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This week I received a gift in the post from the guy who designs our Annual Report. It came in a slim cardboard box which in itself created a certain frisson as it clearly wasn’t the stock standard Christmas gift of chocolates or alcohol. I ripped it open eager to see the contents. It turned out to be the latest release by Foals What Went Down. And get this …on vinyl! Wow I thought – somebody gets it. Why you might ask? For  a number of reasons:

  1. Stephen, who sent me the gift, knows I like Foals
  2. He had spent time getting to know me and my tastes
  3. He had thought about me not a ‘one size fits all’ gift. This was personalised.
  4. It was vinyl!!!

Without wanting to labour the last point the fact that it was a vinyl record speaks volumes about Stephen and makes me want to keep doing business with him.Vinyl is analogue and is warm. Had he given me a CD it would have felt much less warm and fuzzy. There is something about the size of vinyl and the warmth that you get when listening that draws you in. Much like good business relations. Had he given me an iTunes card – albeit more in $ terms – it would not have had the same impact. Here is someone who clearly knows how to delight his customer.

Of course Christmas offers an opportunity to see how we are regarded by our friends, colleagues and customers. That is not to say that gifting is any measure of the strength of relationships but the knowledge that someone has spent some time thinking about you does have a positive glow affect. Our suppliers fall into two categories at work. Those who provide a gift and those who don’t. It might appear facile to split them along these lines, but I think considering them in these two categories is worthy of some reflection. A gift goes to being present in someone’s thinking for at least some period of time. It suggests ‘I value this relationship’ and projects forward to a wish to continue in the same vein. It suggests perhaps some ‘older values’ from a time when people connected in a much more personal way – ‘face to face’, ‘handshake to handshake’.

In the last flurry before Christmas we had cause to order a new key cupboard to improve security. A robust and therefore expensive cupboard was ordered and shipped. That one item was returned for the third time whereupon we cancelled the order and are now looking elsewhere. Here was an example from the opposite end of the customer service spectrum. No gift, no little peace offering for mucking us around. Far from that it was a matter of not even being able to deliver to our specification…not once but three times. Customer service is about meeting our expectations first and foremost. After that we stand ready and willing to have these expectations exceeded.

How can one company get it so right and the other so wrong? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that one company realised that making us feel warm and fuzzy is important. I shall remember this when the Foals LP goes on the turntable over the Christmas holidays. As for that other lot who let us down…well we won’t get foaled again!