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For 2023 - we are now fully retired from IT training.
We have made many, many friends over 25 years of teaching about Python, Tcl, Perl, PHP, Lua, Java, C and C++ - and MySQL, Linux and Solaris/SunOS too. Our training notes are now very much out of date, but due to upward compatability most of our examples remain operational and even relevant ad you are welcome to make us if them "as seen" and at your own risk.

Lisa and I (Graham) now live in what was our training centre in Melksham - happy to meet with former delegates here - but do check ahead before coming round. We are far from inactive - rather, enjoying the times that we are retired but still healthy enough in mind and body to be active!

I am also active in many other area and still look after a lot of web sites - you can find an index ((here))
On Customer Service

Let's not forget - the customer is king!

I present training courses. It's a service business; it exists for the customer and so the customer is "King".

What do I mean? I mean that we listen to our customers and we provide them, if at all practical, with the service they've requested. We welcome their inputs as it gives us an opportunity to tailor what we provide to suit them even more closely, and an opportunity to improve our product further for the next set of customers. Following this philosophy from "day 1", we now offer a product that's second to none; we're busy to the extend of being rushed off our feet, and the majority of our customers come to us through referrals and recommendations based on previous courses - an easy sell.

I don't mean that we're able to meet every request of every customer, not to take every suggestion on board; we've been running our training centre for 4 years, so we have rather more experience with what works (and what doesn't), and many of the questions that come up are not new. BUT I STILL WANT THEM RAISED ... it tells me what's important to the client that I'm talking to, it alerts me issues that need re-appraisal, and it helps to remind me that every client is different. It's also an opportunity to explain, and to explore alternative which - although they're not exactly what was originally suggested - may prove even better by combining the client's fresh view with our experience.

Just as I'm a service provider, I'm also a service user. And I take the opportunity of being a service user to see how providers come across, and to learn from good and bad experiences.


A customer requests to learn Perl, and its use in handling graphics on the web. We can deal with the "I want to learn Perl" easily enough - whether our customer is learning to program from scratch, or converting from another language. The graphics is a bit trickier - we do have training notes, but they're not included in our standard public courses because there simply isn't enough demand; rather, they're private courses only. Solution? We'll offer a "Perl Extra" day - a day that hasn't otherwise booked (usually a Monday or Friday orphaned by a four day course) and we'll run a one-on-one session for our customer. Do we make a profit on this? Not directly we don't, but we do ensure the customer books on the main course and we can be pretty sure he'll suggest our services to his colleagues too.

I'm attending a conference next week. It's quite a cost for the trip and the event, and it's a double cost because it means we'll have no course income for the week. But it's a vital part of keeping up to date with the technologies so that I can continue to give current information on our courses. This week, I received the schedule of the various sessions and my three top choices all run at the same time - very disappointing, especially since there was only limited opportunity to express preferences ahead of time. Others are disappointed too - "I'm doing both PHP and MySQL; why do they clash" was posted by several folks on the mailing list. The answer's come back - basically "tough - the schedule satisfies 90% of people" (and how do they know that with only limited opportunities given to express preferences?). His sidekick chimed in "you don't know how hard it is to organise" (really? thanks for making me feel small) and "even I want to attend a session that's scheduled while I'm lecturing" (yes, but you're being paid to lecture and the customer should come first). OK - rant over. Could the organiser have done better? He could have provided a way for his customers to give a full input on what they were interested in. He probably DID have to disappoint some people; with full information he would have know who was in that group, and he could have sent them a personal "sorry but it can't be helped" message. And he could have suggested to his sidekick that it's not a good idea to scorn the input of the paying customers, especially on an open list. Have I gained from this - yes, absolutely; when I look and listen to others, I learn from all their points, good and bad ;-)

A number of years ago when I was a contract trainer, I was giving a public course in a shared office facility and I was the only representative there of the company to whom I was contracted. The first day went just fine, but when I arrived half an hour before the customers were due on the second day, I found that there had been a break in and all the computers had been stolen. Not really time to do much before customers walk in and ... demand ... that the course continue as booked; I can understand this as the course has been scheduled for a while and it's a vital part of their jobs. But what to do. I sat down with them around the table, and explained that I'd only had a few minutes to think this through but I had come up with options (a), (b) and (c). Then I passed the ball. Could they suggest any other options that were open to me? Which option would they like me to take? The aggression melted, the chosen solution (a morning of board lectures while I was rushed a couple of machines for the students to share for the rest of the course) was the best that we could do in the circumstance for most of the attendees. One or two chose a different option (to come back for the full course the following time it ran) and everyone was happy.

