The 'D&D Awards'
What are the D&D Awards about?
This section is our chance to recognise publicly firms who have given us some excellent service. It's not a formal award process, is completely arbitrary, entirely at at our discretion, and there won't be a regular 'company of the month' named. It does not confirm all-round excellence judged through a robust full organisational assessment, but results from ability to deliver at least one great 'moment of truth'. Here are the recipients of 'The D&Ds', the most recent ones first. Let's hope it catches on!
The Spice Lounge, Carlton Parade, Sevenoaks (2013)
Derek is not quite sure why his local Indian restaurant has not been given a D&D sooner — apologies to owner Mr Ali as it has been an oversight for much too long! This restaurant (formerly known as the Ashique) recently celebrated its 19th anniversary and Derek has been a customer for much of that time. The food has always been very good. The menu has a good choice of dishes, and is a sensible length — not numerous pages making it harder to choose. A vegetarian friend is very happy with the number and quality of ‘veggie’ dishes, and Derek has often eaten them also. The service is very friendly and helpful, whether eating in or getting a take-away.
Over the last few months, Dave has also eaten here as well. An extract from his Trip Advisor review will show that both Ds like it:
“I have been fortunate to have dined at The Spice Lounge on three separate occasions recently - a lunch, a Saturday night birthday celebration and a post work Friday night. Each time I have been totally satisfied by the quality and presentation of the food, the friendliness of the staff and the value for money. At my last visit I tried the Naga Lamb, which was beautifully cooked with the right amount of heat intensity carefully balanced with flavour. Not an easy one to get right - the heat enhanced the dish rather than overpowering it.”
This last visit by Dave was with Derek and our Excellence friend Mike Curry at the end of an assessment we worked on together. With three of the UK's most experienced Excellence assessors all enjoying the experience, the Spice Lounge is definitely doing something right! Well done to Mr Ali and all his staff.
A great start for a relative newcomer: The Cheese Harp, Sevenoaks (2012)
A relatively new business gets a D&D Award this time. The Cheese Harp has been open in Sevenoaks for nearly a year, a dedicated cheese shop selling what D&D would call 'real cheese' and giving real service. As a local, Derek has enjoyed many interesting cheeses from them, and even shared some with Dave occasionally! But Dave has finally managed to visit the shop and was as impressed as Derek.
They have an excellent range of cheeses, a good number of locally produced but many continental ones as well. Some are varieties that many people would recognise, but they have lots that you may never have heard of before - part of the fun of the shop. They are happy to let you try small tasters to help you decide what you would like. The gorgeous Gorgonzola that is so runny that it has to be spooned into a pot instead of being sliced is worth travelling for!
So, happy first birthday and a well-deserved D&D Award to Bobbie and Simon at The Cheese Harp. We hope the great product and service foundation that is in place help the business really grow. Oh, and well done to Bobbie for surviving a joint 'onslaught' when both of us visited the shop - some people have to pay for the benefit of the light-hearted D&D site visit techniques!
Update on a previous Award winner - The Anchor (2012 update)
After visiting The Cheese Harp, we descended on a previous D&D Award winner, The Anchor public house in Sevenoaks. Barry Dennis is still on great form as a 'real landlord', and we heard about (and sampled!) the latest benefit of his 30 year partnership with his butcher — some superb and very modestly-priced rump steak. A great meal Barry, and we hope that the butcher partnership survives your noticeboard outside saying “Is our butcher mad?” On second thougths, if he has supplied you for 30 years he certainly knows your sense of humour!
Does 49 years of business count as sustainable?! (July 2010)
In London recently for a morning meeting near Waterloo and an afternoon one near London Bridge, D&D called into Borough Market for lunch. Although they had not visited it before, some unerring sense led them quickly to Maria's Market Café. And we're happy to give Maria a coveted D&D Award.
The business has been going for 49 years, run first by her parents and now by Maria. Serving excellent ‘real’ food at very reasonable prices she clearly knows a thing or two about delivering what her customers want. We had a good chat with her, and came away feeling like friends, not just having met her for the first time. There are numerous mid- and high-end eateries in Borough Market, but if you want good traditional English — mainly breakfast-style — food this is the place. We'll be going back!
Perry Bonnell at Sunbelt Software (August 2009)
Sunbelt Software is a US-based provider of antivirus and antispyware software, whose products Derek uses. Despite his standard internet caution, a piece of ‘malware’ recently landed on his laptop and was caught by their Vipre program. It quarantined the problem, but for some reason would not eliminate it completely.
Derek contacted Sunbelt to see if they could shed any light on it. Instead of just being advised to look at some FAQs or otherwise left to his own devices, Perry Bonnell — one of their Malware Removal Specialists — took on the case. Afer some testing and exchanges by email, Perry took charge of a remote session and cleaned up the laptop.
It was a very pleasant surprise for Derek to receive such treatment, when all he had done was to buy and use the products. He had seen previous positive comments about their service, but was still delighted that a very small customer could still get such good service from a large IT company. So a well-deserved ‘D&D Award’ to Perry, and congratulations to Sunbelt Software. With service like this, maybe they should consider going for the US's Baldrige Award because they may well have some of the other requirements in place as well!
