Being a Specialist v Jack of all Trades

I’ve been triggered to write this post by the John Lewis advert for House Insurance. ‘Ridiculous’ was my first response and then I remembered that I’d thought the same when I heard about Sainsburys Bank.

I’ve been thinking about this for a little while before writing as in my employed world I was always a bit of a Jack of all Trades and it served me well and was a role I enjoyed. So it felt a little hypocritical to be bemoaning the fact that companies don’t seem to want to specialise any more.

In fact I can’t honestly say that I’ve come to any conclusions in my ponderings but maybe by sharing my thoughts I will.

Having been a Jack of all Trades certainly proved helpful to me when setting up in business for myself. I had such a wide range of skills to call upon and had worked in so many different departments within organisations that there was less for me to learn about the business side of my new venture. There are certainly skills from other professions that will help me in my role as a coach and I learn these willingly so that I can deliver a better service to my clients.

Still though I find it frustrating when seeing other companies tackle a wide range of business areas. Tesco seem to have entered just about every area of the business world you can think of. Food, fuel, electricals, banking, insurance…. and with this diversity they lost their reputation for focussing on the customer and offering value for money. Ah maybe this is why I was so disappointed with John Lewis who are losing their reputation for excellent customer service and then announce that they are going into the world of Home Insurance.

There’s definitely something about the loss of identity. At one stage you would go to one of these businesses and be clear about what you would be getting. The same can be said of WHSmith. Once very clearly a newsagent and stationers and now…..I’m never quite sure when I go in as they don’t provide the specialisms that I came to think of them for and seem to be a ‘little bit of everything’.

With many shops now there is the move to cut staffing costs, introduce self-service tills and automated systems (most of which beep and shout at customers and rarely run smoothly). I’m starting to sound as if I’m hankering for the past but I do appreciate automated systems and love the way that technology can be used to create a better experience for customers…..and there perhaps is my answer.

In all the moves that I despair of there seems to be a move away from a focus on the customer and what they REALLY want. Systems are introduced to speed up processes, to create one stop shops but are they really delivering excellent customer service and the level of expertise that the customer would like to benefit from?

My personal experience as a customer is that I’m dissatisfied. I would like a real person to serve me at the checkout. To talk to, to answer my queries and to brighten my day with a smile (and so many of you on the tills do just that, I thank you). I would like a real person on the end of the phone to listen to my problems as a customer and to at least try to solve them without being stuck on a script track that doesn’t allow for them to listen to what I have to say and respond accordingly. I want to be able to go to a company and know just what it is that they do well and why I have gone to them rather than the shop next door. In short I want to take my businesses to companies that recognise me as their customer, who want to make the experience pleasant and easy for me to get what I need rather than making me run in circles to do things their way or not at all. For me I’ll be voting with my feet.

At this point I realise I may have gone off track but it is still clear to me that I’m looking for businesses to get back to the business of putting their customers first and providing what they need first and foremost and in doing so be clear about their own identity and their own role.

Well that’s my thoughts…what are yours?

About Clare Wildman

Life coaching from Lincolnshire. Having moved from Milton Keynes I'm now based between Boston and New York, in the UK. Looking forward to welcoming clients to the new coaching room and having the option for walking as we talk or taking advantage of sunny days in the garden.