Monday, 25 August 2014

A Day At Thrigby Hall

During my latest stay in East Anglia, I visited the delightful Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens near Great Yarmouth, which proved to be a real treat.

Thrigby centres on the wildlife of Asia, housing creatures such as tigers, leopards, red pandas, gibbons, crocodiles, snakes and storks. Although not one of the country’s largest wildlife parks, it offers a lovely garden setting, and represents great value for money, with admission costing just £13.50 for adults and £9.50 for children.

One of the things that my son and I particularly liked about our visit was the opportunity to get close to the animals due to the walk-through enclosures, treetop walks and tiger tunnel. The treetop walk near to the gibbons’ enclosure allowed us to watch these fascinating animals swinging through the trees whilst being at their level.

One of the most stunning animals from our point of view, however, was the clouded leopard, which has the most beautiful markings. Other high points as far as my son was concerned were the crocodiles in the swamp house and the snakes (he particularly enjoyed feeding time for these).

Overall Thrigby is very well laid out and I was pleased to discover that the café provided very reasonably priced lunches – soup and a roll for £2.50, hot pasties for £1.80 and a selection of sandwiches, snacks and jacket potatoes. Ice creams were also standard prices, as opposed to the over-inflated ones charged at some attractions.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Thrigby and recommend it for a fun, yet educational, family day out.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Thank You Tesco Clubcard

I’ve previously written about my frustration at how more and more businesses only want to conduct transactions or communications online. Although I’m happy to use this method for certain things, there are cases where I prefer to get in touch by phone or letter, or even in person.

My argument against the emphasis on things being ‘online only’ has been that some people still do not have Internet access or the skills to use it.

I was recently without Internet for some time (during my 'big move' ), but wanted to exchange some of my Tesco Clubcard points for days out vouchers. Forms used to be provided for doing this by post, although this no longer seems to happen. In addition to encouraging the ordering of vouchers online, Tesco now operate a system whereby they email some of their vouchers to customers to be printed at home. A straightforward system when you have the facilities to do so, but not so good if you don’t.

However, after having communicated with Tesco Clubcard, I’m happy to report that vouchers can be ordered by post or over the phone. If you are unable to supply an email address (as I couldn’t for a short time) then they will print vouchers and send them to you.

So if anyone else is looking for the more traditional way of exchanging Clubcard points, here are the details:

By post: Tesco Clubcard Boost, PO Box 654, Crawley, RH10 1RG (You need to send a request by letter, not that there is no form available).

By phone: 0808 100 0707 (free from BT Landlines) or 0330 123 0707 (charged at local rate from mobiles and private telephones), Option 2, Monday to Friday: 9am to 8pm and Saturday: 9am to 5pm.

So thank you Tesco for providing these services, responding promptly to my query and issuing vouchers to me via the good old-fashioned postal method.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Customer Service – Responses

I’m a stickler for good customer service and am of the opinion that we should always speak up when service falls short of reasonable expectations.

Since starting my Shopper’s Joy blog nearly two years ago, I have taken up customer service issues with various retailers and service providers with rather mixed responses.

In the fledgling days of my blog, I experienced problems with both Sainsbury’s and Greggs, both of whom I sent letters of complaint, in addition to featuring them on the blog. I was pleased to report that both responded promptly and reasonably sympathetically, assuring me that they would address the issues raised and sending some handy vouchers by way of apology.

Long before my blogging days, I occasionally had cause to approach a company, either by letter or phone call, with regard to poor customer service, sometimes receiving an appropriate response, although at other times being totally ignored. It is fair to say that since any complaint that I’ve made has been shared on the public domain, responses are much more forthcoming. Thank goodness for the likes of Twitter, Blogger et al.

In the days when our grievances were only aired behind closed doors, companies had the option of brushing any complaints under the carpet, in the belief that they would be unlikely to become common knowledge. Although some firms have always responded well to reports of customer dissatisfaction, others have had to improve their reactions in the light of social media. Let’s face it, when we’ve had a poor experience, first and foremost we want an understanding reply, backed up by the promise that future service will be improved.

It is true to say that sometimes it is only an individual employee or isolated branch of a chain that lets customers down, but if the company as a whole does not respond positively to criticism, they risk being given a bad name.

More recently, I blogged about my experience of two different branches of the Hungry Horse pub/restaurant chain. One branch couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly; whilst the other gave the impression that they really couldn’t be bothered with my custom. On this occasion I cut straight to the blog without directly contacting the company and lo and behold, the manager of the poorer branch responded with a request for further details so that she could resolve the issue. The only sad part is that despite an encouraging first response, I never heard from her again. For the record this was The Star at Gillingham in Kent – just so you know!

Needless to say I have not returned there since!

In the last couple of weeks, a trip to my local B&Q store resulted in me leaving without my intended purchase, following what I can only describe as total indifference from the staff.

My attempt to by a floral arrangement in an odd-shaped pot was thwarted, when staff could not supply the means of transporting said pot without either crushing or totally losing its contents. A request for a box resulted in being presented with the most pointless, shallow example of its kind known to man – totally useless. An additional colleague was summoned who shrugged off the request with a kind of ‘haven’t-got-anything-hard-luck’ attitude. Right, thanks for your help guys!

Interestingly, however, a single tweet about my trip elicited a response from the B&Q help team, promising to investigate the matter. Great! Trouble is I’m still waiting for the result of that one …

And now BT is in the doghouse. My recent move saw me cut my ties with this company – a more expensive transaction than I would have thought. Watch this space for more news on this one.

So the point of all my waffling? Well, I have several in fact:
- When you receive poor service, do speak up; it’s the only way to get things improved.
- If you have access to social media, then use it! Pushing your complaint into the public domain increases your chance of a response.
- If you are a company on the receiving end of a complaint, then for goodness sake acknowledge it, investigate it, improve on it and say sorry! Remember, ignoring a complaint is just another form of poor customer service!

Which companies do you find are good or bad at handling complaints?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Wow, So That Was July!

Well July was certainly a busy month for me. After gradually moving the contents of my former home over a period of many weeks, much into temporary storage, July finally saw us moving ourselves into our present accommodation (currently more of a glorified shed).

We are now living a kind of ‘not-quite-camping’ existence in what we hope will be our ultimate destination, but there is much work to be done before achieving the finished result worthy of being called ‘home’.

I seem to be spending a huge amount of time watching the wildlife, birds, bats, butterflies etc, when I should really be working, but the novelty of the rural location has not worn off us yet.

Amidst ‘The Big Move’ we still managed a trip to Legoland, a fun evening at a barn dance marking a friend’s wedding anniversary and, more recently, have been spending time at our static caravan, soaking up the sun. Though strangely, in view of our new permanent, more rural, location, the latter seems far from being the novel experience that it once was.

As the month comes to a close, it’s lovely to take a few deep breaths and recover from the stress of this stage of ‘The Big Move’ – before embarking on the next stage some time in the autumn! Look out for my new additional blog then too (to run alongside Shopper’s Joy) chronicling all the fun and games of my new life.

How was July for you?