Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
the customer is king (or queen)
Wetherspoons is a business that's riding the recession well, gaining a lot of free publicity recently when they reduced the price of some beers to just 99p!
What's that got to do with the S&D you may well ask!
Well the S&D is a business too, and it needs, in all its incarnations, to put its customers first. Wetherspoons has an excellent in-house magazine. These are usually pretty bland affairs, trumpeting the agenda of the organisation issuing them. But right away this is different - the letters page contains about 90% complaints, and these are then carefully answered. They don't try to hide problems and by bringing them out into the public sphere they can not only show they're a customer-based business, but they can explain why the situation has come about and what they can do about it.
Many years ago I used to work for the Lead Mining Museum in Wanlockhead, Scotland. Before we even met a customer we were all put through a customer care course. A lot of what we learned was counter-intuitive, particularly that a good company always encourages complaints, because once these are known about they can be dealt with.
Wetherspoons' business is catering. Many small heritage railways, particularly those that do not run trains, have catering as their backbone, and the ones that think deeply about it do it really well. But some are dreadful. Lukewarm, unimaginative and overpriced food, served in a couldn't-care-less atmosphere by people that have little interest in the line they are supposed to be the ambassadors for. And what is worse than turning up hungry and thirsty and finding the catering facilities CLOSED? This has happened to me a few times!
The New S&D will be customer-focussed above all other things. Hopefully many of the officers and directors will be businesspeople who know how to treat customers. And they'll ALL be put through a customer care course first!