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Welcome to my blog for all things related to business quality (processes, systems and ways of working), products and product quality, manufacturing and operations management.

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Customer service?

I’ve just seen a classic case of bad customer service at a company that I’ve been working with; it could have come from a text-book on how not to do it. 

My client had ordered some equipment from a well known IT product manufacturer with a very short name. It was due for delivery today – he received one of those weird automatic phone messages that reads out an announcement just as you say hello. “Between 8 am and 1 pm”, the announcement said, “please ensure someone is there to accept the delivery”.

You’re probably well ahead of me on this one but yes, 1pm came and went and there was no delivery. So, with some misgivings, he called the supplier’s call centre.

“It will be delivered this afternoon”, he was told. Why? It was supposed to be a morning delivery. To query it further he asked to speak to a supervisor but got the answer “they are all in a meeting which is too important for them to be disturbed”. (Why are call centre supervisors always in important meetings? When do they have time to supervise?)

So he raised the roof in quite a big way and, miraculously, a supervisor was found. It turns out there was no way it could be delivered today as the courier company had put it on the wrong vehicle and it was at the wrong end of the country by now, and they had known this all along.

They promised a call back within the hour to explain what would be done about the error. Again, I’m sure you’re ahead of me on this; three hours later and there had been no call.

So incompetence on the part of the courier which, let’s face it, is not uncommon, was compounded by my client having to chase the supplier – they should have called him as they had known about it – who then misled him about the delivery time, declined to pass him onto a supervisor until he demanded it, and then failed to call him back in the promised timescales.

OK, so no-one has been hurt although there’s a telephone handset that’s rather worse for wear now! In the grand scheme of things it isn’t the end of the world, merely a frustrating inconvenience. But, unfortunately, it’s typical of the current state of many customer service organisations and couldn’t it – shouldn’t it – be done so much better?

I can’t see my client being happy to buy from them again. Yet the supplier still claims to have industry-leading customer service…

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