As regular readers of this column know only too eel, I have a tendency to use it to get off my chest a few home truths about some unfortunate business practice or other.
It is a fact, supported by several bits of consumer research over the years, that in good old Blighty we really don’t like complaining about poor service. Only one in ten actually does complain on the spot, but each of those ten will happily tell around ten others of their bad experience after the event.
Doing the basic maths on that, of course, leads to the sobering conclusion that for every complaint you receive, around a hundred others think you’re crap.
That’s an average of course. My pre-Christmas diatribe about dear old City Link and my missing Christmas cards (which brought plenty of other tales of woe about the same business), went to nearer a thousand on its own – and the owed of social media means these things can go viral before you can say ‘Tweet’.
But dos the same thing happen in reverse? If you receive exceptional service, do you tell loads of others about it and recommend the service givers to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances? I’d like to think so – and, felling guilty about my own negativity, I thought I’d try to start the New Year (not that new now) with a more positive story – though it doesn’t start that well, and not all players come out of it smelling of roses.
In fact it all begins with an increasingly decrepit dishwasher failing to complete its cycle, just before the Christmas break when I’m expecting some large lunch parties (washing-up by hand not a recommended option). I’ve already had the Bosch engineer out and established that a) the new part required to fix ageing and ailing machine costs over Â£300 to fit and b) a brand spanking machine costs around £320.00 So a new machine it is then. Which is where the fun really starts.
A visit to John Lewis (first the store, then the web-site) later, and a new Bosch machine is on order, and being a lazy non-DIY sort, I also pay for installation by the delivery men, who will also take away the knackered machine.
But oh dear, when it arrives, (I’ve managed to de-install the old one without flooding the house), “Sorry, we can’t install that there: you need a proper plug-hole.” The previous machine had been hard-wired into a back-plate, linked to a wall switch which is more easily accessible for isolating the power. “Cutting off the plug,” (the obvious first suggestion) “will invalidate your guarantee.” They aren’t arguing. They’re off.
So I’m left with a machine but no means of installing it. Luckily the first electrician I call happens to be doing a job in the village that afternoon and will pop round to do the necessary, for £30, cash in hand.
So now I’ve got power, all I have to do is connect the water inlet pipe – two goes required: there’s a plastic blocker inserted in the machine’s inlet which you have to remove, and the instructions, prepared by some 5-year-old dyslexic, are not entirely clear; and the drain hose has to go in the under-sink pipe-work.
I now discover that my original plumbers, when the fancy new sink was installed 12 years ago – a Swiss brand called Franke – had bodged the outlet arrangement. A 20mm pipe going into a 40mm outlet needs some sort of adaptor that they clearly didn’t have and couldn’t be arsed to go find. So they’d taped up the smaller pipe to bulk it up. To be fair it had worked for 12 years.
No problem, I thought. It can’t be that difficult to get the necessary bit of plastic, even if it does mean another day or so without the dishwasher. Oh, can’t it? Franke were, frankly, useless. Bosch just weren’t interested. Two days of phoning here and there, and visiting every clueless plumbers merchant in the area later, and I’m still hand washing-up while new machine sits idly by (and the long Christmas break approaches when everywhere is shut).
And then I call Blanchfords, a local builders’ merchant who are also listed as a Franke distributor, and I get put through to a very nice man who suggests I come and see him and bring a photo of under-sink pipe-work with me, so he can see what the problem is. He takes one look at the picture on my mobile phone (isn’t technology wonderful) and opines that I’m missing a critical bit of plastic. Yes, I think, even I have worked that out.
Back from his store-room he comes with a box of assorted Franke bits – more or less a whole under-sink system they’ve raided some time ago for some part or other – and produces the very bit I’ve been looking for for the last week nearly. Hurrah!
How much will that be, then? “Nah, you can have it for nothing. In fact you can have the whole box of bits; by the look of the photo, you’ve got another leaky bit there which could do with replacing too. This is an incomplete box, so I can’t sell it.” Half an hour later, the whole thing’s all fixed, installed and working as it should.
So let’s hear it for Blanchfords, and if you need anything to do with building materials near Princes Risborough, go use them. They’re incredibly helpful.
Good service is not only about proper systems and processes, important as they are. It’s about instilling the right attitudes in every single one of your staff who come into contact with your customers – from delivery men to accountants. If every one of them is unfailingly helpful and civil, your business has a better than even chance of thriving.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org