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    I wish to register a complaint.

    Thursday, 30 September 2010 09:20 by Simon Fineman

    There has been some media talk of late about the most effective way to complain to a company.  Must be a recession thing I guess.  One recent study suggested that it's a good idea to contact the big boss*.  With thousands of customers to satisfy I naturally mused on how I would react if I started to get lots of complaints in my mail box.  Allow me to share with you my thoughts.

    Let me start by reporting I actually get very few complaints. That is not to say that no customer has a problem with Timbmet.  Obviously working with timber, a natural product, we do get problems, but very few of them ever reach my desk.  We have an effective system which I believe is based on the notion that the customer is always right, even when they are wrong.  That way at least we get the next enquiry.

    Should I assume that we solve every complaint to the complete satisfaction of the customer?  Well I hope not, because in actual fact when complaints do come my way I often respond in ways that might surprise you.  For example, I have a very clear idea in my mind as to what constitutes an ideal customer.  If the complainer is patently way outside that profile I might just decide I couldn't care less.  Let him take his business elsewhere - I am the boss so I do have the power to say "sorry sir, not interested".

    Admittedly, the more likely scenario is that I can solve a problem that few others in the organisation can address as quickly and efficiently. Moreover, I would very much like to know about complaints because only by understanding what goes wrong in an organisation can one get a grasp of how to put things right.  Occasionally customers do get on to me and I can blast through the normal channels directly to solve their particular problem.

    Would I positively advise a customer to email me if they had a problem with Timbmet?  I think on balance the answer would be yes, provided the normal procedures were close to exhaustion.  Personally I enjoy the close contact a complaint can bring with a customer, which avoids the ivory tower syndrome of the boss sitting in his office and not really knowing what is going on in the real world of day-to-day commerce.

    Will this blog lead to an avalanche of emails from disgruntled customers desperate for satisfaction?  Your call valued reader...


    * http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11300245

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    "Money can't buy you happiness, but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery" Spike Milligan

    Tuesday, 14 September 2010 04:22 by Simon Fineman

    Running a "successful" timber business over the past two years has not been easy.  If the media are to be believed it's about to get a whole lot harder with a construction industry led, double dip recession about to descend on us.

    How should we respond?  Probably by starting out defining the word "success".  I spend a lot of my time pondering this one because when I use the word I don't really mean money (bad sign in a businessman I know).

    Many funding institutions see success purely in terms of profit and loss, yet I know of extremely admirable businesses in the timber industry that never make money.  They do 'good' in terms of the contribution they make to our world often by preserving old skills, innovating or just simply being extremely pleasant to deal with.

    For those of us in business that do need to make money, is success only about pleasing customers?  I would hate to think that we make profit yet customers despise the company.  Likewise it would be unfulfilling to only make money at the expense of employing miserable staff.

    So what the heck is success then?  I think in Timbmet it's a two dimensional challenge.  It's about a happy community of people, the staff, pleasing a loyal group of followers, the customers.  If this sounds simplistic let me tell you that in my experience it's very hard to achieve.  Very profitable companies can have very miserable employees, and many happy companies have gone bust.

    In commerce it may appear that money is everything but how many wealthy people get their private lives awfully wrong? Did they forget that happiness has to come first?  I say the best advice to anyone worrying about the looming threat of a further recession is try to stay happy and enjoy what you do.

    Personal success should ultimately be measured by the proportion of my day spent smiling.  I try to be good to people, both colleagues and customers.
    It may sound awfully flowery and twee but my experience tells me that I am least successful when I fail with people, not money.

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