Monday, 5 November 2007

Customer service - the elusive fleece.

In this, the speeded age of the fulsome broadband experience, more and more people are getting used to quick replies, instant-action-purchasing (even if the goods might take a couple of weeks to arrive), browsing the globe; instant gratification all at the click of an anonymous button! 

Many companies (good and illicit) are out there, searching for the best way of making money – and anyone who has worked in an Investment Bank above the level of cleaner will know that most of the massaged figures and egos that need soothing, mean that they have to work harder chasing us for our dollars, pounds, euros or yen, eager to part us from our cash, whether hard earned or not.  

So with an eye on the virtual world, the activity of venturing into 'real life' establishments usually;
  a) sends me scurrying back to the keyboard,
  b) leaves me amazed at how far behind so many real world (bricks & mortar) businesses are,
  c) how badly most are failing, in relation to their customer service,
  d) constantly wondering why so many people still stick with them - inertia!
  e) is it me, or have people been taking to much notice of reality shows.

The main incidents which brought home the disparate ability of companies to get things right are Nationwide,, Sainsbury's, Curry's .digital, and finally Holland & Barrett. I shall go through a brief run-down of the varying experiences.

Nationwide – Online, remarkably good service. Far better than the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, or Lloyds TSB offerings. Sadly most of that effort appears to have come at the expense of the retail arm and its high street offerings. Offline - going into the door, you are greeted by a forest of people, slowly moving shuffling forward. Two receptionists, one sitting the other standing are both talking, proactive isn't the first term that springs to mind. Friend goes over to the counter and commenced the 20 minute wait to be seen by (considering the queue is nearly out the door and it's way past lunchtime) the only cashier which is open out of three. After 10 minutes the chatting receptionists turn to the growing sitting group which has been patiently gathering and finally asks “does anyone want to be seen?”. Nationwide had taken over the Portman Building Society in August 2007, and as just goes to show that the accountants bottom final swish of the quill carries far more weight than customers having to wait half an hour. In one particular location the bigger Portman Branch had been closed, whilst a much smaller Nationwide branch (less than 30 seconds walk) remained open and which now services three times the customers. As the cashier said in sad resignation, “It's always this busy since we took over Portman, there's just no extra staff!”. Surprised there hasn't been a riot.

Amazon – Online, excellent exemplary service when ordering and for delivery. If your goods are electrical then sadly that's where things can start to go wrong and fall down. That's were the problems start, as they try fobbing you off by saying you need to return the item back to the manufacturer when in fact if the goods are defective they should replace or refund. However books and Cd's have always been delivered in full functional order.

Sainsbury's – Online, as Amazon and Nationwide, very good and easily navigable, but somehow manage not to have what you order in stock on the actual day of delivery, so they either don't send anything or if the do, the substitute is not acceptable.  Offline - usually the queue in one little local is around 20 people strong, with it been positioned so close to the tube station. But more often than not, all the tills will be open and the staff, speedily conducting customers, purchases.  Speedy, friendly and very efficient.  But to the experience... popping into my local to obtain some mince pies, double cream and bread; hadn't realised it had been a long time since I'd set foot through the doors and was somewhat confused.  In the end had three members of staff finding me the cream, taking me to the bread, and showing me the location of the mince pies.  Couldn't ask for better service.  Shopping would be so much more an enjoyable experience, if we all received the same treatment.

Curry's .digital: Offline, pop into the store and as you wonder around aimlessly (practically devoid of shoppers just after lunch time - with over six members of staff), it takes five minutes for one store assistant to simply look along the aisle and make sure no items were been lifted or touched, before another store assistant finally pipes up and queries if any assistance was required.  Online, very good.  

Moss Bros: Offline, you wouldn't wish this slovenly (their bearing as opposed to dress) bunch of depressing shop fitters on Imelda Marcos, let alone wishing to help in the purchase/hiring of any item.  Online, too much time spent trying to navigate around.

Holland & Barrett: Offline, pleasant and courteous staff.  Within seconds of entering the store greeted and asked whether they can be of help.  Highly recommended.  Online, what can I say but excellent.

With the Christmas season (for those who believe or just enjoy the festivities) there will, no doubt, be people wishing to purchase a whole hoard of goodies, whilst paying the least number of pennies. So here is the OFT website (for those based in the UK), which should be thoroughly scanned to ensure you are aware of your rights, whilst avoiding the spivs, scams and schemers.

No comments:

Post a Comment