Role model handling of a restaurant problem (May 2009)
This spring, we unshackled Derek from the business just long enough for him to help a friend celebrate a 'big-0 birthday' . sailing in the Caribbean no less. Derek, 'anorak' that he is, remembered some great service that is a lesson for organisations anywhere.
The group of 10 friends ate one evening at the Restaurant at Leverick Bay on the Virgin Gorda. Velda, our waitress, was friendly and proficient when greeting us, arranging a long enough table, and taking our order. However a problem developed: the kitchen realised that one of our dishes was overdone and that they needed to cook another.
Velda came straight over to us and openly announced that there had been a problem. She explained what it was, said that the replacement was being prepared immediately and apologised profusely for the error and the delay for one diner. Her complete openness and personal ownership of the problem impressed us immediately. It would be fair to say that all of the friends are of a 'mature' age and we struggled to remember a restaurant problem handled so well anywhere. We did receive some appropriate culinary 'compensation', but it was the personal service that stays in the mind.
So, very well done Velda. Not only did your excellent service convince us to spend a second, unscheduled, night at Leverick Bay, but you became the 'benchmark' for service for the rest of the holiday. At the merest sign of an issue “What would Velda do? ” was our standard refrain!
Dixon Builders (March 2009)
There is a commonly held view that if you find a good builder you are very lucky indeed. There is so much 'cowboy' stuff around that finding someone who can be trusted to bring your ideas to life and within the budget you have set aside is rare.
Dave has recently managed to find such a builder - Tony Dixon and his family business in Northumberland Heath. Whilst it was not the biggest building project to be carried out (new rendering, new block drive and small side extension), Dave was looking for reliability, good quality work and at the agreed price. He got all of this and more. Tony, his sons Michael and Daniel, and right hand man Kevin were a really hard working bunch who pushed on with the work even during poor weather. The specialised sub-contractors brought in by Tony were similarly decent people, reliable and focused on doing a good job.
Dave is absolutely delighted with the end results and looking to put more work Tony's way. From what could have been a very stressful experience this has shown that there are very good builders out there. A very well deserved D&D Award and a good example to other builders.
Cuff-cuff (October 2008)
After the UK Excellence Award event, Derek realised that he had lost two studs from his dress shirt, due no doubt to his incompetence in fixing them. He ordered two replacements from the web site of Cuff-cuff which is based in Devon England. These arrived so promptly that Derek emailed his thanks and explained why he had needed the new ones. He had a sympathetic email almost by return, including some additional helpful 'fixing' guidance, and telling him that they were sending another one as a spare should the worst happen again. Penny, great service, many thanks.
The Anchor public house, Sevenoaks (October 2008)
Public houses in the UK are something of a social institution, but many have closed over recent years because of a variety of economic and social reasons. Some members of Sevenoaks Camera Club (Derek is a member) have occasionally visited the Anchor over the last few months for informal social meetings. They have been delighted by what they have experienced, with landlord Barry Dennis treating everyone as a friend even if he has never met them before, by his expert keeping of his beer, and generally making his pub a welcoming place. We're sure the pressures on Britain's pubs will continue to increase, but the Anchor is certainly showing the way to help improve the likelihood of survival. Thanks Barry and well done from some of your newer 'fans'!
The O2, Greenwich, London (October 2008)
Derek visited the King Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2 during the summer, and generally had a really enjoyable visit. He recently mentioned, in passing, to Genevieve Glover of parent company AEG Worldwide, what he thought had been an unhelpful (relatively minor) part of the entry process. Within 48 hours Derek had heard from the Head of Customer Service at the O2, thanking him for the comments which would help them improve their service even more. So, a great demonstration of a leader listening to customers AND making sure that the information got back to the right person in the organisation ... who then responded immediately and positively. Thanks and well done Genevieve and Sally Davies!
Jurgen Schadeberg - photographer, South Africa (July 2007)
A few years ago Derek bought a photograph direct from Jurgen Schadeberg, an international photojournalist who has chronicled many aspects of South African life from the 1950s onwards. This photograph has since been displayed on his wall. He recently realised that there had been some changes to the print, and emailed Jurgen to ask if he knew what the problem might be: just an enquiry, not a complaint. Without hesitation, or even waiting to try to work out the cause, he promised to replace the print, and this was quickly delivered to Derek by courier. This is stunning customer focus; we're still not exactly sure what caused the changes but all that seemed to matter was that Derek had a good print. Jurgen - and Claudia - many thanks for such kindness and superb service.
