Let’s talk about customer service..

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Running in Chamonix – no ski boots required!

Call me old-fashioned, call me old, you’d be right on both counts, but I do like good customer service, no, actually, I like excellent customer service. Being self-employed, I make sure that’s what I give, if I didn’t, my reputation would suffer.

Let’s look at two scenarios to test out the principles of good customer service, you decide what actually happened.

It was the last day of a snow-packed slippy-slidey no-fall ski holiday (that’s no falls on the downhill, the cross-country had obligatory falling over). The snow just kept coming down and we were happy.

Our Chamonix hotel, the Faucigny was a favourite place to stay, we’d been there many times, welcomed warmly by the couple who ran it as a family business. They had since retired, but we went back as we loved it there.

It’s usual for ski boots and skis to be kept in the bowels of a hotel, usually in a room heady with the scent of 100 sweaty feet. We have our own boots, moulded to our feet and fitted with customised footbeds, so comfortable, like having your feet kissed…

As we opened the door that last morning, instead of our two pairs of boots, there was one. Mine. Noel’s had gone.

In scenario one, we speak to the reception staff, in French of course, who sympathise and offer to cover the cost of hiring boots for the day, and promise they will do their utmost to track them down. We leave re-assured and head out to ski our little legs off, trusting our hotel will sort everything out for us. On returning, we are presented with the missing boots, a guest had accidentally taken them, apologised profusely for the inconvenience, leaving a gift, a generous gift, we’re overwhelmed, we shed a tear or two, embrace the hotel staff, who hand us a warming cuppa and huge slice of gateau then bid them a fond farewell, promising to return. Soon.

Scenario two and we’re met with a shrug, there’s an offer of a discount voucher to hire replacements, the same voucher offered when we arrived. Definitely the least they could do. The hire boots fit like gloves, boxing gloves. It’s not a good day. We return to the same shrugging and decide to report it to the police as a theft, that way we can claim on the insurance. We spend the penultimate hour of our holiday in the Gendarmarie explaining everything in our best French. On returning to the hotel, to pick up the airport taxi, Noel checks the boot room one last time. The boots are back, still warm, and wet through, the reception staff shrug, saying one guest returned, but they didn’t see who, yeah, right. Noel explains in his best French that he’s not happy and would very much like to discuss reimbursement of the hire cost of the boots with the person responsible. More shrugs. We’re hungry, thirsty and angry and already composing our Trip Adviser review.

Once when we were there before, we’d returned to the room to find it hadn’t been cleaned. Monsieur was mortified, he called the cleaner back, apologised profusely and gave us a bottle of champagne and sacked the cleaner. That was customer service.

So, which scenario was it, dear reader?

Slight navigational mishap

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How many skiers does it take to navigate a mountain when there are big, obvious signs everywhere? Well today it was three, but mostly it was me, but I can explain and it turned into an adventure – and a proposition…!

The skies here in the Trois Valleés are sapphire blue, the snow is deep and crisp and uneven and we’re skiing our legs to stumps. Today Noel was doing his ski instructing bit, so Simon and James ‘volunteered’ to ski with me and keep me out of trouble.

Simon started the whole getting lost thing by heading off piste, he had a great time, James ended up in the trees and I found myself at the top of a steep mogul field. I got down, but with absolutely no style or grace.

Then James veered off, when he said he was going down the piste called Anenome, he really meant he’d point his skis down Renard. As we pointed out when we eventually got to the bottom, with friends like James, who needs anenome….

But top prize went to me with a faux pas at the sniggeringly-named Coqs. We were supposed to meet up there, but I missed the big obvious turning and ended up at the bottom of the mountain. Fortunately I fell in with a group of jolly Brits who implored me to join them for vin chaud and cordial company. One older fellow was particularly keen to get to know me better. I politely declined – and made my way solo to Coqs. There Simon and James were waiting for me with a coffee and plenty of comments about navigational cock-ups. Guilty as charged. Still, that’s not likely to happen again, is it?

Getting knitted out for the slopes

What to do after a day of hard skiing? The chalet will be warm and welcoming, though the only screen will be in front of the fire and won’t have a channel changer. Books are for bedtime and can be a tad anti social and I for one will be in danger of falling asleep and embarrassing myself in front of the six strangers we’ll be staying with, by either drooling, or snoring, or both.

So, inspired by a trip to Texere yarns, a converted mill in Bradford city centre housing an explosion of coloured knitting wool, I bought needles and enough coloured stuff to knit an apres ski scarf. Now, I’ve not picked up knitting needles for ages, years, decades, so the predicted two days estimated to finish it may turn into 20. But still, if it keeps me from snoring, it’ll be a relief to the rest.

Coffee and knitting and coffee

So off we trot to the alpine slopes where there’s been so much snow they’ve closed most of the lifts. A great end to a week where I was thrilled to be chosen as Eccleshill Road Runners’ Member of the Month.Gosh!