Thursday, 28 June 2007

Customer Service

You should all have realised by now that I am a very reasonable person. It takes a lot to get me riled, and even more for me to get angry. When I am angry, I still retain my professionalism but become very 'concise, precise and to the point' as the children say. They also recommend diving into the nearest reinforced concrete bunker! My last boss before I retired, famously described me as an iron fist disguised as a charming lady!

It all started when I decided to order my Dad some birthday presents from a website that specialises in items associated with his former regiment - I won't mention their name!

Now some might say that since I ran an IT Department for several years, part of which specialised in the development of web-based user interfaces, that I know what I am doing on the Internet. And I do!

There I was filling in my user details, including a compulsory e-mail address, as the 'person doing the ordering'.

Then I opted for a different delivery address. All very logical. I completed my Dad's details - name and full address. The problem arose over the e-mail address field. Now my Dad is almost eighty years old, has not used a computer in probably 20 years and has never had an e-mail address in his life. So I left that field blank and carried on.

I completed the payment details and opted for the invoice to be sent to my address.

On pressing the 'order completed' button, I was told a compulsory field had not been completed, so order aborted. And I was back to the beginning again.

Three attempts later it became obvious that in order to accept the order, the person being 'delivered to' had to have an e-mail address, or no-can-do! So I made one up and off we went.

Now, in my business, we always wanted to know if there were 'bugs' or non-logical code within our user interfaces, so I thought I would do them a favour and drop them an e-mail. I mentioned that having a compulsory e-mail address for the person being delivered to, was illogical and that many people would have given up trying to order from their site long before thinking of a work-around. I was polite and trying to be helpful!

Two weeks later (!) I receive a reply that could only be described as patronising, bordering on the rude. Basically they told me that it seemed logical to them that if I was ordering over the Internet, I must have an e-mail address, so DER! WHAT WAS MY PROBLEM!!

Now during those two weeks, my brother had contacted me to say that Dad had received the invoice, even though it was marked to be sent to my address, and was discovered writing a cheque to the company thinking he had forgotten he had ordered the items.

So I started to steam at the ears!

I sent a 'concise, precise and to the point' e-mail highlighting the fact that the company was not only incapable of understanding an e-mail message when they received one, but were equally guilty of ignoring all the information (necessary or not) that they collected on their Internet ordering system!

Within 24 hours I had a grovelling e-mail stating that they were very very sorry, and that unfortunately an outside company develops their web site that they themselves have no control over! But that they would pass on my helpful comments!

Lessons to be learnt:

1. Customer service. Always look carefully at, and learn from, any customer correspondence and act promptly and accurately. Bullshit always gives a bad impression!

2. Never, ever lie unless you can be totally convincing and have all angles covered! Which is basically never.

3. Everyone should early on in their life work in a service industry that brings them into contact with the public. Between the ages of 12 and 18, I worked all my weekends and holidays in a petrol station where we actually dispensed petrol, washed your windscreen, checked your tyres and topped up your oil. By the end of it I could deal politely and 'charmingly' with anyone from the nice to the obnoxious!

4. It is a pathetic excuse to blame someone else and gives an even worse impression. Your customer interface has to be your responsibility whoever developes it!
lll
Oh well. Rant over for tonight!


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