What it says on the tin

The Bonzo Dog Band may not necessarily find themselves on many of your vinyl and CD racks, MP3 players or Spotify playlists. I understand. The Bonzos were what happened when 60s art-school students spent too many late nights together expanding their minds. The band’s zenith, at least in commercial terms, was Tadpoles; an album most broadly known for its top-5 hit, I’m the Urban Spaceman.

Those of you who know me well will be aware that I like shirts. My shirt collection is fabled. Stripes, patterns, flowers, colour. Like, lots of colour. I was at a wedding recently when another guest wandered over to me and commented: “That’s a shirt, that is”. I’m pretty sure in admiration, but I may have mis-read her. She was, though, correct. It was a shirt.

It’s not, therefore, the urban spaceman for which I remember the album. No, that belongs to a track titled: ‘Shirt’.

The story of the track, such as there is one, eventually winds its way to a conversation between a person who wants their shirt ‘express-cleaned’ and a, not tremendously helpful, shop-assistant. The conversation goes something like this:

Customer (cheerful): Hello, I’d like my shirt express-cleaned.
Shop-assistant (in control): That’ll be three weeks dear.
Customer (exasperated): But the sign outside says 59-minute express cleaners.
Shop-assistant (matter-of-fact): Yes, that’s just the name of the shop, luv…

Things go downhill from there.

There’s a lesson to take from the conversation.

When customer service is done well, it’s a pleasure to spend one’s money. In my experience many high-street retailers and online shopping platforms understand the commercial significance of making me feel good and they value my custom (such as it is). They don’t over-promise. They do what they say what they’re going to do. If my goods arrive early I’m delighted. If there’s a delay they apologise, tell me about it and I feel in control.

To give an example, recently I travelled to London using Virgin East Coast Trains. Earlier in the day there had been a problem on the service. My train was carrying more passengers than there were seats and none of them were reserved, which meant that I had to stand. I stood for an hour and a half and was pretty miffed I can tell you. But someone sensible runs Virgin’s customer service team and one email exchange later I have a refund! Happy? Maybe not completely. Less Grumpy? For sure! They have a customer service charter. They adhere to their charter.

The perils of dressing in the dark

This brings me to some questions.

How many of us in our professional lives has made a promise that we know, or expect, we’re not going to be able to keep? How many times have we been disappointed when something we were expecting to happen failed to happen? Over-promising is as unwelcome as over-sharing! And it damages relationships. As someone who has learned by experience (nobody’s perfect…), I make this plaintive call to everyone with customers/donors/supporters in their life and who wants to keep them there.

Have a charter. A stewardship strategy. The name is less important than the deed. Share it with the people who matter. And do what you say you’re going to do. Be honest, transparent, and communicate.

That’s what customers, donors and stakeholders deserve and what they want. I’ll put my shirt on it…

2 thoughts on “What it says on the tin

  1. I have struggled with over promising in the past – not to cultivate additional support, but out of desire to please people!! This is applicable in the work place too. Volunteering to take on work, when you are already snowed under….. I think you need to learn to manage your own expectations, before you can manage others effectively and this only comes with time and experience. Saying no is difficult, but it gets easier once you master your own limitations – excellent but realistic stewardship follows.

    1. I may have been guilty of asking you to take on more than might be reasonably expected from a colleague Max! When I wrote this blog you were in my mind because, like the Virgin Trains customer service team, you do an excellent job and I am certain that it is appreciated by the donors to your institution.

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