Customer Service – how often do we commend or condemn?

Well, December has arrived with the usual flurry of bad weather, extra traffic, bad music on your favourite radio station and people doing a count down to the ‘big day’ every morning in your office.

Here in Craigmore we love the whole Christmas thing, we get the Christmas tree up (same one as last year), we get some Christmas music on and we look forward to a few days off. I love the excitement and build up and even though my three children are now young adults (18, 20, 21), Joy still loves to have lots of wrapped gifts under the tree and a few surprise treats no one was expecting.

This week I had an appointment in Belfast with Joy and I reluctantly agreed to do some Christmas shopping in the city centre. Our appointment was over at four o’clock and we headed for Victoria Square Shopping Centre. You can not imagine my delight when we discovered there was no late night shopping, the stores shut at six o’clock, Joy was gutted but I was ecstatic. After a quick dash to Jack Wills, Hotel Chocolat and All Saints we settled in Pizza Express for dinner and a chat.

It was while we chatted in Pizza Express that I once again was struck by the importance of good customer service. Our server was great, polite and courteous, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu, well done. However, at the table to my left was a family of two adults and one young child. They were shown to the table and given a menu, then five minutes… and fifteen minutes… and almost 20 minutes had passed and no one has returned to speak to them. The restaurant was not busy, there were plenty of staff but no one came back. I am not a patient person and the little family were saints in my mind, but I could take it no more… I called a passing server and explained the situation and asked them to please act. I am pleased to say they did, and the hungry family were duly saved from starvation in a Belfast restaurant.

Serving customers well has always been a pillar of Craigmore, we do all we can to understand customer’s needs and expectations, we go the entire mile to ensure best value and best service in our industry.

Of course we don’t claim to always get it right, but when it goes wrong we move swiftly to make it right at Craigmore. Customer feedback is vitally important and we value it and respond to the good and the bad.

I like to give praise and thanks when appropriate and I believe in speaking out when the service is below standard, and I would encourage others to do the same. In a world of caution and political correctness I feel we are too frightened to say something was good or bad, we need to get past this and be prepared to speak up when needed.

I fear my escape from the Christmas shop may be short-lived and I will once more be thrust into the scrum of people desperate to spend their hard earned cash in pursuit of that perfect gift. So as we all embark on this perilous adventure in the next few weeks I encourage you to say “thanks and well done” when you are well served and “no thanks and please try harder” when you are not well served.

“Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. ” Anonymous

Political Volcanoes and White Walkers

My continued quest to remain healthy does bring some benefits -this week it was perspective…

As I walked in Tollymore Forest Park this week during a glorious sunny autumnal afternoon I was reminded of the beauty which surrounds us and the ease in which we can access the great outdoors. It is definitely the “great” outdoors when you are literally walking on the set of Game of Thrones – See Proof Here. (It made its mark as the Haunted Forest, where the White Walkers began their march into the realm of men.) As I spent time with my wife exercising in the beautiful countryside of Northern Ireland,  with the Mountains of Mourne to my back and the Irish Sea to my front I was left feeling that the world just keeps on turning.

In a month when we have had an opportunity to remember those who lost their lives in two world wars and countless conflicts to ensure our freedom and liberty. We must never lose sight of the fact that we have the power to vote our leaders in or out. Always be thankful we live in a democracy. We should not be lazy when given the chance to be involved in how our country is governed.

Great entertainers and great leaders have always interested me.

Business people like Richard Branson and Bill Gates; leaders like Margaret Thatcher and J. F. Kennedy; sportsmen like Juan Manuel Fangio and Jessica Ennis Hill. When I watch a documentary about these people or read some of the many books and features written about them, I see people with a deep desire to be great in their specific field whilst also having a human spirit which endeared them to others in their sphere of influence and on a much wider scale. There is much that we can learn from these people, both from well made decisions and poor ones. We all have to plough our own furrow in life and work hard to leave a mark in business, sport, community and our family.

