Friday, 18 November 2011

Rapidly falling levels of customer service

Has anyone else noticed how much the standards of customer service have fallen? Recently I have been less than impressed with how I, as a customer, have been treated by a range of companies. I was under the impression that the customer is always right, obviously I was wrong! Or have standards and quality of customer service just fallen ... drastically?

A few years ago I worked as a Business Consultant and one of our clients was a successful online retailer. They put the customer first and stated: "Under promise, over deliver". This always worked ... tell a customer that they will receive their order in a week, it arrives three days later, you have a happy customer. If a package gets lost in the post, is that the customer's fault? No! It's up to the business to send the order again.

Earlier today, I was treated extremely poorly by a photography company. I overpaid (by almost £10) for my daughter's first school photos. I chose the cheapest option as I didn't want to spend too much on the photos, while also wanting a reminder of her first school photo. I was assured I would get change, otherwise I would just have ordered the more expensive photos. But when I phoned the company today (Profile Photography in Herne Bay, Kent), I was informed that there was no evidence that I had overpaid and therefore I would not be receiving any change. Indeed, my word, as the customer, was not good enough. Even though the school was aware that I was owed money. In fact, the man I spoke to was so rude that he put the phone down during the conversation. Is that good customer service? If there was an OFSTED for customer service, they would be in special measures!

This is not the only company which have fallen extremely short of my (high?!) expectations. Although I don't think expecting basic manners is asking too much!

When I returned from holiday last August and commenced the post-holiday washing, I was devastated when I discovered smoke rapidly escaping from the machine. A quick visit to Comet followed and I returned home confident that I would be the proud owner of a new washing machine a few days later. As anticipated, I was last on the list for the machine to be delivered that day. Nevertheless, I didn't mind, as long as I could start working my way through the massive pile of washing that evening, I was happy (not ecstatic though, as washing clothes is a necessity, not exciting!)

So you can imagine my extreme disappointment when the men refused to remove my machine as it could potentially damage the flooring in my kitchen. I stated that I just wanted a new washing machine but they totally refused to move it, even though I paid for my old machine to be collected as well as the new one to be connected. Unfortunately I was unable to persuade them to move the machine. Were they just being lazy and wanting to finish their shift? I had the choice to send the new machine back or have it delivered and some one else come the following day to fit it, if my husband removed the old one. After some consideration, I decided it would be better to have the machine delivered. The men did help clear a space. However, bearing in mind that they wouldn't remove the old machine just in case they damaged the floor, they pushed the new one under a counter, ripping the flooring in the process. Having closely observed this, I stated that as they had already damaged the floor, they might as well remove the old machine and connect the new one. They refused. When I phoned Comet the following day they were shocked that the men failed to take the old machine - were they just being lazy? Two men turned up to fit the machine, which was done quickly. Although Comet promised to look into it, I'm still waiting for a response!

Comet were not the only company to fail to deliver an acceptable level of customer service. A while ago I ordered a new washing line (I have 3 children, I'm allowed to order boring pieces of equipment!) I waited in, on what was one of the last days of the summer holidays, for the washing line. When I phoned Homebase to enquire where it was, I was told it was out of stock! So why was I allowed to order it?! That order was cancelled by me.

Books failed to arrive from WHSmith, I was told I would have to pay again for my order (almost £100). Fortunately, they listened to my argument and re-sent the order without me having to pay any more money.                     
I'm sure if I took time to think about it I could come up with a lot more examples of extremely poor customer service. "The customer is always right", clearly does not apply in many companies.

I love the "under promise, over deliver", motto as customers are usually impressed with the speedy delivery and will want to continue to use the company. Is that not the aim of many companies? In the current economic conditions, surely companies should be working hard to keep their customers?

Who has infuriated you? Do you want to name and shame those companies who have delivered poor customer service? I will probably not receive my refund from the photography company and I will never get back that wasted time I spent waiting for something that was never going to be delivered, but if this makes people think twice about using these companies, then I have achieved something. Unfortunately, I will not be ordering any school photos of my beautiful daughter, unless they change the company they use. But is it really a loss? Why do we waste money on mediocre school photos when we could have done better ourselves?


  1. In a way, opinionated mum, I wish you would take your own advice! I log on faithfully every week in search of a new opinion, and by my reckoning it has been over a month since your last one. Now I know that you have never made a promise, and that you aren't a company, but I am a tad disappointed.

