One million tickets went on sale this week for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow causing a stampede for tickets which temporarily crashed the website. However, the technical hitch - which was swiftly overcome - did not sour coverage of the countdown to the most exciting major sporting event to come to the UK since the 2012 Olympics.
The glitch was widely accepted by the public and media as a consequence of the enormous popularity of the Commonwealth Games among sports fans worldwide. Also, careful planning and communications around the event ensured that people knew that all was not lost if they did not manage to make a booking on day one as there is a one-month booking period rather than a frenetic first-come first-served ticket allocation process.
In customer service terms, the organisers played a smart game which adhered to three golden rules: plan for success, have a back-up plan for failure, and manage expectations.
The Commonwealth Games present the same kind of opportunity for Scotland as the 2012 Olympics did for London - to demonstrate an ability to deliver a superlative customer experience. The Games will prove a serious test of customer service on many levels - involving public sector service providers, 15,000 volunteers, and businesses in a range of sectors including hospitality and transport - as Glasgow prepares to welcome one million ticket holders, 4,500 athletes, and a host of international media to Scotland’s largest ever multi-sport event.
The customer experience is already underway, from ticket sales to hotel and travel bookings, each link in the chain creating an impression, however small, of how good the host nation is at delivering world-class customer service. Despite being held in my home city, I can objectively say that on first impressions, the Commonwealth Games 2014 look set to be a magnificent and hugely enjoyable event.
American vaudevillian and movie star turned social commentator Will Rogers, coined the saying: ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’ and his words still ring true today.
Organisations that try customers’ patience again and again by providing an inferior service or product or running their operations in a way that makes them hard to do business with, don’t deserve a second chance and increasingly customers won’t grant them one.
Of course, you may argue that customers can vote with their feet, i.e. take their business elsewhere. However, in reality this is not always easy, especially in the bank sector as so many aspects of people’s lives are entwined in the details of their bank account.
That’s why I welcomed news from the Payments Council that the UK’s 46 million current account holders will be able to switch banks in seven days from 16 September. The move, which is aimed at making things easier for consumers and also encouraging competition, will be a huge improvement on the status quo in which switching accounts can take up to 30 days.
There is already significant competition in the sector. Nevertheless, research shows that people in the UK only change bank accounts once every 26 years on average, while the ‘Big Four’ high street banks retain a near 75% share of the market for current accounts.
The rising tide of consumer complaints against banks in general suggests that these figures do not stem from universally high levels of customer satisfaction - in fact the paucity of switching to date is more likely directly related to the hassle factor involved.
Organisations that are confident of their service record and product quality have nothing to fear from such a move. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if more businesses (regardless of sector) introduced their own seven-day promise on speed of switching for dissatisfied customers rather than having it imposed on them?
Like the athletes training hard for 2014, organisations need to focus hard on customer service goals if they want to earn a place on the winners’ podium.