By Ian Reynolds-Young
It’s never easy to conduct a mob-handed interview over the phone and this was a proper toughie. You see, to the addled ears of a Lancashire lad, all Black Country accents sound the same. To begin with, I couldn’t tell Elaine Fraser and Lynne Holyman apart. (Chris Gough wasn’t a problem). We got over it.
Meet N&W’s Customer Service team. Come November, when Chris completes his 31st year at Bilston, the three of them will boast an incredible 100 years of combined service.
Lynne’s been around the longest, with 36 years in the bank. ‘I’ve mainly been in sales’, she says. ‘I joined GKN in 1981, when we had an office in Walsall. Then I moved to Bilston as Sales Coordinator, followed by a move into the ‘After Sales’ team and then the Technical office. After that, I moved back into Sales & Marketing and as you go through, you learn about all the departments.’
Chris started as ‘a YTS’, as we used to call people who were part of the governments Youth Training Scheme. Bilston was a manufacturing site in those days and Chris cut his teeth in Materials Control. ‘During my second year as a YTS, a job came up in the Spares department and I grabbed it’, he recalls.
Chris worked in Spares ‘for a number of years’ until he was made the departmental Team Leader. (He can still give you pretty much any part number off the top of his head). Chris moved across to Customer Services initially as cover for Lynne, (who’d been poorly): he’s been there ever since…
‘When I left school I started at GKN in the Customer Service / Service Department. Then I moved to the Purchase Ledger Department, then Credit Control’, Elaine says. ‘Then, GKN was taken over by Necta Wittenborg who set up a leasing company, called Incentive Financial Services, which was run by Ray Cox, who’s our FD now. My job was to set up the lease documentation. Eventually, I moved over into the Spares Department, before moving back to Customer Service.’
They’re a little bit coy when they agree that they ‘don’t know all the answers, but we know the man who does’: I reckon they do know all the answers. The calls they take, the enquiries they deal with, cover every single facet of N&W’s UK operation.
‘People have their own expectations about what ‘Customer Service’ means’, Lynne says. ‘Some try to solve things themselves; others come on to us straight away.’ What’s for sure is the phones ring constantly and the majority of calls are from N&W clients. ‘One of our main roles is entering both machine and accessory orders into our system and in that respect, the knowledge we’ve got as a team really helps. Orders are never just a piece of paper in the system.’
‘A lot goes into processing the orders, especially machine orders’ Chris adds. ‘It’s our responsibility to oversee the entire journey from when an order is placed – or sometimes even when an enquiry is made – until it’s loaded on the wagon and on its way. That’s the ‘co-ordination’ part of it, making sure everything is properly scheduled.’
‘People tend to ask for us because we’re easy to get hold of and we’ve all got many years experience’ Chris says. ‘The interesting thing is that you never know what’s going to happen next. No two days are ever the same.’
Talk to any N&W customer and they’ll tell you straight that the company’s Customer Service team is quite simply the best in the business. In a nutshell, that tells you all you need to know about Elaine, Lynne and Chris.
Chris sums it up: ‘it’s about delivering above and beyond what people expect’, he says.
It’s great to speak to someone who has the knowledge to actually help you whenever there’s an issue or a question and thanks to this article (and the magic of photography), you can finally match each familiar voice to a face.
Having said that, getting the three of them to pose for a picture was right up there with herding cats in terms of ‘degree of difficulty’. Just sayin’…
Ian Reynolds-Young is Editor of Planet Vending.