Friday, 20 April 2012

Can Do???

All of Best is about ensuring a great ‘customer experience’ – in non-jargon terms it means making sure that children and parents enjoy everything we do. A lot of this is the content of classes but we pay huge attention to our customer service.
So this week I was amused/horrified/delighted in equal measures by two organisations. ADT and Virgin Media. Huge shout out to Virgin! Boo to ADT!
Firstly, Virgin. This is how to do it well…
I called because my broadband was running slowly – actually a bit hacked off because I had the feeling that it had been much slower than I was paying for for some time. The technician was fantastic – remotely looked through the programmes running, identified what may have been the issue and fixed it. But it was clear I needed more capacity so he put me through to Sales (and introduced me to the next point of contact and stayed with me to ensure connection was made. The lady in sales listened to what I was after and then said- “you’ve been with us for ages haven’t you? Hmm.. would you mind holding for 5 minutes, I may be able to do something here…”
3 minutes later she was back: “Good news. I’ll up your broadband speed by a factor of 600%, give you a new wireless router/modem hub free, replace an old TV box with a new TiVo and knock £20 off your monthly bill! We can be round tomorrow!” And when the engineer arrived he was charm personified. Not only did he do some extra drilling for us but he also tidied up all our cabling beautifully and even wore overshoes. All right, of course I’m delighted to save money and get better technology but they didn’t really need to do this. I’d probably have been none the wiser. But now they have no more loyal customer than me. Well done Virgin Media!!!
ADT turn up to fit two sensors and two boxes outside following a not-to-be-missed special offer of free equipment!. Not a huge job. Knock on the door. “Before I start I can’t take off your old alarm box – it’s too high.” He then sticks his lip out in a ‘what a shame’ kind of way. “Well, I can’t do what I can’t do, can I?” No solution, no alternative course of action – he clearly didn’t want to sort this out. And this after the installation people had been round to survey the job beforehand! I suggested curtly he went away and come back with a bigger ladder and I then start to ping out numerous acidic tweets about ADT and their inability to conquer the North Face of a regular two storey St Albans house.
Now I know it’s probably not ADT’s fault but the engineer was their representative and has done them no favours whatsoever with me and although I haven’t got a huge Twitter following you never know who’s reading these things. So not a great PR move. And now there’s this fantastic blog too (which I bet no-one reads)).
His boss came round today to do a full Health & Safety risk assessment… and again although I know that this is a requirement of most companies due to the overly litigious nature of the UK nowadays but they did have a chance to do this with the original site survey and set my expectations accordingly. They have now, I understand, found a bigger ladder and will be round soon to do the job.
ADT offered something free and ended up letting me down, Virgin started off in the doghouse and massively redeemed themselves, over-delivering and delighting me.
So a lesson for Best – don’t take your eye off the ball…

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Holiday courses? It's all in the prep...

Having just put on our public shows it’s now time for our spring holiday courses. “You’ve spilled the beans about putting on shows, what about holiday courses?” I hear you scream. You’re not screaming? Well I’ll tell you anyway...

It’s about organisation (see the common thread running through this). There are lists after lists to prepare – contact details, medical details, t-shirt sizes, name labels, song lyrics, certificates and so on – it’s amazing how much paper you can generate.

Planning for the week’s theme is usually quite relaxed, however. We GENUINELY leave the story up to the children as much as possible. We do have a good idea of the songs and dances we want to do but the story... to give you an example, this week on our theme ‘Yellow Brick Road’, the children have come up with a sweeping tale of misunderstood witches, communities lacking love, courage and knowledge and of their redemption. We facilitate the discussion, they come up with the story. Lisa was thrilled at lunch on the first day with what had been suggested.

But this week we only have 4 days to put it on – well 3 really as the show is on the 4th day!

As I write I await news of what costumes they want before diving into the chaos that is our garage wherein 90-odd ‘tuffcrates’ of costume lie waiting for me not to find them. And by Thursday it will all come together in the SandPit Theatre and every time parents are simply amazed at what the children come up with.

It’s a unique approach that takes some courage but we believe it provides a much richer experience and a real feeling of ownership for the children. And it’s not ‘Annie’ thank goodness...

Meanwhile the little ones in First Class have a similar number of lists but more preparation of costume and story prior to their arrival. Quite often we need specific costume items which have to be ordered in. And we need to prepare their craft projects – windmills, pictures and invitations this week!

Once we’re off and running the week flies by and by the end of it we are always tired but exhilarated – and so, most importantly, are the children.

And in the summer we do this three weeks running! Six sets of children, three entirely new shows (Best) and three classics (First Class). Another sign that we must indeed be mad!