February/March 2019

Customer Service Champions

Late November brought two great speakers to K-Club’s regular Salford networking event – Steve Byrne, CEO at Travel Counsellors, and Chris Brindley MBE, Former MD of Metro Bank and Natwest.

Steve Byrne, CEO, Travel Counsellors

Steve was first to speak, and his talk highlighted the positive impact of building caring and trusting relationships with customers – and how this affects the top and bottom lines of business. He began with a little background in that his business had been going for 24 years and grown on average 16% per year for the past 15 years and 20% for the past 3, with a recent buyout of £250m in May. But what makes Travel Counsellors different? “Business is all about relationships.” Where many businesses focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, there is also the ‘why’, he explained – that having a visible ethos is key. Knowing what you stand for creates legacy and the best businesses are those who are delivering sustainable long-term growth because they are disruptive and yet can also cope with disruption.

In differentiating the who, what and why further, Steve expanded that businesses need to be able to articulate their central sense of purpose. The way to articulate can be very personal and powerful. Reflecting on his own potential he pondered that knowing your personal ‘whys’ is fundamental because ‘trust is the glue of life’. Community, he explained is essential to disruptive business, and you cannot have community without trust. Furthermore, he stated that Travel Counsellors did not ‘spend a penny’ on advertising and that all business was from word of mouth – a strong testimony to his assertion about personal ethos and trust among people. A £600m pound business without high street presence, and aiming to be a £1billion pound business, the priority is actually about garnishing the voice of each of the 2,000 people in the business.

Other travel companies spend the time, effort and money on acquiring new customers rather than retaining their existing ones, so Travel Counsellors have centred the ‘why’ on care. They care for 3 groups of people – customers, colleagues (those who are part of the company) and the community that they interact with. Their ethos is to maintain a positive impact across all three groups. The success of Travel Counsellors emphasised that although the business is human to human selling they have demonstrated that scale can be achieved through intimacy. Where people really need to put their trust in companies for their precious holiday time – because that experience must be valued and cared for by ourselves – people work hard and absolutely deserve exceptional customer care.

Steve went on to describe the role of disruption within business sectors, with particular emphasis on Travel Counsellors. “There are 3 points to consider. Firstly, disruptive businesses tend to devolve power away from leadership and toward those closest to the customer – because they are on the ground working with the reality of people’s feelings and experiences. Secondly, They trust and empower their people. We found that a ‘brutal’ pace of information flow is essential from customer back to those in charge – to improve and take on real opinion from those who can help you improve. Lastly, there is a core sense of community. In the example of ourselves, community is extended through the Travel Counsellors and on to their families too. That as a business supporting a community, we are a force for good – there for the good and the bad times.”

Summing up, Steve concluded that ultimately, people buy from those they trust and that for entrepreneurs, they must focus on their ‘why’ and remain passionate about that ethos whilst ‘disrupting’ for the good of community.

Chris Brindley, former MD, Metro Bank

Chris Brindley MBE was next to speak. Chris’s theme was customer experience – the myth of customer service and why behaviours betray values. This is an area he felt was very relevant to Metro Bank – which was set up with the intention to disrupt the banking industry. He began by stating that they were the first bank in 170 years to be given a licence. “In 2008 the regulators awarded the licence due to outstanding customer service. The truth behind this was that instead of decisions being made in a boardroom where those in power do not have customers’ best interests in mind, we were different.”

Sharing his insight into creating positive business models Chris urged us to “keep looking beneath the surfaces. In being challenging to the status quo, we can take action for change – looking at the smallest details can be exceptionally rewarding.” What is important he expounded, was what the future would hold – past glory is firmly in the past. Businesses trade on their current glory but must look to the future to survive, and as such change must be embraced to become successful. He continued with the insight that there is a consumer revolution that must be understood, particularly on the high street as it continues to change and the only way to do so is to understand consumer behaviour and care about customers.

Rounding up, Chris stated that Metro Bank was inspired out of this change, based on referrals where customers were also fans. The model they created was where customers wanted a different banking experience and that they wanted a value proposition based on service over rates. It is the behaviours that count, he said – behaviours based on trust and how people feel. “We are transparent in name and nature and for example, by offering a drive-through banking experience, we help customers get around mobility, time and childcare difficulties.

Longer hours, being open 7 days a week, including bank holidays, allows people to do their banking around their own work schedules and not those of the banking traditions. Easy access without steps and dog friendly. Baby change facilities, accounts opened and a card in the customer’s hand within 15 minutes is the way we look after our customers – unchained pens you can take home too! These are the needs and reflections of real people. Real customers. Businesses must be disruptive in culture and put the customers at the heart of the operating model where the job of the leaders is to nurture. Transaction by transaction we want to be outstanding. We think differently, attending to detail. We choose to disrupt – and have fun.”

GM Business Connect have been partnering K-Club’s regular networking events for many years now, and it this was a bittersweet event in that Fred Stone, Founder of K-Club, was stepping down from regular events. Fred was handing the reins to the very capable hands of directors Brian Wood, Matt Townsend and Sue Weighell, plus the K-Club Associates who keep this unique private business network thriving. The next event is on 28 March.

For further information please contact Amanda Manson, Events Organiser on
07754 069 829    amanda.manson@k-club.co.uk     www.k-club.co.uk