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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Customer service or not....bad service will hurt your bottom line

Customer service or not

Ok this is a rant, but hopefully it will be a constructive rant, how is your customer service performance, take a minute and rate yourself ? go for broke, pick a customer at random and ask them how your customer service was, ok take the step of the cliff, and ask a customer who had a problem with your company, what they thought. I think that would probably make you smile or maybe wince, I have had occasion during the last two days that ended up with me making a formal complaint, one was my housebuilder Meridian homes ( www.meridianresidential.co.uk) , the other my Bank "The halifax"(
www.halifax.co.uk ). The scores on the door is Meridian 1, Halifax 0, this is the second time the Halifax have messed up big time, and this time will be the last. Meridian after a slow start came back strong and are sorting things out, The Halifax well, they do not bother about who they mess up unless it is there good friend Gordon Brown, who likes to spend our money and give it to the banks to spend on bonuses for the fat cats ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7666570.stm) and http://preview.tinyurl.com/yaxyd5x . I do think the Government had to help out, but with the lack of morals the banks have shown, you would think the Government would have sorted them out, but I am sure there will be a few board positions opening up for them soon.

But that is enough of the rant, please have read at this article I found on BNET , it is an interesting slant on how a third party can effect your own customer service rating.

Even champions of customer service can get it wrong, especially if they leave their reputations in the hands of third parties, as John Lewis Partnership (JLP) supermarket chain Waitrose appears to have done.

I was forwarded a blog by Mark Samuels in which he complains of being charged £25 for having his car parked outside a London branch of Waitrose for more than two hours. (Personally, I think anyone who spends longer than two hours in a supermarket should be awarded £25.)

Samuels was understandably infuriated by this disproportionate fine for overstaying his allotted time in the parking space and wrote a letter of complaint to the Waitrose customer service department. He received a quick response, but was told that the car park for that branch was run by a third party, Britannia Parking, and he’d have to take his grievance up with that company.

Digging around, I’ve discovered a number of consumer forums where Waitrose customers are complaining of being stung with large fines for parking longer than two hours in other Waitrose parking lots run by the same company (Waitrose has different arrangements with other private companies and local authorities, so not all stores are affected).

Some have raised questions over the legality of these fines and Britannia Parking’s adherence to car parking regulations.

Other complaints are around inadequate warnings for shoppers that they risk a fine if they occupy a parking space for too long.

Whether or not Britannia is within its rights to levy these fines, it is Waitrose’s customer service reputation that is suffering.

Such is the consternation over these parking fines, one customer has even complained about it on the official Waitrose website forum. This complaint was replied to with the same form-letter sent to Samuels, only with a different branch substituted.

Waitrose, like its sister brand John Lewis, ranks highly in customer service surveys and trades on its reputation. In this instance, though, it has come away looking like it doesn’t care how its customers feel.

At the centre of this gaffe is the strategy of using a third party to handle a part of its customer interaction — parking facilities. Waitrose clearly has no control over what customer service strategy Britannia Parking decides to adopt, but shoppers won’t make the distinction. They see themselves as Waitrose customers, being unaware of the existence of Britannia Parking until they are handed a fine.

Bad news can spread fast. There’s a danger more customers will launch forum discussion strings and tweet about bad experiences. If a form letter on its own site is an indication of Waitrose’s response, it seems it’s unprepared to deal with online customer dissatisfaction.

And what does its parking policy say? At the very least, it puts out the message that shoppers are welcome at the stores, but only for a limited time.

For a retailer that otherwise holds the views of its customers so dear, this is a curious strategy and it really should know better.

In the retailer’s defence, a spokeswoman for Waitrose said: “We pride ourselves on ensuring our customer’s shopping experience with us is an enjoyable one from the moment they arrive at the store, which includes providing convenient access to car parking spaces. We therefore employ companies, where required, to manage Waitrose-owned car parks to ensure that this is the case.

“We are always careful to ensure signage is clear to let customers know what the terms of parking are, however, our branch managers generally know their customers well and we trust them to exercise their discretion. In practice this means being flexible over parking limits if they know that a particular customer needs extra time to do their shop. We would welcome any customer who believes they have been given an unfair parking fine, to speak to a member of the branch management team.”

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