2 February 2015
Customer service is something of a passion of mine and over the past week a few examples - good, bad and indifferent - have prompted some thoughts, blogs John Bowen.
The first came when I was shopping at one of the large retail chains. I try to help others to help me and had begun to sort through assorted vouchers and coupons as I waited for the person in front of me, but had not finished by the time my turn came and so I offered the cashier the ones that I thought applied.
"You can't use this one and that one in the same transaction." I was told in a tone suggesting that I might have in some way insulted the cashier's mother.
The contrast with shopping in America is strong. There, if I do not have a coupon when I come to pay I am usually offered one. I remember once when we went to buy some saucepans; at the till I was not only offered a coupon, but one that saw me leave with so much stuff that someone had to help me carry it to the car. I paid half price for what I went in for, but took home goods five times that value. We have a long way to go here.
On the business front an item we ordered on the web arrived, but what was in the (sealed) package was not what it said on the box. A few clicks on the web and we printed off a return postage label and the package was back in the post the same day. Two days later an email confirmed that the goods had been received and that we would be contacted within five working days. Now five days seems a long time, but we were busy and 10 had passed before we realised that there was no news. We rang, gave the transaction number and were told that the item had not been received.
We pointed out that we had been emailed and after a couple of minutes checking they apologised, said that they did have the item and that a replacement would be sent that day. It arrived the next morning, so it was a bit of a curate's egg in terms of service, but one where the attitude of the people on the customer service team was good; they were just let down by a process glitch that should be easy to fix.
Another horror story. One of our business insurances needed renewing and, as usual, an internet trawl helped us decide to go with the same supplier as last year. Clicking on the option to renew there and then, the payment details were entered. But then, instead of a message to confirm the renewal came one that said the transaction could not be completed and we should try later.
Within 10 minutes a very pushy young man telephoned and as good as demanded that we give him credit or debit card details over the phone. He did not get them. The next day we received a call from someone claiming to be from a sister insurance company. He too was aggressive in his approach and we put the phone down on him. Neither company is likely to get any business from us in the foreseeable future.
To end on a good example, something we purchased failed to perform so we emailed customer care. They telephoned us within 30 minutes and, having confirmed our address, promised action. The next day we received a replacement, a pre-paid label and padded envelope to return the faulty item and 20 pounds' worth of vouchers along with an apology. Some people know how to do it well. It isn't any harder than doing it badly, so why do so many make such a meal of it?
John Bowen is an FM consultant