Two weeks ago I was kindly invited by Midlands Excellence to give a short presentation on our principles of customer service and in particular our mission statement of customer first. It was a great opportunity for me to take stock of some of the things that we have done to deliver our simple message.
There is nothing more focusing I find than when situations beyond your control put the very core beliefs at test. Such a day happened for us very soon after we had started the Studio business and of all the memorable days we have had it is in many ways the one that shines the brightest. It showed to all of us how naturally we were prepared to put our customers first and the thing that stands out the most is that all the decisions on that day were made by the team and not the directors.
16th April 2007 will forever be known as Blackout day; And the story goes something like this…
April can be a difficult month in Studio world, depending largely on when Easter falls and when the schools take their breaks. Every penny counts and we are always under pressure to maximise our revenue. On this particular April morning Emma and I were in the process of catching the normal 8.05 train from Ashchurch and chatting about the day ahead, when we received a call from Birmingham. The power was off and the alarms were going. The reality was that everything was off; The whole of the centre of Birmingham was in the middle of a blackout and the prospects for the day ahead were not looking good. We were only 6 months into the Studio adventure and none of our contingencies had been put to the test. There was little Emma and I could do but contact the key team and see who could get in first and come up with suitable plans for the day. We were expecting around 60 customers to arrive before 9!
Health and Safety implications meant that no business could allow people on site while the power was off, so our options were limited. The team sprang into action and without wasting anytime Dawn had got herself into the city centre and was ringing other venues to see how far the blackout problem had spread. Other venues were just taking the view that it was “act of God” and as such they would just leave their customers to stand outside their venue until the problem resolved itself. For the Studio team that was not going to be an option. Customers use us to host important meetings and training and as far as we are concerned those events had to be hosted and they were not going to happen on the street corners of Birmingham.
By the time Emma and I arrived at Cannon Street the plan was already in full swing. The team were there in full high vis. jackets and Dawn had a list of all the events and where they were being relocated to. She had managed to outsource every event we had, most of them to the new conference facility at the Radisson; which had only opened a couple of weeks before, had very few customers and was just on the edge of the Blackout zone. For us and the rest of the team it was simply a case of collecting up the customers and walking them in human buses to the Radisson who were ready and waiting to meet and greet.
I have to say that our route took us past a couple of our competitors who had their own customers waiting outside and had clearly done very little to relocate them.
By 10am we had moved every customer and every event we were supposed to host that day went ahead successfully. The team even returned to the outsourced venues in the afternoon to collect groups and ensure they got back to their cars or the station. For the record the power returned at about 1pm
When I tell this story peoples first reaction is always to ask about the cost to us and whether our insurance covered it. Well naturally the outsourced venues charged us for the windfall and as it happens the insurance cover didn’t help. But for us none of that matters. The team did exactly what we would hope and always trust they will, they took control and made decisions using only the mission statement of the Studio, Customer First. It’s easy to talk the language and many people do but we will always be proud of our team and of the 16th April 2007. The day we truly walked the walk