Monday, 13 June 2011

Monday Moan: Customer Service

Things come in threes, is the saying. And in my experience, it's true.I've had three instances of varying levels of bad customer service within the last few days. Firstly, I had a response to the email I sent after our visit to Easton Farm Park. It only took almost 2 weeks. Here is my email:

''Having visited Easton Farm Park on Saturday 28th May, 2011, I want to query your use of an electric fence with the Suffolk Punch horses: please could you

explain what the need for this is ?

In addition, all the Suffolk Punch horses I saw looked as if they needed professional attention to their badly split and chipped hooves. I saw no shelter, water or food in the field that they were in..The warty growths on the inside of their front knees also looked as if they needed professional attention.

I also wish to comment that in the catering barn, apart from the overcharging - £3.00 for tea and toast - there were two unsupervised teenagers serving the food and drink: the young lady, in particular, had loose hair that wasn't tied back or covered, she had chipped nail varnish on badly-bitten nails, and kept fiddling with her hair and face. Unsurprisingly, I chose not to buy food served in such an unhygienic manner, and breaking Food Hygiene Regulations.

The lack of adult presence/supervision around the Farm in general was quite a concern to me.

I look forward to your response.''

And the response that took 12 days to arrive in my inbox:

Thank you for your e-mail.

We were disappointed to read that your visit to our farm failed to meet your expectations.

Thank you for your concerns regarding our Suffolk Punch horses, but I can assure you that all of our horses receive the best attention from all concerned, including regular veterinary inspections, and all their needs are fully met. The electric fences are a necessary safeguard both for the horses and to our farm visitors.

Your comments regarding our café have been noted and relevant action will be taken. We can only improve what we do by receiving such feedback and we thank you for taking the time to bring these

matters to our attention.

Yours sincerely,''

This is a well-written, professional email that doesn't actually say much at all: absolutely brilliant. I applaud and appreciate it, with a big grin of camaraderie. I've written plenty like this myself - when you think the customer is wrong, and most likely off their meds and out on day-release from an asylum, but you still have to respond to them because it's company policy.You'll notice how some of my questions weren't actually answered: still no reason given for the electric fence; personally I don't think my 5 year old is safer with an electric fence that is attached and partially hidden by a wooden fence. Of course, he shouldn't be wandering around unsupervised, but that's the point of Risk Assessments .... in this case, a child being zapped is something that could easily happen. My main issue with the response is the length of time it took. Perhaps we will go back next time and see if anything has changed.

My second CS grouch is about beads. I ordered some beads online at Charisma Beads (no link, she doesn't deserve it) on Thursday night; on Friday morning I received an email saying they wouldn't be posted out to me until 30th June. That's 20 whole days, people. I politely suggested that a notice of such on the website home page would be appropriate. The email back said she was entitled to a holiday, it WAS on the website, and regular customers had had notice via the newsletter; and would I like to shop elsewhere ?

I responded that, having run a business for over 20 years, I understood the need for a holiday - and also for holiday cover for that business. I still couldn't find the holiday notice. I politely asked for a refund; which was given by return of email with a curt ''Done'' on it. Friends of mine eventually found the holiday notice buried about 2 or 3 clicks in. Interestingly enough, it also said that orders received by noon on the 14th June would be posted out before she left on holiday. I remind you that I ordered on the 10th June. I - of course - received no reply to my email where I pointed that out.

The 3rd - and most heinous - CS issue was yesterday: DH pushed the boat out and took me for coffee and cake after we'd bought raw dead things for the dog's dinners. I had a cherry cheesecake (one of my 5-a-day). It arrived drenched in cream. What kind of inconceivable gaffe is that ?? Firstly, I hate cream on anything except strawberries. Secondly, you NEVER put something like that on someone's food without asking first. Thirdly, if you are going to contaminate their food in such a way, at least make it whipped cream so that it can be scraped off and left to the side.

It was only out of consideration to DH that I didn't do anything; when it arrived, I did say, ''I don't like or eat cream''; the waitress asked ''Is it alright ?'' I wanted to say no, I didn't ask for that, please bring me one without cream, but DH was already saying ''yes, that's fine''. So I had two mouthfuls - the only bits without cream-poisoning - and he ate the rest. I am reminded of the anniversary meal he took me for a few years ago where I threw an absolute fit over the quality of the food ....I do try to

avoid that, most times.

So these are three examples of poor customer service. The second one proves every single customer service seminar I've ever been to (plenty, in over 20 years of a customer-facing business): I could have been turned into a happy and maybe even a regular customer if my complaint had been dealt with in a professional manner. For example, keeping to her delivery terms as stated; offering me a discount as a gesture of good will - even better, make it a discount voucher against a future purchase: this is a win/win for her, since if I come back and spend it, she has me as a repeat customer; if I'm so annoyed I'd rather swallow broken glass than shop with her again, she doesn't have to give away anything because I won't use the discount. Instead, I have Tweeted, posted on Ravelry and now blogged, sharing the poor experience I have had. Which may affect other people buying with her or not.


  1. Well, the farm people have at least replied to your e-mail and it will be interesting to see whether things have improved on your next visit. Did you send them the pix of how things looked on the day?

    The beads person - well, that's not good. This is one of the benefits of social networking - this peer feedback thing. On the upside, you did get your money back, but she wasn't terribly gracious about it. I think handling things with good grace is quite important in customer service.

    And the cream thing? *bleaurgh* vile. I think your husband might have had a hidden agenda with that one though :-D

    Ali x

  2. I've been in the customer serve/ retail industry for as long as I can remember (taking a break now for school) and I routinely get annoyed at stuff like this. It's not like you were asking the WHOLE WORLD From them, you asked her to keep to her stated conditions for a vacation.

    What is wrong with people? it's not like in this economy, ANY business should risk pissing people off.

  3. Sad and unnecessary to treat customers that way. It must also be said, however, that some customers can be ingrates and sometimes a total pain. I recently had one, for whom I went out of my way, and didn't receive so much as an acknowledgement of my email, let alone a thank-you for the concession. Needless to say, I won't be putting myself out for them again, even if they do return. On the whole, though, my customers are lovely :)
    On the cream thing, I'd have politely said "I didn't ask for cream, could you change it please"

  4. Wow. Some people just can't be bothered to run a business properly. Or maintain long term customers. :(

  5. Dont oven get me started. I am sorry you have hthree bouts of deplorable customer service in so short a time.


Thanks ! I love comments :-)