Treat Every Customer like your Grandad

I’m currently leading on creating an organisation-wide customer experience strategy for my current employers, Southern Housing Group. I’ve spent the last few months contemplating my approach, thinking about what strategy actually means and the outcomes I hope to achieve from it. For me, the starting point is always blue-sky or what is the perfect world scenario, which led me to the question, what does customer service excellence look and feel like?

“..make sure you invest time engaging your staff, not just training them on processes…”

On a phone call with my Dad, a few months ago, we were talking about his newly opened sandwich shop in Cardigan and how his new staff aren’t hitting the grade in terms of their interactions with customers. I shared my personal views with my dad and advised that he made sure he invested time engaging the staff on the type of sandwich shop he wants it to be, not just process training on how to work the till and make a BLT.  The conversation continued with Dad telling me about this staff member, let’s call her Lucy. Lucy’s Grandad came into the sandwich shop for a spot of lunch. Apparently, Lucy served her Grandad first, ahead of other customers waiting, she smiled, Lucy asked her Grandad how his day was, made a bespoke baguette for him (his favourite which she knew off by heart), wrapped the baguette with care, took ownership over the order, clearly managed his expectations by saying it will take a few minutes to make and authentically thanked her Grandad for coming in, and hoped to see him again soon.

“treat every customer like your Grandad…”

Dad said to me over the phone, why can’t she do this with other customers? It led me to say, just tell her, ‘treat every customer like your Grandad’. The level of care, ownership, authenticity, communication and personalisation is the standard we want for every customer.

If your Grandad…

…Donated to your charity, would you be happy with the thank you he received?

…Called your supporter care team, would you be happy with the interaction he gets?

…Signed up for a half marathon (very fit Grandad), would you be happy with his experience running for your charity?

…Used one of your services, maybe a helpline, would you be happy with how he’ll be supported?

Looking at your charity, how big is the gap between current experiences and the experience you’d want your Grandad to receive?

Is this statement too simple? Could this statement be applied to every organisation – small and big?

This statement could be phrased depending on the organisation, it could be ‘Treat every customer like your best friend/Mum/Dad/Sister/Grandma’.

For me this statement, cuts through all the variables, cuts through the buzz words and gets to the heart of exactly what customer service excellence is. I’m yet to find a phrase that can define customer service excellence better than this. Treat every customer like your Grandad.

But you might disagree – we’d love to hear alternative thoughts on how to define customer service excellence.

Paul Pember is a guest blogger for THINK, the leading international consultancy dedicated to not for profit fundraising.  We’ve been working with charities in the UK and all over the world for more than 15 years.  The THINK website – – provides a wide range of insights and information for anyone interested in changing the world.

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