It's inputs and experiences like these that have shaped (and continue to shape) our policy. Our station and airport pickup service is an answer to customer requests "How do I reach you by public transport". We don't cancel a course public course, even if there's just one trainee, because we know how much this could muck up that trainee's plans. We provide a choice of OS X, Linux and Windows machines for practicals. We have local books and maps to hand for trainees to borrow if they're staying in the area overnight .... and so it goes on. We have a saying "Come as a student, leave as a friend". And most people do.
(written 2004-10-03, updated 2008-05-10)

Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
G501 - Well House Consultants - Customer Service
  [91] On line every 24 hours - (2004-10-17)
  [126] Feedback shows the tip of an iceberg - (2004-11-22)
  [150] Confession - (2004-12-13)
  [189] Tuesdays and Fridays - (2005-01-25)
  [195] Customer service - examples to warn us - (2005-01-30)
  [233] Giving customers best value - (2005-03-02)
  [265] Business practise, 2005 style - (2005-04-03)
  [327] How far should our support go - (2005-05-28)
  [350] Want to be one better - (2005-06-17)
  [393] Trainer answers phone - (2005-07-28)
  [440] Upgrade! - (2005-09-09)
  [482] Different ways of selling - (2005-11-01)
  [552] Keeping Customers Informed - (2006-01-02)
  [566] May all your screw-ups be big ones - (2006-01-16)
  [569] Instructions for bright people - (2006-01-19)
  [609] Been on a course, but still not got it? - (2006-02-16)
  [621] And the staff put the icing on the cake - (2006-02-23)
  [628] Active Learning - (2006-02-28)
  [650] A person of few words - (2006-03-18)
  [717] A customer service company - (2006-05-11)
  [725] Better communication - (2006-05-19)
  [841] Forum help - a push in the right direction - (2006-08-21)
  [852] Eventful evening - a lesson in looking after contacts - (2006-09-02)
  [944] Just ******* Google it - (2006-11-25)
  [961] Products that our customers want more of - (2006-12-03)
  [966] CSL, KISS and RTFM - (2006-12-05)
  [1007] Friends and family - (2006-12-25)
  [1046] Bounce, bounce, bounce - (2007-01-20)
  [1262] Keep in touch with PHP, Perl, Python and old friends too - (2007-07-09)
  [1319] Customer feedback - lifeblood of a business - (2007-08-25)
  [1434] Market survey - to learn, to prove a point, or to sell your product? - (2007-11-17)
  [1446] An answer to a student asking 'Help' - (2007-11-27)
  [1516] Pictures you can use - for free - from our library - (2008-01-23)
  [1606] Sheep Shearers, Marathon Runners and Ocean Sailors - (2008-04-09)
  [1637] Providing exceptional service - and carrying on doing so. - (2008-05-09)
  [1835] 23:30 bookings and midnight checkins - (2008-10-12)
  [1985] Learning to program as a part of your job - (2009-01-10)
  [1991] Rules for a King - (2009-01-13)
  [2015] Service Excellence Awards - (2009-01-30)
  [2049] Why Choose Well House Consultants for your course? - (2009-02-20)
  [2102] What do people think of our Apache httpd / Tomcat course? - (2009-03-24)
  [2124] Building down expectations - (2009-04-09)
  [2236] Alumni - revisiting and supporting the old University - (2009-06-13)
  [2258] Questions I have been asked on answering the phone - (2009-06-26)
  [2530] Taking a knock over Santa - (2009-12-08)
  [2650] Getting a phone line changed ... - (2010-02-25)
  [2880] Getting in touch - Please allow me to see you when you are online - (2010-07-21)
  [2961] Initial handling of phone calls and walk in visitors - (2010-09-19)
  [3073] Customer Service - the boundary - (2010-11-27)
  [3103] Thank you - and Happy Christmas - (2010-12-24)
  [3271] The importance of feedback - (2011-04-30)
  [3294] It's not just about the jam in the sandwich - (2011-05-19)
  [3378] New product - ensuring that supply matches demand - (2011-08-03)
  [3808] Can you put names to faces? - (2012-07-19)
  [3835] The Information age - not yet truly with us? - (2012-08-12)
  [4077] Palty or Parliamentary? - (2013-04-30)
  [4078] Train works for me! - (2013-05-02)
  [4232] Not wanted here - hotel guests who will not be happy - (2013-12-30)

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Get the strategy worked out and the tactics just fall into place.
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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