Thursday, 15 January 2015

Customer service

The help desk at the people who host the BCF website is a model of helpfulness. They answer the phone within a few rings, they listen to the issue you're raising, they are knowledgeable enough to deal properly with it, or to pass it on to someone else who can. I even had the chief technical honcho ring me, unsolicited, because he thought a response I'd been given hadn't got to the nub of the problem. Today I had the surprise of talking to a techie whose mother we know as a BCF member. Very cosy – but I can't fault their concern for their customers.

I've had some other similar experiences of late. Trying out some software for working with data to be submitted to a quango, I came across an anomaly in what it was telling me. I emailed the developer about it, and got a message by return that it was probably a software bug, and he'd let me know when he'd sorted it. What price honesty! He was true to his word, and I'm now using the updated version. The quango in question is the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and you wouldn't necessarily expect people who get a kick out of working for an organisation with a name like that to be experts at public relations. But exactly the opposite is true. They bring light and clarity and a helpful, happy voice to those who, in a state of data-befuddlement, have rung them. And, once again, no waiting for a response, no menu of options before you speak with a real human. And then I blogged back in October about our experience with replacing our pressure cooker lid. Good customer service seems a no-brainer, and it surely can't be all that difficult to provide.

But, seeing that CRT have appointed Ian Rogers as a new head of customer services, I wonder how easy he'll find his role. It was good to see boating and boaters mentioned a couple of times in the announcement, but I imagine that it is far from easy to define clearly who CRT's customers are. Especially with a range of dubious business and other schemes inherited from British Waterways. Ian will no doubt very quickly come to appreciate the range of interested parties with conflicting interests. Nothing was said as to whether he has any experience already of boating or the canals. Fresh eyes and ears may be a good thing, but it may be hard to work out exactly what it means to put customers at the heart of this operation.

We wish him (and Richard Parry) well. It's all too easy to snipe from the sidelines. But, speaking as a boater, I hope that navigation and the things that facilitate it are firmly at the top of the priority list.

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