A day of two halves on the customer service front. Firstly, I was killing time in Zappi’s Bike Cafe which makes the most excellent coffee in Oxford. It is inside Bike Zone and I meandered into the bike store part with both time to kill and the rarest of animals – cash in my pocket. There isn’t a riper time to relieve me of cash for bike ephemera that when I am a bit bored and am holding the folding. So…I am standing in the middle of a small shop floor. There are the usual spanner jockeys behind the counter but walking around in front of me is someone who is clearly the boss, he knows it and doesn’t deal with trivia like customers standing there in front of him. He was stepping around me fer gawdsake… I was feeling rather silly actually as I was obviously getting in the way of him making scathing remarks to the spanner jockeys about their pathetic efforts to fill the shelves with stock.
On the other hand I was blown away by a call I received from the Sales Director of Avon Tyres. I had rung Avon to query why my new winter tyres, despite being stickered as Avon Ice Touring ST, were all saying Cooper Weathermaster on the sides. Odd. We agreed that as Cooper owns the Avon brand that although the labelling was wrong the items were essentially the same. Despite being offered the opportunity to have them changed I declined saying it was a lot of hassle and that why didn’t he just organise a voucher or something. Kevin replied that I was to call him when I was changing back to summer tyres and he’d organise the Avon’s of my choice to be delivered to Merit Tyre in Witney at 50% off. Wow! Who can say fairer than that. That simple gesture has just secured me as an Avon customer for good.
This post is me getting ahead of things and guessing the outcome of a chat I intend to have. The reason I am doing this is to show how previous interactions with a supplier can inform customer expectations of future interaction. In this instance I am the customer. Bear with me for the preamble as it sets the scene for my point.
I love to swim. For fitness and not competition but I do 5-7km per week. I – along with many others – am a regular user of the local pool. This is no longer owned by the council as a truly publicly owned and run amenity but has been sold to a third party leisure services provider. I have no idea of the exact arrangements but it does mean that I am now dealing with a private firm and not a public service. They are called Nexus.
I have come to expect a higher level of service from a private provider. When I started swimming enough to go to a direct debit, all you can eat, payment model for my swimming I had to fill out myriad forms. The most interesting was the Direct Debit form and the fact that (it is the only way to pay for this option) it attracts a £10.00 administration fee!
Get this; I am being charged for their administrative costs. This staggers me. It’s their business. Surely their business model accounts for administrative work that they need to do?
Mrs S. and I have a joint account and Mrs S already has an all you can eat swimming DD set-up. Ahh, I thought, I have a cunning idea which will be both appreciated by Nexus and save me a tenner. I’ll just ask them to increase the amount taken to cover both of us.
*Note: Direct Debit’s (DD) are a unique tool for UK banks. The company needs to be sufficiently solvent to do this. In return, when I sign a DD then the company has the power tio vary the amounts take. It is a good set-up as the consumer can cancel it with a call, the scheme is indemnified and the business can vary the amounts taken. Everyone’s a winner.
“Oooohhh no sir, we can’t do that. Far too complicated, love to help just not poss etc etc etc” What!!!!To cut a long story short I gave up raging against the machine and just paid my tenner and had Nexus set up a completely new (yet identical) DD on our account. Madness but madness mandated in the rules. After all, following the rules is far far more important than applying common sense. After all, an outbreak of common sense might lead to people thinking for themselves and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
That’s the background.
The pool in Thame can get quite busy and the water gets very choppy between lanes. If you have seen a swimming competition on telly or live you’ll notice the lane ropes that they use are many discs strung together. In short, these dampen the choppiness between lanes. In the Thame pool the most rudimentary old school lane ropes are used and they have lost most of their floats. The function of the colour changes in the lane ropes is to indicate, primarily to backstrokers, when the end of the pool is approaching. Something the old school ropes don’t do at all well. Wouldn’t it be great if our pool used the modern (relatively – 30 years old now) lane ropes? Perhaps they don’t own them. Afterall, times are tight so no one is going to be lashing out money on a set of these?
But wait, it turns out the pool has (owned by Nexus and not the local swimming club) these ropes nicely coiled away on the storage drum. “Why aren’t these being used?” I enquired of some staff and a swim coach I know. Reply; “Ah yes. They are a lot more hassle and we only use them for swimming galas.” So this means that the main revenue stream of the regular users get the rubbish old ropes whilst the nice ones are kept for a maximum of four times a year.
Great British customer service. I am not looking to make your experience better because it means more work for me.Wonderful. I feel like a really valuable customer. Thanks, Nexus.
I intend to ask the new in post manager if they could see their way to using the decent lane ropes. Based on the DD madness I reckon I’ll get fobbed off. And that’s even before I have asked the question. Just goes to show how easy it is to get a poor reputation as I am all mentally geared up for a fight which I wish doesn’t happen. Amaze me please, Mr New Manager.