The Scribbler

15 August 2006

Customer service – compare and contrast

Filed under: words — The Scribbler @ 19:40

We recently bought a new fireplace for our home. We ordered it well in advance, paid a deposit and booked a date for it to be fitted. Then the day before it was due to be fitted, the shop left a rather terse phone message reminding us to pay the balance “or we won’t be able to fit your fire”. They couldn’t take payment over the phone despite having already taken my credit card details. So I had to arrange to leave work early and go into the shop before it closed.

The fitters came to install the fireplace but unfortunately it wouldn’t light. They botched a temporary fix and said they’d get back to the showroom to let them know I needed a more permanent solution. After a day of hearing nothing, I called the showroom to explain that my fire wasn’t working.

During that and other telephone conversations (oh there’s more to come…) I would be speaking to the person who answered the phone and asked to hang on a minute whilst they asked another person a question. I’d hear indistinct mumblings whilst it was answered and then have the message relayed back to me. Once I was asked “Did you get that?”, referring to their off-phone conversation.

A new part was ordered and the fitters came and sorted it out. The fix lasted 3 days. Over the weekend, the fire lit only intermittently and once it was lit, put itself out. Since then it hasn’t worked at all.

Monday morning and another call to the showroom. After a long wait I left a message on the answerphone asking for someone to call me back. Later that afternoon I called the showroom and it was obvious they hadn’t checked their messages. Gritting my teeth through the same old performance of Chinese Whispers I did manage to get my point across and they’ve arranged for someone to come out at sometime on Saturday.

I also recently ordered some cardboard boxes via a website. I had a question which I put to them via email and received a phone call the next day to answer it. I placed my order, and received a confirmation email. Today I got a phone call from the box company apologising that they hadn’t got enough stock to completely fulfil my order but that more was on its way. They asked if I would like them to send what they had immediately or to wait until they had all the boxes in stock, which would mean I would get them 2 days later. As I can be flexible about when I need the boxes, I asked to get them all delivered at once. The saleswoman then confirmed the new delivery date together with her name and number in case I wanted to get in touch again.

In terms of service there’s no comparison between these two examples. You might expect a company that deals with high value goods to offer superior service, but they were far outdone by the suppliers of the humble cardboard box.

But what’s the real cost? Which company have I complained about to my colleagues in the office? Colleagues of a similar age, most of whom have their own, or are planning to buy their own place and be likely to want to improve their homes. And which would I recommend?

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