I want to tell you a short story, to demonstrate the crucial importance of providing great customer service, and reflect on implications for boards of directors. In mid-May, a small but important part of my website stopped working—the Twitter counter. This counter reports how many people have tweeted or retweeted links to any given blog post. It is a very useful indicator of whether a posting is of interest or not. I reported the issue to the website people. They quickly admitted there was a problem; told me that others had reported the problem; and, said they were working on a resolution. However, they kept my expectations in check by saying that they did not have an expected resolution date. All good so far. A few days later, a 20-second survey form arrived, asking for feedback on the customer service provided to date. I happily provided a positive response. Yesterday, another note arrived—this time to advise that the engineering team thought they had fixed the problem and could I please check my website. So, I checked and provided the requested feedback. Hopefully the problem is now fixed, and the update to the software will be deployed soon.
While we don't like things to break, sometimes they do. Given this, it's the putting right that counts. This is what I learnt about "the putting right" that counted from this experience:
There is a profound message here for boards of directors. It concerns communications. People talk. They tell their friends and colleagues about their experiences—good and bad—in ways that can't be controlled. Boards are somewhat aloof from the day-by-day activities of the companies they govern, yet the effect of poor customer service has the potential to directly ruin the board's day. However, if boards put effective reporting measures in place and ask appropriate probing questions, the chance of being blindsided by unforeseen problems is greatly reduced. Effective leadership and a healthy culture from the boardroom out through the organisation are crucial. Boards that do the hard yards in the boardroom should see the fruits of their labours become apparent—on the bottom line—soon enough.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.