A Little Bit Of Nothing

The sun is shining and I am sitting in Rick’smacaroons in Oxford having had a v agreeable lunch in the sun.  One double espresso down the hatch and a good dose of Vitamin D and the car seems to make more sense. Sure it’s a pose-mobile. However, it is beautiful to look at and sounds just awesome on the throttle. However, everytime I give it a bootful I  might as well tear up twenty-pound notes as fast as I can, what with the price of fuel and tires *sobs gently while rocking back and forth*.

A degree means giving it up though that isn’t really a major problem as I still have a bit of that so-what feeling. A car is temporary etc etc. On that note though…

Jobs:  I started drafting a list of the type of companies – not a given field of endeavour – that I’d work for and then along comes Rackspace with a role as a coach. I had the first interview in London this morning. Well close enough, Hayes in Middlesex. They seem like a cool bunch and I love the idea of helping others, plus  their view on customer support is just that of mine when I ran Only Organic. However, it is first interview and I may get knocked back at this stage, despite the dedicated prayers of the Queen’s Chaplain – thanks, I think.

In the meantime I am just going to drink in the car, as deep down I think it has to go.

My Manager Says…

I had an extremely circular conversation with Becky from the Co-Operative car insurance team today. I was very (very) good as I didn’t allow any hint of frustration or incredulity slip into my voice. Nonetheless, having had a 20 min chat with the Co-Op Home Insurance – my home insurance provider – Customer Services team who ended up assuring me in unequivocal terms that the included legal protection policy extended to motor cars and all things related Becky insists that the home insurance part – “nuffink to do wiv us” – are wrong.

“I asked and my manager says no…”.

Can you see how good I was not to get frustrated or be incredulous? The Co-Op is The Co-Op is The Co-Op, end of discussion. The letterheads are similar, the font identical, colours the same etc etc. I already buy insurance from them and they provide the electricity. It’s The Co-Op and that’s as far as I care.

Not for The Co-Op apparently. We are one but we are totally different is how they operate. I suggested to young Becky that she might like to direct her manager towards page 24 of the home insurance policy document which, sadly, I have read. It is very specific in the exclusions and cars ain’t in it. Anywhere. Nein. Nada. Nach. You get the idea. Deaf ears because….wait for it….”my manager says no”.

Gotta love joined up thinking in companies. It is doubly frustrating because I want the Co-Op to be good. I am emotionally invested in their brand, which is something they just don’t seem to get.

After all that the quote was twice that of elsewhere. 25 min on the dog’n’bone, but I did hang out all the washing and do the dishes so not really a loss of time.

Blovember #21 – Focus, Creativity & Ice Cream

Enough of the foul-mouthed frippery of yesterday. Today I assure the easily offended that this blog shan’t provide. If you want grot then go away now.

I am planning a business and, much like writers block I imagine, I have spent several days just staring at my screen and then having Ice Cream moments instead of really good thought. Makes me think I’m idle, which I’m not.

However, this morning pre-0900h, I sit down and by Jove it just starts flowing outta me. So much so that I suddenly realised what I’d blog about to satisfy the insatiable gods of NaBloPoMo.

Ice Cream – oops, just cleaned a bathroom. Very shiny and clean smelling it is to. I really am a modern man (reaches hand over shoulder to give well-earned pat on back). Metrosexual as well. I so need a good hand moisturiser now. The chemicals are harsh and I am a delicate flower.

Ice Cream – in the meantime I have been reflecting on the name and purpose of dominicshadbolt.com In light of the forthcoming business venture and no longer needing this blog to paint me in a better corporate light (who am I kidding, I’m me) and blur my Internet footprint the What About the Customer name can go.

Ice Cream – as NaBloPoMo – a female web user initiative I find out today, hey for me it’s Blovember so I escape with masculinity intact  – is requiring me to post every day thus driving the randomness of the posts, I am going to rename the blog, snag a new and less austere theme and make a clear separation between my nascent business and the occasional ranting and general life based observations.