Could I really write to you all and not mention the minor news that took place this month?

Donald Trump is the President Elect of the USA… I doubt many of us ever thought we would say those words. Hillary Clinton thought she was a sure winner. The pundits and pollsters said she was a sure winner. The bookies paid out early for fear of major losses. Yet, Clinton lost. The key point emerging right now is that most people were simply fed up with the current political elite and that their conversations on change had been ignored for too long. In Europe the Brexit vote was a very similar outpouring of angst and anxiety at a political system which appeared to ignore the many and listen to the few.

Although political volcanoes will continue to erupt; we each have the power to influence our families and our communities for good, and I would encourage everyone to make an effort and do just that.

“A bruise is a lesson… and each lesson makes us better.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

 

Geoff Baird

Is it Normal to Fear Free Time?

This month I was diagnosed with fear of free time.

Since my last blog to you I have been faced with less free time than ever, yet, all I could think of this past week was exactly that…

Another month gone – only 52 Days until Christmas, and only 59 days until 2017. CraigmoreOnline has again posted a record month (a big thank you to all our new and repeat customers). Due to this fact, free time was only a luxury I received when going to sleep.

This week I met with one of our biggest suppliers; Karcher as we finalized plans for 2017…
We discussed new products, new and improved offers, technology and we found oursleves pondering what the future may be like.
Driverless cars are a constant news item, robotic vacuums or lawnmowers are now commonplace and it seems every electronic company is trying to produce a robot to do everything for us.
With all these inventions to ‘make life easier’ will the result be more free time?

I began contemplating my life if I had more free time on my hands…

I don’t play golf or an instrument and I certainly don’t run marathons (see last post) or cycle down mountains.
However, I do love the sauna in the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co. Down (if you have never been I would add it to your to-do list). But can you really go there on a weekly basis?
On Tuesday, upon discussing the subject of free time with my father I was told stories of his early years of retirement; from travelling up the Amazon river to climbing high Andes mountains to visit missionaries he had supported for many years. He talked of his pedigree Limosin cattle herd and the enjoyment of visiting the cattle market to see other men his age with similar free time on their hands.

I realised after this that my fear of free time stems from the fact I am a self-confessed workaholic.

Even after all my father’s retirement escapades it was short-lived, and within the year he was back on the farm working.
Free time is the result of not working, and to me that makes no sense when I love my job. I have run my own business from the age of 25 and I don’t see why I couldn’t carry on doing this for another 25 years.

Steve Jobs passed away 5 years ago last month at the age of 56. He was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple. With his vision of affordable personal computers, he launched one of the largest industries of the past decades while still in his early 20s. Steve Jobs remains one of the most inventive and energetic minds in technology.
One of his most prolific quotes is a challenge for us all to consider:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Steve Jobs

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Mandatory Jogs & CraigmoreOnline Blogs

My first post is being written after a rather murderous 3 mile jog; the first proper exercise in about 6 months…

Having just turned 50 and inheriting poor genes resulting in raised blood pressure and a fairly terrible cholesterol score my encouraging and rather forceful sporty family have forced me back onto the treadmill. Like most people in 2016 who work long hours it is always hard to squeeze in time to exercise, but now that I am half way to my target age of 100 (target weights are not for me!!) I must make more time to look after my body. Let me say this, CraigmoreOnline does not sell exercise equipment or Zumba DVDs, and we certainly do not give fitness advice. However, safety at work or home is important to us and to our suppliers such as 3M, Karcher and SIP.

I suppose I should introduce myself… I am Geoff Baird, the founder and managing director of Craigmore and CraigmoreOnline.

Based in Northern Ireland; CraigmoreOnline is the online shop for our bricks and mortar business called Craigmore (no surprise there!)
Craigmore was started over 25 years ago but my business journey goes back to my teenage years. Perhaps I will get to that story in the future.