    Only joking, lol!! I know you're a busy mum of three. Indeed it must be hard to find time to craft your blog. Frankly, I'm just happy to see you back.

    Let me tell you about poor customer service. My local chippy (JJs in Shirley) once failed to include the portion of onion rings that we'd ordered specifically for my son. Bizarrely he hates chips, though the rest of us love them. Of course we only realised when we got home, and when we rang them they denied all knowledge and refused to issue another portion OR a refund. It was over TWO pounds, which as a mum of three, you know is nothing to be sniffed at. Isaac cried for 15 minutes, and I was forced to make him a sandwich. It COMPLETELY ruined our Saturday night.

    Fingers crossed that more companies will take on the motto you were talking about!!


  2. Thanks Val. It has been a very long time since I've written a blog post, I seem to rarely get the opportunity to sit down and write. Having a very energetic toddler means I'm constantly on the go during the day. I also started working part-time and usually end up bringing a lot of work home with me. So it doesn't leave much time to write, unfortunately. But I will make an effort to blog more often.

  3. Don't get me started about customer service! I've been having an ongoing battle with Tesco for over a year now. I'm a lady in the autumn of her life (more early September than November I must stress). I've worked hard all my life and I demand the respect that I deserve.

    Every week I place my Tesco online order and get it delivered to my tastefully decorated, detached shalet bungalow. The same young man arrives without fail every Saturday between 12 and 2pm. And despite paying the extra £1 to get my delivery at this sough after time slot, the young man walks over my manicured lawn and dumps the crates of premium goods on my solid oak kitchen floor. I wince every time he crushes the grass and scratches my varnised floor. Not only does he damage my property but he then REFUSES to put my groceries in my cupboards! I spend almost £30 every single week and yet they risk losing my custom because of "health and safety".

    I could understand if he was a more mature man but Jay is a young, muscular, nubile and taught stallion. When he bends over to pick up those crates, you can see the definition in his biceps and I just know that his pert bum would have no trouble keeping up with my request.

    The youth of today!


  4. That's awful, Margaret. I do think that a lot of young people have no respect for other's or their property.

    I have done online shopping a few times. The last time was with Tesco and the delivery guy left the bags at the door for me to bring in, with my youngest, who was a baby at the time, in my arms. They also mixed baby food with smelly stuff, probably because they were in aisles near each other. I was not impressed and did not order from them again.

    Sainsbury's was even worse. The guy brought the bags in but I had so many items which were not in stock so had replacements. Also they gave me two bags of potatoes which were due to go off the following day!

    Although I did have a positive experience with Ocado. After seeing the 'Ocado man' ads, I decided to try them out. The service was very efficient - the delivery man brought the bags into my kitchen and it was easy to sort them out as they were all colour-coded. I ordered from them a few times and would definitely recommend them. The only downside is that they are slightly more expensive than the other supermarkets. So I suppose it's weighing up whether it is better to pay a little extra for better quality service.

    Good luck with Tesco. They don't deserve your loyalty!

  5. Personally I think it's high time Marks and Sparks did deliveries for those of us who enjoy the finer things in life. They are a shining example of how a customer should be treated. Whilst at the check out last week, the assistant felt my baps and informed me that they were hard. He immediately arranged for replacements, and apologised profusely, but I didn't mind a bit since my husband hates a hard bap!

    Also, you can't beat their meat!

    Pippa S.


  6. I totally agree, Marks has fantastic customer service and definitely should do deliveries. It makes such a difference when the shop assistants seem to care!

  7. Well written Sarah. I too have many tales of bad customer "service". I worked for a well known High street PC supplier's call centre. I walked out after just 2 months as their "customer service" was non-existant! Apparently if I can't get the customer to fix their PC in 20 minutes over the phone then the only option was to insert the Master Disks and wipe the whole thing back to factory settings! Yes, losing all those precious documents emails and especially photos.
    I am now setting up my second small business (website still in progress)and customer service is, and always will be, top of my list.
    My wife runs an eBay shop and after nearly 2 years she has 100% positive feedback due to Brilliant customer service (even if that meant taking a loss).
    The customer isn't always right.... but the customer does have the right to be helped when there is a problem. That's why they pay you! :o)
    Carry on the good work.

  8. Nice Blog , thanks for shareing the information