The one experience that lays bare the reality behind the customer talk


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So how are organisations getting on with being customer-centric?

When your brush past all the evangelising, the talk and the spin you are confronted with one experience which tells you all that you need to know about the business world. What is this one thing? Well after 10+ years of evangelising and $bn of spend on customer systems and consulting services the fact is that you and I still sit up and notice when we have been treated well. Do you sit up and notice that the sun rises every day? Why not? Because it happens every day, we take it for granted, it becomes ordinary and falls into the background. So the fact that you and I notice when we are treated well tells you that being treated well is a rare occurrence. Which in turn tells you that the vast majority of organisations have not become customer-centric – not even close.

Yet there are exceptions and I want to acknowledge one of those exceptions. James Watson’s wonderful blog post got me thinking about the way that I have been treated by a young lady called Shelley Beaumont. Some of you may have noticed that my blogging slowed down in March and April. Well that was because I unexpectedly hurt my back and chose to focus on getting myself fit again. Today, I am almost as good as I was before the problem started and the person who helped me get here is Shelley Beaumont and she works for a company called HCML . According to the website “HCML are the UK’s leading provider of professional rehabilitation case management and employment services to the insurance industry, solicitors and corporate clients. We are passionate about ensuring that everyone who requires rehabilitation in the UK has access to quality and effective services.”

Shelly from HCML has done for me what Heather from Orbitz did for James Watson: she has taken ownership of my problem!

Shelley has BSc (Hons) in physiotherapy and it shows. She has also been my case manager – she is the person that has been there for me at the end of the phone – listening to me and helping me to get the professional services that I have needed. What makes Shelley stand out for me? Shelley has listened to me attentively and respectfully. She has empathised with me – both the physical pain and the mental pain I have been going through and by doing that she has made me feel understood and validated.

When I think back over the last three months I am grateful to Shelley for:

  • Explaining the rules of the game and setting my expectations accurately right from the beginning;
  • Finding me a friendly and competent local physiotherapy and chiropractic clinic;
  • Doing all the paperwork (so that I did not have to do it) and arranging my first appointment with this local physio clinic;
  • Finding three back specialist who work in/around my local area and allowing me to choose which one I wish to use – the right amount of choice;
  • Completing ans sending over all the paperwork to authorise treatment and booking my appointment with my preferred back specialist;
  • Arranging an MRI scan for me so that I could get it done at my first visit and so reduce the number of visits to the hospital and the amount of time needed to get a full picture of the situation – Shelley had to go around the rules to make this happen at my request;
  • Regularly calling me to see how I have been getting on and in particular calling me after specific treatments to see how I wanted to move forward;
  • Always, I mean always, doing what she said she would do by the time she said she would do it;
  • Providing my with resources (website / online videos) to help me find and do the right exercises; and
  • Leaving me with feeling that in Shelley I have someone I can count on to make the right things happen (by me and her employer) not a person who is going to find excuses and put barriers in my way.

The lesson for companies who seek to be customer-centric

Hire people like Shelley. Provide people like Shelley with the environment, tool and training that enables them to be great with customers. Then ask them to enter into a specific kind of game: the game of providing great customer service by taking ownership of the customer’s problem. Whilst this may sound expensive it is not. What do I base that last statement on? My experience. By being proactive and getting me the right treatment when I needed it Shelley saved the insurance company many thousand of pounds in additional medical costs. How? By doing what she has done she has helped my back to recover naturally thus saving costly consultant visits and surgery from one or more back specialists.

A final word of thank you to Shelley and HCML

Thank you Shelley for being great with me. And thank you HCML for employing someone as great as Shelley and allowing her to be magnificent. Finally, HCML if I were you I would make sure that I treated Shelley well and kept her! If I was in your line of business I would hire her without hesitation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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