Twenty seven years ago I started out in the asset management industry. I was very excited to be entering the world of financial markets with its focus on macroeconomic-based decision making which I had been trained to do.
But my line manager at that time had other more immediate plans for me. And so for large parts of the first year in my role as fund manager I was given the task of replying on behalf of the organisation to letters from members of the public. This was after all the era before email.
Whilst I wasn't thrilled about it at the time, I can confess to being very grateful for the benefit of this experience. For a start, I learned how wound up some people can get about improper punctuation and inaccurate spelling! But, more importantly the entire exercise forced me to think very carefully about the issues that were important for our clients. Believe me when I say there is nothing quite like the learning experience associated with examining the context of a letter that has been painstakingly penned by a client and then devoting time to the composition of what you hope will be regarded as an empathetic and helpful reply. It was an important early introduction for me to customer satisfaction analysis.
Of course letter writing is largely a thing of the past, at least as far as interacting with customers is concerned – email, mobile technology and social media have seen to that. Personally I feel much has been lost in this part of the communication revolution. For many people speed appears to be a more important yardstick of effective communication.
But there has also been a counterbalancing improvement in how regularly we can interact with clients and in our ability to both gather and interpret what they are trying to communicate to us. Consequently, we can have few excuses for not responding in a helpful way to customer feedback.