Once upon a time there was a film called Before Sunrise. This is one of my favourite films and whilst I’m not going to bore you with the details by reciting every word (which I probably could do) I am going to say, if you haven’t seen it, go, get a copy on DVD and a copy of the sequel and spend some of your weekend watching them. You won’t regret it. During this film, Jesse, a young American travelling round Europe makes what is actually a remarkably astute comment about Europe and that is that, as a continent, it is not service oriented.
And it’s true. We see customer service as somewhat of an add-on or an afterthought. An obligation created by a transaction or a service but not something that is worth much attention. When I saw this film back in 1995, not long after its release, I thought this comment was a little harsh but the older and let’s face it, less tolerant I get, the more true I realise it is.
There have been a couple of incidents recently which have left me with the conclusion that customer service is really something we’re a bit crap at in this country. The first is somthing that happened today and really is the reason for this post despite the fact I have another three incidents in my little notebook of blog ideas relating to the rubbish level of customer service that we generally receive.
Many of you will have seen the rather classy Next advert (although why they chose a song from the 90s who knows?) that has been gracing our screen recently. The clothes are elegant and stylish and when they advertise next day delivery on orders as late as 9pm, it seems like a pretty good idea. So on Wednesday night, after 9pm so delivery wasn’t expected until today, Friday, I ordered a pair of boots which I’d seen online but been unable to find anywhere, a cream lace top and a jacket which again I’d been unable to find. Everything said that it was available and would be dispatched by courier to be received today.
Now considering I’d ordered these on Wednesday night, one would have thought that they would have been picked and packed on Thursday ready to be dispatched on Friday when I would have received them with open arms. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?! But no, at 12.07 today I received an e-mail to say they were still in the warehouse and thus wouldn’t be dispatched for another two to three days… Hold the phones… You can manage delivery when goods are ordered up to 9pm, but give you another 23 hours and there’s a cock up? To add insult to injury, when I spoke to customer service, the response wasn’t OK, there’s a problem, what can we do to fix it but whoops, sorry, never mind. I don’t want you to be sorry, I want my sodding boots!!! Especially as I planned on wearing them tomorrow!
When I asked whether the items in question were actually available, as it had stated when I ordered them, the answer was still yes, there had just been a slight delay. Poor girl didn’t seem to understand that either they were available (in which case why the hell weren’t they being delivered) or they weren’t.
I suggested getting another courier out but no, they can’t do that. Well, actually, yes, you can.
What annoys me even more is that I have in fact worked for Next; I was a Saturday sales assistant during my time at university and I know if we had ordered something in for a customer and it hadn’t come in, we would have had to have made damn sure that we had a back-up plan, even if that plan was driving over to another store to get the flipping thing or our floor manager would have gone ballistic. What can I say, David, my manager, was lovely but a bit of a perfectionist. But he did know the meaning of customer service, unlike what is currently happening.
I happen to like Next clothes. Most of my work clothes and a fairly sizeable proportion of my regular clothes are from Next but on this occasion they have really dropped the ball. I have tweeted their official Twitter account but no response… We’ll see whether this gets someone’s attention!
Do you think what passes for customer service in this country is acceptable? Or do you think we all need to remember that wonderful adage a bit more, the customer is always right!
Average Josephine x