First published on 22nd January 2008 on www.robinsonsequestrian.com
Joining the Blogosphere
One of our New Year’s resolutions for 2008 was to continue to present a more human face to Robinsons, and I hope you find that to be the case. One way to do this is for us to write a blog. If you’re new to the concept of blogs and blogging, I believe it comes from the words ‘web -log’ and it means a series of articles on a website to give a little more personal insight and information. Have a look on www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ to see how the BBC use blogs. I should also add that normally, Vicky Maylor our Customer Relations Manager would be heavily involved in this sort of thing. As it happens, Vicky is currently away on maternity, waiting for the birth of her first child. As many Americans put it, we’re “missing her already”!
Where Everybody Knows Your (Virtual) Name
So, with all that said, Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2008 is a good year for you. My theme for this January edition of our blog is the growth of the online equestrian community, which is quite apt as by writing this blog, we have in some small part helped it grow a little further! When I left University in 1995, I was lucky enough to have been using email and browsing the web well before most people because at that time universities were at the forefront of the internet’s adoption. Back then, I could see how it could change the way the world would work but I had no idea whether these changes would be noticeable one year or two decades. Now, thirteen years later, the virtual communities the internet has created are hugely influential and can give an interesting insight into the thoughts of the people they represent. At this point, I’m going to confess to you that from time to time, I make a point of looking for comments about Robinsons on various forum sites because it is precisely this insight that we always need to have. How can any company claim to be in touch with its customers if it is not taking every opportunity to listen to them? Unfortunately, I know that it’s more likely that I’ll read posts where someone’s not happy with us than those where we get praised. I can accept that. As a customer myself, I’d be unlikely to heap praise on Tesco just because they had what I wanted but I know I’d be more likely to tell someone if they’d run out of bread. We all have expectations of the places we shop with and because we expect them to be met, it’s only worthy of note when they’re not. I never like to see evidence of customers being unhappy with us, but I have to remind myself that these instances are in the tiniest minority of cases. Now, I don’t mean that to sound as bad as it might appear at first glance. Of course I don’t mean to say that because such problems are rare, we can just ‘put up’ with them happening. What use is that to the customer that’s not happy? Of course we want to make everyone happy, if we can. Here though lies the curse associated with forum surfing. If I suspect from a forum that a customer isn’t happy with us, what can I do about it? I could post a reply and say “Hi, I’m from Robinsons, let us put this right” and as a commercial posting, it will probably be removed within the hour. Worse still, there is a chance that the customer concerned (and other posters) will take exception to my clumsy interruption and move to another forum. Sometimes, if there are enough details (dates, items, UK regions), we can work out who the customer is from our own records and approach them by email. More often than not, the customer has chosen not to complain to us directly and unfortunately cannot be found. I have to conclude that happy or not, that is the way they want it and we have to respect that. Only when someone says something untrue about us, almost to the point of being libellous will I ask the forum administrator for the right to reply. The reason I’m telling you this is not to frighten posters away from websites, but to encourage anyone who is unhappy with anything we’ve done just to tell us about it – even if you do still want to tell other forumers. I promise you that each of our employees is a human being who wants to make sure that you’re pleased with the service they give and is rightly proud every time they’re able to do so.
Recent Events in Amersham
My thoughts turned again to the online equestrian community recently, following the awful news about the neglected horses in Amersham, Bucks. Both of the main forums that I frequent were filled with outrage and sympathy, and understandably so. With the power of the web and Google Earth at my fingertips, I was soon able to find out the precise location of the establishment and cross check the address with our own records. For what it’s worth, I am relieved to say that the individual arrested in connection with the case does not appear on our customer database. As a footnote, I’d like to add our best wishes to the charities who assisted with the rescue effort. We will be contacting them with a donation to help them rehabilitate the dozens of horses, ponies and donkeys they have taken with them. We all hope they return to full health as quickly as possible. If you’re reading this, perhaps you too could spare a small donation to the charity of your choice. There is a special news page on our website giving further information about all of the charities involved. Thanks for reading. Look out for next month’s instalment! Paul.