Lesley Hurry, Cooperative Insurance Services (June 2007)
Worthy recipient Lesley works in CIS's call centre, and it was pure chance - but a real pleasure - that Derek ended up speaking with her when he needed to query an insurance matter. Now, to an extent, credit must go to CIS itself for not handicapping their call staff with the sort of anti-customer-focus procedures and targets that one can often find. But Lesley was very knowledgeable about her subject, and dealt with the questions effectively and quickly - but in a very friendly way that showed her focus was on sorting out the matter, not on finishing the call as soon as she could to hit a numbers target. Derek then suggested that there might be an anomaly in some of the wording in the documentation he had. So she spent more time going through with him exactly where he thought the problem might be and making sure that she had recorded it accurately so that it could be passed on to their experts to look at. Thanks Lesley, very well done, and good wishes in your career.
Two things follow from this. First, Derek did indeed take the trouble to speak with her line manager to make sure that she knew how Derek felt about Lesley's performance. If you are prepared to complain about poor service, you really should also be prepared to celebrate and report the successes. Second, it makes us wish once again that more companies would realise that customer service is much more likely to be delivered by their own people than by a telephony system asking callers to “press button 1 for this, press 2 for that ” and so on through many options and/or layers!
Coolings Nurseries, Knockholt, Kent (December 2006)
This local nursery is very impressive. They sell a wide range of plants, many home grown, but are much more than 'just' a nursery. They publish a regular newsletter, hardy plants come with a guarantee, they have created a nature trail around some of their grounds, and they put on regular gardening workshops. They have invested in horticultural and management training for their people and this seems to pay off (most visibly) in the very good service visitors receive. It may be invidious to pick out individuals, but Derek would like to thank Paul, Gary and Terry (their rose expert) for their help in sourcing some roses from the grower Delbard in France - if you like roses, they are well worth trying for their great colours and perfume.
Pennard Veterinary Group, Sevenoaks (Dec 2005)
Over the last few months of 2005, Derek's pet cat suffered a couple of serious illnesses, needing quite a few visits to his vet. As well as their technical expertise, the whole team has been very strong on empathy, and have always seemed to deal with the individual needs of their clients - both animal and human! Although George the cat is no longer with us, Derek thinks a 'D&D' is appropriate for the Pennard team for their superb support.
Ibis Hotel Cardiff (Oct 2005)
This may be an unusual 'bouquet' compared with some, but we'd like to say well done to the Ibis hotel in Cardiff - which was one of the few bigger hotels that we checked with that did not significantly increase their prices because the EFQM Forum was in town (some were close to double the usual rate). Thank you - it's nice to be able to report on something positive in the hotel sector.
Elef Records (June 2005)
Derek's taste in music could be described as 'eclectic' if we're being polite. Earlier in the year he enjoyed some Arabic music and learned of a CD of Arabo-Cuban music that was due to be released. Despite the help of his local CD Shop, he could not track it down via the big companies and did not even get a reply to some emails - great to ignore someone who wants to buy a product. However he contacted Elef Records in Lebanon, the producers, and had great help from Kristina there - well done, someone who actually cares about customers! (If you're curious about Derek's musical tastes, get hold of The Chehade Brothers, and Hanine y Son Cubano!)
Eurocentre Language School in Lee Green (Sept 2004)
We delivered a workshop here for a client (who had made the booking). We were really impressed by two gentlemen working in the restaurant. Alfonso and his colleague who worked at the till (sorry we didn't get your name) looked after us and the workshop attendees superbly: they were friendly, professional, helpful and prompt. Then as we were saying thank you and goodbye to them they shook our hands and thanked us for bringing the business to them. They were 'Excellent' ambassadors for the firm and a credit to themselves and to the business. Thank you.
Leon - Derek's regular postman (Jan 2003)
Leon is worthy of a D&D as an individual. The Royal Mail/Post Office in the UK is undergoing much change at present, but despite what must be great uncertainty in many quarters, Leon is unfailingly cheerful and helpful. And as a customer Derek can rely on him to do the right things right. Well done Leon.
Wellington's in Erith (Jan 2003)
This local retail outlet has provided Dave with most of his domestic appliances, carpets, electricals for many years. They have been around since 1898 and consistently deliver extremely high levels of personalised service in terms of sales and after sales. Many local people are repeat customers for these reasons and we wish to recognise them for their ability to continually satisfy their customers.
The Compact Disc shop in Sevenoaks (Jan 2003)
This is Derek's regular source of recorded music. They specialise in jazz and blues, but also cover any other type one can think of and will order for you anything not in stock. Their knowledge of and passion for their subject is superb, and when they get to know your musical tastes they will make listening suggestions for you. Recognition is for their enthusiasm and knowledge, and for caring about the customer.
Landline Phones (Jan 2003)
This is a trading name of Direct Wholesale Supplies (Worthing) Ltd. Derek recently needed a new phone handset in his house. He found Landline Phones on the web and placed an order. About 5.40 p.m. the same afternoon the firm rang to confirm certain details and said they still hoped to despatch that afternoon. The phone arrived by courier at about 10.30 a.m. the next day! Recognition is given for polite responsiveness to customer needs and sheer speed of service.
Margaret Ward, Pembury Hospital in Kent (Jan 2003)
For their professionalism and kindness when looking after Derek's father in summer 2002. Despite all the negatives we hear in the UK about the NHS, his father received superb care, and Derek would like to thank publicly the staff.