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?

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