Ice Cream – the ranting actually produces results. What a pity that good customer service is driven by a shouty minority with the time and the tools to take their gripes to Twitter? Still, kudos to Plusnet for picking up on it and fixing the problem.

So brain function, focus and productive work eh? It’s all morning for me.

You’ll never guess the time? It’s Ice Cream o’clock.

Blovember #19 – Hiding Behind the Data Protection Act

Or more accurately – I have yet another excuse not to help you.

It seems that the really obvious difference between North American and British approaches to the customer is some sort of deep down default position. I generalise but it goes like this:

  • North America – ingrained in the general psyche is the innate feeling of “how can I help you?”
  • Britain – ingrained in the psyche is the innate feeling of “I don’t do service. I am not your underling. This is just a job that I need to do to feed my family so fuck-off as I’m not your servant”

There are exceptions that prove the rule on both sides of The Pond. However, to justify and explain this to themselves the Brits love to dress up the “fuck-off” behind a multiplicity of reasons. The theme of which is, “Love to help, just not poss”.

Who has ever woken in the middle of the night and not been able to sleep and then decided that, as awake, it is the ideal time to call a telephone based service when every other soul is in the Land Of Nod? Who has then got that recorded message saying, “due to unexpectedly high call volumes…” In the middle of the goddamed night? They have that message ALL the time. If the lines are that busy all the time then fix the bloody problem or embrace the massive and continual influx of new business with more bodies on the phone. The other favourite is to cite the inability (read – unwillingness) to do something because, “the Data Protection Act means I can’t”. What utter balls. When you are feeling grumpy (-er than usual) and act dumb and politely enquire which part of the DPA is hampering them, ‘cos “I’d like to write to my MP and appeal for it to be raised as a parliamentary question with a view to amending/repealing it and by the way what is your name and the name of the person that told you this?” They either refer you up the chain to a more experienced but equally knowledgeless person or wing it and go for the “added flannel” approach.

I wouldn’t be so bitter and twisted if they just told me to get knotted and hung up. I prefer honesty.

Blovember #8 – Not Bovvered…

When a fairly young, groovy and ethical brand like Clipper Tea has an email address of  thisiswhatithink@clipper-teas.com you kind of expect a reply to a polite email with a very polite gripe. So far at 1 3/4 days I haven’t even received an acknowledgement. I’d set up my “reach out to my customers” email address with an automated reply setting expectations for a human reply. If you are a small firm – why not give yourself up to 5 working days? Hardly unreasonable is it?

Before I wrote this I checked the email address, time of sending, any bounceback etc. There is nothing to indicate it hasn’t been received. I am trying not to leap to judgement but due to the website being up I am guessing there hasn’t been a catastrophic IT outage. I think the issue is a human one, which is sad. @clipperteas C-, could do better

In the interests of big/small balance I ought to note that Mercedes Benz Oxford also disappointed the other day. Made me wait 15 min to see a “specialist” after saying “someone will be right out” and not “it’ll be 15 min if you don’t mind holding on Sir”. I then end up explaining the difference between camber and toe-in to a real mouth-breather and am left wondering about said individual’s area of specialism. It sure as hell wasn’t wheel alignment on an E-class, that much I know for sure. Not making me want to rush there for a service anytime soon. I was then called by an “expert” who then perpetuated the whole thing by giving duff information. I know because I had the car on an inspection pit today w. a man that services coaches and builds race cars as a hobby. We looked and looked and looked for 20 min. No adjustment bolts for setting the rear wheel camber on an E-Class Estate. No shims either  and according to The Internet there is no way to adjust the rear camber on a W211 except by buying aftermarket kits. @mercedesbenz_ir – D, be straight w. customers.

