The Icing on the Cake

Regular readers will know that I think the best, maybe the only way to deliver great customer service, is through employees who can put themselves in the customer’s shoes, own the problem and get it sorted. You need devolved power, transparency and the confidence to admit you are wrong coupled with the will to put things right. For me, great customer service, like great HR, goes way beyond its functional responsibility.

Picture the scene: We arrive at the Spectrum Leisure Centre in Guildford on a busy Sunday afternoon, with Keira and 8 other kids for an ice skating party.  The party is pre-booked as is the post party food, and the cake is in the back of the car. There are people buzzing everywhere, and out of the crowd appear some of the leisure centre staff. Instinctively they know the kind of groups they are looking for and just like that, our instructor Katharine introduces herself and the girls are off for some fun. Katharine turned out to be a good skater and instructor, and had everyone enjoying themselves, playing games on the ice, falling over and laughing. She was confident beyond her 16 years and did a great job.

After the skating – it’s burger time. The staff at the Wimpy were friendly, though we didn’t get the meals we had pre-ordered two weeks earlier (at their request). It was mainly a matter of size – we got junior instead of standard – and the very small portions just disappeared down nine hungry throats. A quick word with the manager and sure enough – he has delivered what he’d been asked to – so the order glitch was elsewhere. And he politely explained that his restaurant and the leisure centre were two different companies.

At this point I got that typical sinking feeling you get when things don’t go to plan. ‘Sorting this is gonna be a pain’. The customer service desk is closed on Sundays and we have two different companies pinging responsibility around – that kind of thing. I went to the main front desk and got a friendly, understanding response. ‘Leave it with us – we’ll check this out and come and see you soon’, came the reply.

Shortly after, the duty manager (I wish I had taken her name) came and found me and simply and honestly explained that the mistake was theirs, not the restaurant’s. No bluffing, no BS, ‘Here’s the money back we overcharged, we’re very sorry’. Now – I mentioned cake at the start of the tale, and here comes the icing on the service cake. Unprompted, the duty manager says ‘We’d like to offer you a complimentary visit to the leisure centre as a way of making up for our error.’ Nice touch – expectations well and truly exceeded, and here I am now writing about an example of good service and how to recover from a mistake.

What did I take away from the experience:


When you have to make a complaint – it really helps if a) you do it in a friendly way and b) the response is similar


Customer services was closed, and that didn’t matter. The duty manager owned the problem. I think a sign of a healthy organisation is when functional lines can be blurred in pursuit of helping the customer. Good customer service is a lot like good HR – they should be practiced all across the business, way beyond their functional responsibility.


The Spectrum Leisure Centre made a mistake, they acknowledged it, said sorry and put it right.

Icing on the cake

The Spectrum Leisure Centre exceeded my expectations, unprompted and with a genuine sense of goodwill.

We are quick to judge when things don’t measure up to expectation. I think it’s just as important to highlight when things get put right too.

Recognition, So Much Better With a Why

We all know that recognition is a useful part of the motivation mix, it’s great when your work is recognised.

Blog Recognition

People Management published a Top 20 HR Power Tweeters list recently. I haven’t bothered to include a link to it because it is now archived behind a paywall, but what a hoohah ensued as people picked over the omissions and exclusions. And the publication of the list led to a couple of good blog posts that I know about, one here by David Goddin, another here by Mervyn Dinnen. Mervyn asked a question about how the list was ranked, and whilst he was given assurances that it was ranked, no further explanation was forthcoming. Somehow I came in on this list at number 12 out of 20. Not quite a top ten finish and the lack of any ranking evidence took the shine off a little, but hey – I got a little recognition. I probably had a beer to celebrate.

More recently, a list of top socially shared HR bloggers has appeared here, courtesy of Bamboo HR. I first knew about this list when William Tincup shared it on Facebook. At the time William said well done to all though the list was irrelevant because it didn’t contain Laurie Ruettimann or Fistful of Talent. Weirdly, now it does, though the list hasn’t gotten any longer so I’m guessing two at the bottom got bumped to make way? I wrote to Bamboo HR asking why the change of mind – they chose not to reply.

Bamboo HR have shared how they compiled the list, and yes there is the inevitable subjectivity, you can read about their selection process here. Alongside the subjective element there is some gathering of data, specifically the number of shares each blog received over a three month period across a number of social networks. I found the data gathering aspect quite interesting so over Christmas I copied their methodology and tracked my blog in an identical way.

Using their numbers I found myself checking in at number 19 on the list. Now, I’m not on this list – and it’s subjective to an extent just like all these recognition lists, so I’m not celebrating per se. However because Bamboo has published some data, myself and other nerds can at least get a handle on where we might sit in the grand scheme of things. Assuming we care. I mean – you may not but I do right, otherwise I wouldn’t have geeked out and done all this huh?

Employee Recognition

All this reminds me of far too many well meaning and poorly thought out recognition schemes. If they have no why – then do they have any point? We all know that recognition is a useful part of the motivation mix, it’s great when your work is recognised. And surely it’s even better when you can get your head around at least some of the criteria, and see why you’re getting recognition.

New Year’s Evolution

Bradley Wiggins on his way to a gold medal in London 2012

Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t panic – this is not an early attempt to corner the New Year’s Resolution market, it’s something a little different.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with David Zinger twice in real life lately, and once over the telephone. David is a smart, caring and funny guy, and if you didn’t already know, his work on employee engagement is…well, it’s very engaging.

In previous years around September time, David has distilled a set of three words to guide him for the year ahead. He is currently working on Discern, Invite, Engage. Since our last conversation, which concluded with a brief look ahead to 2013, I’ve been mulling over a similar distillation, and here it is.

For the next twelve months I will be guided by:

Focus – You cannot have it all

Finish – Get stuff done or get it out of the way

Fun – I’ve always believed that good work and good life have to be fun. I’ve never made a secret of that and after listening to so many people reference the importance of fun on last Night’s BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year Award before Bradley Wiggins was confirmed the winner, I’ve cemented the word into my guide.

I hope to expand on this thinking a little more in coming weeks. For now – I’d love to know what you think and perhaps you might like to write a short guide of your own?

photo credit – yep, I took that one 😉