When customer service goes pear shaped

The following guest blog was penned by Lady Diana of Soltmann, CEO of Flagship Consulting, Peppercomm's London-based strategic partner and a soon-to-be official, seamlessly-integrated component in our firm's far flung empire (which will one day rival the depth and breadth of Britain's circa 1890. Think: The sun never sets on the P'comm Empire, etc.).

A month ago my usual contractors came around to try and breathe some life into my soggy, mossy and compacted lawn.  The usual operatives John and Barry had been replaced by a new crew who were very polite, but clearly did not know their way around my lawn. I had to go out to a meeting so I left them to it.

When I returned I discovered that they had deviated from their normal procedure and bagged up all the debris into 25 large black extremely heavy bags for me to dispose of.  I decided to call the company and ask them why this had happened. The administration manager answered the telephone and as I explained my plight it was clear that I was not going to get much sympathy.Vv
“Madam” she said “we send out clear instructions ahead of every treatment. You will have known exactly what to expect.”

I could feel myself bristling…

I said that I had been a client for over 8 years and that I only read things when they sent me a red alert to let me know that something had changed.

Miss Moneypenny then told me that if I wanted the bags removed I would have to pay commercial rates as the business could not afford to do things for free.

I expressed some surprise at this as in the past the operatives had always put the debris on the compost dump. “There are no instructions to do anything like this on your file, Madam” she said.

I decided there was no point in continuing the conversation, so I said goodbye and immediately wrote a letter terminating my contract with the company.

It was what happened next that was interesting…nothing!

Assuming that I would get the ‘head in the sand’ approach after waiting for a week I contacted another lawn company and asked them to give me a quote. They were extremely efficient and came over the next day. Within 24 hours I received a plan and a quote which seemed reasonable. The company was family owned and they were very clear about explaining the added-value they would bring. I decided to sign up.

A week later (so almost three weeks after my initial complaint) the managing director of the previous contractor rang me. He had clearly had customer complaint training and performed in a text book manner, apologising, offering me various sweeteners and free treatments. The trouble was, it was too late!

Mentally I had already severed the relationship. I had met with the shiny new contractor; they had wooed me exceptionally well and also demonstrated how they were better than the previous supplier. They had continued to cultivate me with brochures, invitations etc. and made me, as customer, feel important and valued. Something I had not felt for a long time with the previous supplier.

So although I have agreed to meet with the managing director, I have already decided that I no longer want to do business with him. The shiny new person just seems so much better and there is now that awkwardness with the old supplier which makes me feel uncomfortable.

The moral of the story? Never be too complacent with your customers and clients. Make them feel important and valued all the time.  If you make a mistake, act! Don’t wait around, act immediately to rectify it. Remember there are hundreds of competitors out there just waiting to pounce, looking shinier and more exciting than you.


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