Wednesday, 16 April 2008

It's not British reserve, it's just plain bad service

It wasn’t that long ago that I got myself a new mobile. After a while of trying to learn how to use it, I finally got it and actually quite like it – especially the fact that I can browse my Facebook while on the move. It does have some annoyances (mainly that some features are hidden or under strange menus so I can never find them again) but in the whole it’s a pretty cool phone.

But yesterday out of the blue the phone stopped working: it wouldn’t make or receive calls. At first I thought that it may have somehow lost some settings but after a while studying the O2 site and my phone’s instructions, I was none the wiser. I even got myself into a crappy mood because I hate it when things don’t work and I can’t fix them.

Today I decided to take it to the shop. I mean, the phone is an O2 phone, bought from an O2 shop and I’ve been an O2 customer for, like, ever so surely they could help me? Boy was I wrong! I’d totally forgotten that I live in the UK and the customer is hardly ever right around here

O2 guy: we can’t fix the phone here, we’ll have to send it away.

Me: But you haven’t even looked at it. It could be something simple to fix that you can do!

O2 guy: Sorry, we can’t do that.

Me: how long will it take to get fixed then?

O2 guy: Oh, about 10 to 14 days.

Me: WHAT?! I can’t be that long without a phone! Do you have one I could borrow?

O2 guy: We don’t. Maybe our other shop has one… but I don't know...

Me: And can you CALL THEM please to find out? Don’t make me walk all the way over there for nothing. I am taking time out of work to be here you know.

So not a brilliant start. He wouldn’t even touch my phone, let alone try to help me figure out what was wrong with it. Nope, procedure was to send it away and that is all he could offer. But it wasn’t even that easy, I still had to jump over a few hurdles…

O2 guy: do you have your receipt?

Me: No, not on me. But I bought this phone in this very story not more than 4 months ago so surely you have a record of it.

O2 guy: We don’t, sorry.

Me: I don’t understand, ‘someone’ must have a record! I got a letter about 3 days after I bought the phone – from YOU – welcoming me to my new contract and phone! So somewhere in the system is the record…

O2 guy: …actually, that letter must have been sent by O2

Me: Isn’t this O2??

O2 guy: no, this is the O2 shop, we are not customer service.

And that phrase sums up what is wrong with all of this transaction. The guy clearly doesn’t think he’s customer service – he just sells phones and that is all he will do. With this he is telling me that he doesn’t care for customers once they bought their phones, that he can not help and actually doesn’t much care. He just follows procedures and right now wants nothing more than to get me out of the shop and be no longer his problem. But as I am a customer and he provides a service, isn't he, strictly speaking also delivering 'customer service'?

Even though I’ve been in the UK for 11 years (today!) I still can never get used to the very, very poor customer service I get around here. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time in the States but I’ve gotten used to being treated well, having my problems solved and all that with a smile. But around here ‘customer service’ is really just a way to annoy customers just enough so that they will go away, seriously.

Because my phone is an O2 phone that isn’t yet 4 months old and I bought it in that shop AND because I’ve been their customer (on a rather costly contract, I may add) for ages I thought that I would get the phone replaced. It is practically new and it isn’t working, so what would be the best thing to do? Just replace it – especially as O2 is both the manufacturer and seller. But no, I get placed in the same process as everyone else, regardless of the problem (and remember, this might be something easily fixed) and causing me great inconvenience which they didn’t even attempt to help with.

I know that part of the problem is that shop staff around here are not generally empowered to do anything other than follow a strict procedure, I know because I used to work in retail. So management and all those people in the head office should take notice and realize that if they want to keep making money (especially in these uncertain times) the most cost-effective way is by retaining existing customers. And how do they retain these customers? Not with gimmicks and direct mail, but by providing excellent customer service and training the staff so that they can use their brains in solving problems and exceed expectations. Yeah, I sound like a Disney cast member but in the end Disney does this very well and nearly everyone else in the UK doesn't, so start learning!

In the end I succeeded in handing over my phone without a receipt and I got a replacement one (pretty crappy at that) while they figure out what’s wrong with mine. I even asked for a replacement and that was out of the question “it’s not policy” and that was that. I didn’t even get a friendly word out of the salesgirl (I was in a different shop now) or a hint of humanity in the whole transaction.

I know customer service is improving around the UK, albeit slowly, but why oh why do they find it so difficult to do properly? I would love to say that this example was an exception but I’m pretty sure that any mobile company would have been just as bad so what’s the point in switching? And not just mobile companies but nearly EVERYONE seems to think that customer service is a costly annoyance and must be discouraged.

I’m going to miss my phone and they better fix it or else I’m going to be VERY annoyed. But while I wait for that, I will be composing a long letter to O2 and might even direct them to this blog. GRRRR!


Inspiration Alley said...

I could have written this post myself I'm sorry to say and instead of O2 insert any one of a dozen different company names.

Although I've lived in England all my life, I know from my trips to America that customer service can be different. One of my first jobs was in Customer Service and there was a poster on the wall of a lion that said the customer is king. Somwhere along the line, we seem to have forgotten that.

Claire aka Feline said...

Customer Service is so poor in this Country, I'm often left yelling at people and then they have the audacity to be really patronizing and say 'if you keep shouting I will walk away or put the phone down', and in response I'd usually say 'if you did the job properly first time round I wouldn't be shouting would I' :(

Your not alone, my Mom had a new mobile at Christmas and it was faulty and its only now in April she's had it back working OK but not after various trips back and forth and btw it wasn't O2 lol.

K80K said...

I've had the same problem with Cingular here in the States. The problem was that you have actual phone stores that are owned by the phone company and then you have the phone company's authorized retailers. They have no power when it comes to fixing your phones or tweaking your phone plans. I now only ever go directly to the phone company and don't deal with any "authorized retailers" anymore. Their customer service is awful in comparison to when you are actually dealing with an employee of the phone company.

Lauren said...

Ohmiwerd. I hope you get connected again real soon. That's terrible.

Enfys said...

My partner manages a plumbers merchants and they pride them selves on customer service. However, they are a small company. Larger companies tend to have loads of staff who don't really care!

Shazza911 said...

It's amazing how all that time at Disney sets you up to just expect good customer service. In my current line of work (talking to people who call the police), I generally offer a very high level of customer service, because that is my background. I hear some of the things that others have said to callers and I just shake my head. I know it's minor, but still, I agree. We were at Starbucks the other day, and the girl made one of the drinks wrong and my friend (who's drink was wrong), actually had to argue with her about how to make his drink. He goes to Starbucks almost daily and knows his stuff.

where I live, the employment market is really hot right now, so places are having problems keeping staff, thus service anywhere is really not that good right now. Kind of sad really!!

Vauxhallcowboy said...

I have to agree whole heartedly. Customer Service in the UK is virtually non existent and the bigger the company, the worse the service.

My Phone with T Mobile broke after 5 months. It simply froze. As I got it directly from T Mobile in the post I called and was told I would have to send it in and wait 2 weeks while they investigate the fault. Even though I have been with the network sicne 1997, I likewise was given no choice but to send it off.

I figure that all of the big companies figure that they make millions so dont care about the service they offer. When they all start to look at Disney and see how things can and should be done maybe the service in the UK will improve. Somehow I dont think it will change quickly.


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