Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Grumpy Old Man

It's my birthday!

OK, I'm not actually that pleased.

As I get older the number of cards dwindles, the presents get less exciting, and the faculties begin to go.

On the plus side I can leave my youthful optimism aside and give in to my inner grumpy old man.

And gosh, isn't he grumpy!

I love being involved in customer service. I really do.

When I hear a story about great customer service it gets me really excited, motivated, and sometimes even tearful.

On the other hand the more customer horror stories I hear the more depressed, angry, and tearful I get.

So let me look back on the last year and remember the customer service highs and lows. You might want to do this with your own customers. In fact I recommend that you do.

So the good  memories....

For a long time Orange and I didn't see eye to eye. Something to do with their conviction that I was a drugs dealer just because I lived in the middle of Bristol's red light district, didn't have a  land-line, and made lots of international calls.

It still isn't a perfect relationship, but I don't wait that long to get through to them, and when I do the customer service agents have been unfailingly polite and  helpful. They have never, and this is so important , made a promise they haven't kept. If I have a real quibble it is their continued insistence on layering an Orange interface onto products that don't need it.

Inchcape Mercedes-Benz  made buying a car in an emergency a pleasure, and do a great job of keeping us informed of when services are due.

Dial a dog wash , fill my bowl, and our local vets all did a a great job of looking after our animals...

...and that is about it.

Now, on to the negatives.

Coffee shops. I'll just highlight the one I was most disappointed by, which was Cafe Nero. I love their ambiance, I like their coffee, the staff are friendly, but I don't understand why whenever I order a breakfast panini they leave it to burn. It didn't just happen once, it happened day after day. And here is where they really failed - they sent one of the world's greatest non-specific apology emails with a promise of both vouchers and an explanation - and then sent neither. #fail

OK I have to update this.Justina Virdee, the Head of Customer Services at Caffe Nero has just emailed me £15 of vouchers plus three free coffee vouchers. All of which I'll be sending to my step daughter so she can enjoy a modern university lifestyle And hey,Hannah's a very influential fashion blogger who gets paid for saying she just loves xxxxxxxx, so everybody wins. In my day we made do with a soggy sausage roll and nobody cared less about my opinions.

But hold on, there must have been 20 times when I paid for a breakfast panini that turned up burnt to a crisp. So does/should this restore my faith in Caffe Nero? What are your thoughts? Am I biased because I come from a customer service and process improvement background?

I know what is annoying me is there is no assurance that the same  mistake won't happen again.

Jessops. If ever a camera chain deserved to fail it is Jessops. So many times over the last year I've gone into a branch of Jessops ready to spend serious money and have been so totally ignored by the staff that I've walked out again. It isn't just about how they've treated me, it has been overhearing other conversations where their teenage staff have been dismissive of customers who clearly knew more about photography than they did.

TalkTalk. The classic case of layering mistake on to mistake. So You have a customer who is getting a service well below the specified standard?  Don't:publish statistics saying the service is wonderful, don't expect the customer to do detailed technical tests to prove the service  isn't acceptable, and don't ring up and ask to speak to my wife's ex-husband who has never lived at this address.

I could go on. There is the Italian restaurant chain where the waitress brought a stone cold garlic bread to the table with no garlic or butter on it, and when our friend complained brought it back, still stone cold, with some melted butter poured over it.

Or there is the global IT company that provided my client with a service that averaged 1.5 days downtime a month and then complained it was the client's fault that the help desk couldn't cope with the call volumes.

Now surely I must have made that one up...

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