I have no experience of writing a blog. I have spent the last few months listening to advice, opinions and trawling the internet reading other people’s blogs. …But after all that I can say there is no magic formula and no perfect way, so bear with me!

Here’s what I will state right now, this blog will not be about blatantly trying to sell you more stuff. This blog will not attempt to teach you stuff you know already or will never need to know anyway.
I will always welcome your comments, good or bad and I will always be open and honest because that’s just who I am.

As a fond reader you can find anything from fiction, autobiography and business on my book shelves.
A particular favourite is Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
An addition to the original is a small book with daily quotes and if they are useful or I just like them I share them with others…

I recently read this: “It is possible to be busy – very busy – without being very effective”

Think on that, comment at will, change if you can.

P.S. These fails are guaranteed to cheer up even the dullest Thursday.

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Craigmore Karcher Sponsored Porsche at Circuit of Ireland 2015

Craigmore Sponsored Porsche
There may have been glamour models and Hollywood A-listers among the competitors on Circuit of Ireland 2015 Rally, but there was only one real crowd puller – the Tuthill Porsche 911 R-GT sponsored by Craigmore Karcher Centre. Driven by Robert Woodside, with Allan Harryman on the notes, the unmistakable flat-six reverberated around the Mourne Mountains on Good Friday, evoking magical memories of past events.

The Circuit of Ireland has a deep connection with the Stuttgart supercars. During the early 1970’s, the 911 scored back to back wins in the hands of Jack Tordoff and Cathal Curley. Although, Porsche power and ‘The Circuit’ became intrinsically entwined in the mid-1980s. A tie up with title sponsors Rothmans saw Henri Toivonen, Bernard Beguin, Saeed Al-Hajri and the Millstreet maestro, Billy Coleman, drive DRA-run 911 SC RS’s in consecutive events.

The final Rothmans Porsche appearance in 1986 proved to be an unhappy one. Early on day 2 of the event, Al-Rajhi crashed his car heavily and had to retire. Teammate Billy Coleman remained, but his car would also succumb to accident damage. However, just under thirty years later, the 911 was reunited with the inscrutable Irish tarmac, thanks to Tuthill Porsche and the new R-GT rules.
Craigmore Sponsored PorscheThese regulations have enabled Tuthill to take a stock 997 GT3 and turn it into a rather cooking, FIA approved rally car. After a number of outings in World Rally Championship, most notably in the hands of François Delecour, Tuthill brought the 911 to Northern Ireland for a test session in mid-March. The purpose: to see if they could rouse interest for an Easter excursion. Robert Woodside liked what he saw and happily, a deal was struck.
Craigmore Sponsored Porsche
A quick look around the service park, the special stages or social media last weekend, and it was clear that the 911 was the star of the show. Whilst the spectators flocked to the ditches to see the ding-dong battle between Robert Barrable and eventual winner, Craig Breen, no-one went anywhere until the distinctive matt black machine had roared over the crests and dips of the County Down countryside.
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When the car failed to complete day 1 due to clutch problems, there was a palpable outpouring of public anguish. Not just from rally fans; but from casual observers to the downright curious. They may not have understood the intricacies of the actual event, but they all recognised the 911. It was the one car everyone could connect with.

The Tuthill mechanics worked late into the night and the resurrection was complete. The car took to the roads for the second day and reinvigorated Woodside brought the car home for a first finish on Irish soil.
Craigmore Karcher Sponsored Porsche
Indeed, it’s fair to say that everyone hopes this is the first of many finishes for the Tuthill Porsche in Ireland. The Tuthill team clearly liked what they saw and have expressed a strong desire to come back. Needless to say, the spectators can’t wait to have the car back! With Killarney Rally of the Lakes only weeks away, the prospect of a Porsche howling through Moll’s Gap would be very special sight to behold.

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Story broadcast by and images supplied by Really Mean Sounds and written by Chris Andrews