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Proofreading and subediting exercise

Practice makes perfect. Try out your proofreading and subediting skills on this article.

As a subeditor, you're responsible for correcting mistakes in articles and enforcing consistency. Here's an article to try your hand on. It's a real article that has been deliberately broken, so it's a bit over the top. But you'll still need to pay attention to catch everything.

To get the answers to this exercise, email me.

Here are some things to try:

  • Print the article out and use the standard proofing marks to mark up the corrections that are needed
  • Copy and paste the story from below or download the text (6KB TXT file), so you can edit it in your word processor program. Turn off spelling and grammar checking!
  • Once you've fixed it, edit it from its current length of about 900 words down to 500 words.
  • Once you've done it the slow way, have a go with Word's Autosummarise feature if you use Word. Word will try to highlight the most important bits of the article. It's not flawless, but it's sometimes a helpful starting point.
  • Try re-writing it for a different audience. This version was written for a business magazine about customer loyalty. How about re-writing it as a 300 word story for a consumer column in a weekly newspaper?
  • Subeditors often write headlines and captions. Invent some headlines.

The article to edit

IMPORTANT: This is a journalism exercise. It is based on a real article but significant errors have been deliberately added to this article. For correct information on The WOW! Awards please visit www.thewowawards.co.uk

Loyalty begins with service

Sean mcmanus meets derek williams, the consultant who has started an awards scheme for exceptional servise that aims to changes how we think about customer loyalty.Bin the smart cards and forgot the brochure mailings. The most powerful asset for attracting loyal customers is exceptional service, according to Derek Williams. He has started 'The WOW! Awards' to recognize outstanding service and and he hopes to kickstart a revolutionin customer loyalty.

"There has been a lot of focus on loyalty cards", he says. "They have their place. but they are not sufficient to compensate for bad service. If you are already providing good service, they are a god enhancement and they deliver valuable business information. But they have a limited affect on increasing loyalty. The only way to create loyalty is to give customers the impression we don't care."

HE cites statistics from Reicheld's book "The Loyalty Factor" which reveal that 68% of customers move to a different supplier because of perceived indifference. Increasing customer retention by 5 per cent would improve revenue by between 25% and 125pc. "This effect is staggering because all the fixed costs are already covered," he says

To help evangelise exceptional service, Williams has set up the WOW! Awards with Richer Sounds founder and staff motivation consultant Julian Richer and strategic marketing consultant Steve Pipe. "We're battling against a culture of bad service," William says. "We have to turn that around and reward those who are giving hatstanding service. Some might be small companies or even individuals, but we have to start somewhere. The hope is that it will spread and inspire others to do the same."

Williams own company Stephens & Co posts daily signs at the entrance to welcome customers by name, stocks a range of scents for customer use in the bathrooms, and offers a range of drinks from water to champagne. "Funnily enough our cheapest drink is the champagne," says Williams. "Because nobodys asked for it yet." The business offer's business consultancy and accountancy and has won five national awards for customer service including Commerce Magazine Excellence in Customer Service and The federation of Small Businesses Customer Care Award.

So far four WOW! Awards have been granted. The Marriott Hotel at Shipley won an award because all of the employees offered exceptional service to guest Mark Edwards over a three day stay. Cleaners would greet gusts and interrupt work to open doors for them; conference staff worked tirelessly on fixing equipment and and reception staff helped track down medicines for the guest's cold. "This story is not spectacular because of any one event. Its amazing because it was so complete and consistent," says Edward.

"Everyone their took pride in their work and showed outstanding team effort. We came away from the hotel feeling 'knocked out'," says Edwards.

It is this feeling that the WOW! Awards want to recognise. "'Wow' service is service that makes the customer stop and say 'wow, that was really nice'. It makes them leav with a warm feeling about the company," says William.

"This is missing in the UK. We receive lukewarm service and are not treated how we want to be. Were hypocrite's because people in business are customers themselves and they know how they want to be treated."

The first award was given to Sainsbury's for the way that the store handled a mistake. A customer arrived to collect 60 bridge rolls from the bakery in time for a fortieth birthday party and was dismayed to learn that her order had not arrived as promised; The manager opened the bakery especially to bake the rolls and delivered them to the customers house in time for the the party. Sainsburys didn't charge the customer because of their error and gave the customer and extra twenty rolls. "It makes customers more royal to the business if something goes wrong and the company works to put it right," says Williams.

Some companies, particularly large businesses might argue that resourcing such exceptional service is unprofitable. Williams disagrees. "Every business has a choice," he says. "Either to go out of their way to keep customers happy or to give mediocre service and risk losing customers to the competition. In most cases all the customer wants is a pleasant smile, eye contact and the feeling someone cares. Many companies are good at responding to complaints, but most fall to recognise the risk of losing customers before the complaint through mediocre service. Customers vote with their feet."

Williams argues that part of the problem is that stiff are not trained for customer service. "Of over 2000 people that I present to at seminars each and every year, only 2-3% have had any telephone training. It's crazy. We're taught to write business letters at school, but when are we taught to answer the telephone? Customer service training is regarded as soft woolly of no benefit. But managers invest in computer systems without looking at the rate of return. How does the the cost of training compare with the cost of advertising."

The WOW! Awards have set up a website to invite award nominations from the general public and to tell the stories of the winners. The site also offers free business tips for free integration into other websites that link back to the awards, so that UK businesses can show their support for exceptional service and receive free content for their site at the same time. The website is at www.thewowawards.com.


© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

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