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Tuesday Insight: Ferries, and a Gratuitous Picture of My Cute Dog!


Have you ever noticed how the smallest things can leave the greatest impression?

I’ve been regularly travelling to France by ferry for years, and I’ve always been happy with the consistent service. There are clean cabins, reasonable food, friendly staff and a relatively smooth boarding and disembarkation process. 

But this year I’ve had the opportunity to experience the service from a slightly different perspective; it’s the first year our dog has voyaged to France with us. 

If I’d used Eurotunnel, which seems to pride itself on being pet friendly, I’d have found dedicated exercise areas with artificial grass (so no muddy paws) and complimentary poop bags to use prior to boarding, even though the crossing itself takes only 35 minutes. 

No such luxuries with the ferry company. The earlier check in when you have a pet adds an hour or more to a typical journey and yet, after checking in, you simply sit in a queue of traffic on tarmac, waiting for boarding to commence. The crossings we use don’t have pet friendly cabins, (very few do) so on the shortest possible crossing, your pet will be confined to your car for about six hours without a toilet break – and on most, much longer. (It was more than eight hours on the last return crossing.) 

You are allowed one visit to the car deck to check on your dog during the crossing. But this must be arranged when you first board, and is only permitted if the crossing is smooth, (which is ironic, since I’d be more concerned about my dog’s welfare on a rough crossing). On our last crossing, new ‘security’ arrangements meant that only one of us could visit Charlie and the five-minute allowance was strictly enforced by a rather officious member of the crew, who emphasised that Charlie could not get out of the car to walk around. 

Little things…

If you ask any of the staff who work for the ferry company if they provide their customers with excellent service, I’m sure they’d proudly say yes. Two years ago, I’d have unhesitatingly agreed with them.

So, why is my view changing?

Customers’ expectations are fluid, based on not just what you’ve done before, but on their current situation, and on what your competitors or even organisations in other sectors are doing. To keep up, we must be on a journey too. 

Achieving a reputation for outstanding customer service is only the first step on that journey – holding on to that reputation requires ongoing effort and continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is not about the big things. Even the tiniest improvements, like, in my example, providing an exercise area for dogs at the ports, can make a huge difference to the customer’s experience.

If you really want to know if you’re providing excellent customer service, you need to know two things:

  • Your customers’ current expectations.
  • How what you are delivering compares to your customers’ current expectations. 

No organisation can afford to rest on its laurels. 

Trainers’ Library has some fantastic materials that will help your participants understand the value and importance of continuous improvement. Here are some of my favourites:

Sorry, but I really couldn't resist shamelessly using this opportunity to show you a picture of our ridiculously cute dog Charlie meeting a local in the Loire valley, who seems to be looking at Charlie as if to say, 'I don't understand a word you're saying!' :-)

November 7 2017Rod Webb



Rod Webb





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