call somewhere and then you have to press a hundred and six buttons to get to someone who will tell you to call another number? Well we do it differently. At Customer Street if you call us, a real person will try to answer your call immediately. They will ask you some questions to work out what your need is and then they will raise a support case for you. This then sends you a text message or e-mail to confirm that we have registered your case and also lets you know how soon someone will call you back. The case is then made available to the best qualified people to deal with your query. When they take your case another text or e-mail is sent to tell you who is dealing with it. This person is then responsible for ensuring that everything is resolved to your satisfaction before the case is closed.

The system and the philosophy behind this is called QaD (Quality and Delivery). Very simply it means that every customer inquiry we get is tracked, the correspondence associated is recorded and kept with the case and most importantly there is one person who is responsible for ensuring that we do everything we say we will and that the customer issue is resolved.

Most businesses treat customer support as a burdensome exercise that has to be done because everyone else does it. Have you ever been pushed from pillar to post and still have no-one able to answer your question or get a common sense solution that is amicable for you and the company you are dealing with? I bet you have!

I will talk an awful lot more about QaD on here but I wanted to-mention it as a way of introducing the visionary who came up with the concept and the person who makes sure we all keep to the high standards of care it sets for us.

The visionary is my boss, Stuart Forrest, he came up QaD after realising that there had to be a better way to look after our customers than the way we were. I call him visionary because in a business as competitive as ours many business leaders would not have had the courage to take Customer Service to the levels we have committed to. Ultimately though it does make good business sense to ensure that our customers are happy and want to stay with us. I will talk more about Stuart on the blog and I don’t want to come across as a total “kiss arse”!

This is what he has to say about me:

“At Customer Street we employ a full time “Business Process Manager” and you can read his own blog. Mark is tasked by me to root out every small problem and track every failing in our organisation. Gradually, day by day we make some small and some large improvements but we never stop striving for perfection and I am confident that our customers are aware of how fast things have changed around here.”

Things around here have changed a lot since last October. It is no secret that we had a pretty poor reputation and many of the customers complaints were justified. We had got to a point where we needed someone who desperately cared about our customers to have the permission to tell us when were getting things wrong. Last October Stuart came to me and asked if we had anyone that really cared about our customers and would be able to respond to the criticisms people where making about us in various comment sites. I had no hesitation to suggest Graham Armstrong who was shortly appointed as the head of Accountability. You will often see Graham responding to any complaint about us with an open invitation:

“My name is Graham Armstrong, my number is 0845 338 0500, give me a ring or e-mail me at and I will try to get things sorted out for you.”

Graham Armstrong is constantly working to make sure that any complaint we receive is properly investigated and he tells us if we are not living up to the high vision of Customer Service that Stuart has set. The best way I can describe Graham’s role is that he is our conscience. Sometimes we won’t like what he has to say but we have to listen to him.

If you have any questions about your Customer Street package don’t hesitate to call 0845 338 0500 between 09:00 and 17:30 weekdays or check out our help-desk. You could even check out our support blog.

Right that’s me done for now, I’m off on holiday for a few days but rest assured we will keep rooting out the issues that are getting in the way of us offering the best customer experience in New Media advertising.





A CANI Customer Street Developer

18 07 2007

Stuart Laverick is developing the next release of our site building software Customer Street Sites also known as Rapid Site. In a recent blog post When Less is More, Stuart demonstrates beautifully how the concept of CANI widely permeates the sub-concious at Customer Street. Talking about reducing the amount of code it takes to do something he says:

“I suppose it’s a kind of Zen thing, it’s about achieving your goal with a simplicity and minimality of movement. Its the same thing that appeals to me in Japanese Woodcuts or Haiku and, when I had the time for such things, was one of the pleasures I gained from long and middle distance running.

It’s just a general feeling of the code being ‘right’ when it takes 3 steps to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ rather than 7.”

For me being able to only take 3 steps to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ isn’t just Zen it’s Nirvana. That said we are taking steps every day toward getting our systems, people and processes to be more efficient and effective. Every day we find one or two more small things to improve. Over weeks and months these add up to some significant changes.

Just to give you some idea I will tell you a little about my day and then let you assess if it contributes to progress:

  • Dealing with Thus for an internet connection upgrade to double our line capacity. This will give us greater internet capacity and will mean less waiting time for our Contact Centre Agents when working on our distributed systems.
  • Consultation to better understand a customer’s needs for Premium Design Search Engineering. As well as making sure the customer gets what they need this also helps me to understand the processes involved and identify strengths and weaknesses in the work flow.
  • Documentation. For the past few weeks much of my time has been spent on working with our developers to improve the way documents are created. Once we can make them better then we will start working on ensuring that they are as useful as they can be for the recipient.
  • Working with our Accountants to look assess billing methods to ensure that the collection of bills runs smoothly for us and our customers.
  • Assessing new ways of using information we have in the business to ensure we are targeting some of the simple human errors that can be made in a busy working environment.
  • Announcements. We aim to answer all our telephone queues within 30 seconds, and if we don’t we want the caller to hear some useful information while they wait. So today I have been working with one of my colleaugues to produce a useful set of information for customers waiting on the phone.

There has been all sorts of other tweeks and fixes to sort out but this is my average day. To be honest I love what I do and I love where I work. People often talk about wanting to make a difference, most of them mean that they want to do great charitable works. Charity is for my free time but at work I feel I make a positive difference every day to the customers and staff of Customer Street just by helping us to take these CANI steps.

Tomorrow I will introduce another Customer Street philosophy – QaD, introduce my boss and tell you about a special person who keeps us honest.

P.S. Customer Street staff raised over £3,000 recently to help a local school gain Specialist School status and unlock £30,000 of government money.

Letter of thanks from The Loyne School

The First Post

17 07 2007

I know the title of this piece is not exactly original but it does sum up the excitement that one used to get when we had 2 postal deliveries every day. The first post would come early and as a child I can remember on birthdays eagerly awaiting the clatter of the letter box as the postman (it was a postman in those days) got to the house at about 7 am. Progress means that today I get my post at anytime from 10am to 4pm! I firmly believe that progress and efficiency should not mean that service gets worse.

In my role here at Customer Street my personal mission is Constant And Never-ending Improvement (CANI). This is a personal development concept first coined by Anthony Robbins over 10 years ago. This concept applies equally to organisations as it does to individuals.

Robbins was influenced by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Dr. Deming is credited as one of the leaders who brought the first quality movements to the Japanese. His basic premise was that the secret to help the Japanese achieve world power and economic success was if every single person and organisation commit to constant improvement. The Japanese have a single word for “constant and never-ending improvement” and it’s called “Kaizen.” Kaizen is from the Japanese words Kai and Zen where “kai” means change and “zen” means good.

To quote Tony Robbins, “We only learn our limits by going beyond them.” CANI! is a principle which is designed to encourage small incremental improvements daily and in doing so, find a way to go beyond the current set of self-imposed limitations.

For me every day at Customer Street is taken up with making an assessment of what is limiting our ability to deliver the products and services our customers deserve and then help everyone in the organisation to take the small steps of continuous improvement.

All this might sound a bit grand, but it is at the heart of what we are doing. Every single day the management of Customer Street work together to sustain our progress toward the goal of continuous improvement. This means that we are learn by doing the job at hand, we learn by listening to our customers and we are learn by listening to feedback our business gives us.

This blogger welcomes any feedback from customers or staff about how we can make improvements to the way we do things at Customer Street, so please leave comments or email me direct. I eagerly await your first post, and do hope that you will engage me in conversation about how Customer Street can be even better than it is already.