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Systematically Delighting Your Customers

Academy Team for The Bottom Line

Kevin Kerley

Kevin Kerley - Academy Group 45 Chairman

Solutions 4 Cleaning won the British Chambers of Commerce business award for Excellence in Customer Service in 2011 against considerable opposition which included Marriott Hotels and BT. Kevin Kerley, who has since exited the business but remains in close contact with them, explained to me that for a small, regional business to win such an award was a major achievement. “It is about being able to prove what you do and to achieve that excellence for customers.”

We began talking about customers and about service. “I was talking to a client a few days ago and he told me that his customer service was fantastic. I asked him what he meant by fantastic and he replied, “well we don’t get many complaints”. What he was not seeing were those uncomplaining customers that were simply taking their business elsewhere.”

So, if monitoring the number of complaints is not enough, and it isn’t, what are customers’ expectations of service these days? “10 years ago, you could meet their expectations and you’d both be happy. Now if you are meeting customer expectations and no more, you are probably mediocre at best. You need to be exceeding their expectations, delighting them, and that way you will get loyal customers who will stay with you – and tell their friends and colleagues.”

How does a business like Solutions4Cleaning go about knowing how they are perceived by their customers? “Monitoring the level of satisfaction is pretty much key to delighting your customer and delighting your customer is what you should be aiming for – not satisfaction.”

Understanding and acting on how you are performing depends on two key factors, processes and culture. “We have processes in place that ensure that we monitor, measure and then act upon customer perceptions of our service to them. They need to be consistent and they need to be acted upon in order for continuous improvement to become built into the business. Our approach is systematic but not mechanistic (see article) and it ensures that we know, by customer, each month, how we are doing and what we need to do to improve. Everyone in the business needs to understand the importance we place on these measures and know what they have to do to help us to meet them.”

Solutions4Cleaning also adopted Net Promoter Score (NPS), an American approach to customer feedback that Kevin found to be fantastic and very simple in its operation. “Every six months we write a letter to our clients asking a single question – “on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to somebody else?” As well as benchmarking against other businesses – like Apple and B&Q – you can also measure change over time. Our first NPS came out at 87.9% which is extremely good. We set a target of 90% and achieved that on our third run. Now I’d like to see us get to 95%.”

Culture is another area that doesn’t happen by accident. “Excellence begins with the selection process. Making sure you select people with the right attitude gives you a good start. You can build a culture on top of that attitude that results in a business that believes in what it tell its customers they can expect.”

Training reinforces this attitude. The whole business needs to be geared towards understanding and delivering what the customer needs and expects. “My first job was at Cunard who operated their  cruise liners to the highest standards of customer service on a par with The Savoy and The Ritz Hotels. I went from there into hotels. Hotel managers can’t run their business from the office with their head buried in the figures. In a business that is100% about customer service, they need to concentrate on customer experience, on what they are delivering for customers now and how they can do that better and on ways to delight them. If they do that, they cannot fail to get good testimonials on sites like TripAdvisor and to make money.”

Success in customer service is, Kevin says, a simple formula but delivering it is not easy. “You need to let the customer know what you are delivering, to deliver it and to consistently monitor, measure and manage that delivery so that it is continuously improved.”

If you already have a reputation that needs improvement, Kevin offers hope. “Customers quickly forget yesterday. They are very much in the now. If you can deliver delight, you can turn around a reputation very quickly. Look at Marks and Spencer. They were the leading retail brand for years then, for a time, they seemed to get everything wrong. They turned it all around and now they are back where they were, delighting their customers. You can do the same for your business = whatever market you are in.


Kevin Kerley has turned around many failing business enterprises for blue chip, PLC and Ltd companies before setting up Solutions 4 Cleaning 12 years ago; they now have 400 staff, over 200 accounts and have won 5 business awards, most recently beating 100,000 other well-known businesses, to win the British Chamber of Commerce’s national award for Excellence in Customer Service

As Chairman of Academy Group 45, he is looking to connect with dynamic and driven CEOs, MDs and senior partners in companies with 20+ staff and a £2 million plus turnover in the Hull (HU), Doncaster (DN) and Sheffield (S) postcode areas, who want to become more successful leaders with more successful businesses.

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