Addendum: after a v nice lunch with #MusingsFromTheSofa the point was made to me that I was failing to make a point about MB Oxford. I agree that I meandered around and that, at best, the point was inferred. I apologise. The point was to contrast that even the big guys like Mercedes were not necessarily better than the little guys like Clipper Tea. In both instances I expect to be not only satisfied but hopefully delighted. Both obviously lack a Social Media Strategy or I expect to have been contacted in some form by now….

Blovember #6 – Why wait for poor service?

I have just read a rant on Facebook where a customer of BestBuy in Calgary felt very hard done by because the staff in-store were rubbish and despite nothing else to do they ignored them whilst standing around doing nowt. They waited 5-9 minutes apparently. Not only does such a statement imply that the complainant is pretty bad at judging the passing of time it also says to me that they had nothing better to do than wait and work themselves up whilst plotting their punitive retaliation (embarrass them using social media). there is nothing to suggest they even attempted to escalate the issue at a store level.

Whilst this is just rubbish service I don’t think you have earned the right to complain if you did nothing. There will be a manager on duty and I’ll bet that summoning them – the mere act of – will be a bit of a rocket to the lazy assistants. As a manager I’d dearly like to know if my customers are not receiving a level of service that delights them. As a manager I can’t improve it for you or other customers if you wait, bottle up your unhappiness and then snipe at us using Facebook (despite the dire threats to splash the entire world of social media with this example of egregious treatment they posted it on the US BestBuy page and not the Canadian one. BestBuy politely pointed this out. I only saw it because a contact reposted it.).
Staff make mistakes, staff are sometimes lazy, offensive, bring personal issues to work etc etc. All to be avoided but the fact is they do happen. There is a difference between a one-off and repetitive crap behaviour. Maybe the manager needs replacing? Who knows if you don’t bring it up.

By all means expect and demand high levels of service but don’t shy away from bringing it up with first-line  management if you don’t get it. Being a customer in the real world isn’t a completely one-way track. Do your bit before you take to the airwaves to shout about your unhappiness. Try being part of the solution and not just part of the problem. No change will come if you shirk your responsibilities as a customer.

What she misses…

Prompted by me remarking that GP surgeries never seemed to operate hours to cater for working folk and not just people with nothing better to do with their time, a British friend that lived in the US for 7 years and is relatively recently back remarked to me, “I miss dealing with companies/service providers that see it as their goal to serve me and accommodate my needs and that don’t expect me to modify my life around their inflexibility”…or similar.

In the UK it is my experience that something as simple as seeing your GP at a time to suit a working person (like they are, grrrr….) is fraught with difficulty. Evenings or Saturday’s? Novel huh?

We pay for this – not as directly as money changing hands between us but through pretty high taxes. Who’s zoomin who?

Cooper Avon – you rock. Bikezone – you don’t

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.

Avon Tyres Logo

Please Talk to Me – Wiggle

The big British internet retailing success story – Wiggle – has sold me an item that is faulty. Not their fault that it failed. It is their responsibility to deal with me as their customer. Where I choose to shop for bike bits is suddenly now up for grabs.

I bought a pair of very expensive tires as I know from prior experience that they are nearly puncture proof and v. well made. Unfortunately one suffered a catastrophic and very obvious failure due to a manufacturing fault. This means I can no longer ride my bike as I don’t have any other tires as I was counting on these. Check out the picture to see. It was a bit of a hairy moment as it was on the front and I was descending and braking on my fixie.

However, when I try to contact Wiggle and upon looking on their site they expressly state that they DO NOT take calls. Odd – people need to talk sometimes. Especially those pesky customers with all their pre and post sale nonsense enquiries.So much for personal customer service. I chat with an agent online who swears they are not a machine but a person (I am unsure) and get real vanilla cookie cutter replies. Despite being in the middle of some serious training and having sent high res photos of the blown kevlar bead in a £40 tire they insist on having it back before they do anything to help me out.

I don’t expect them to refund me without examining it but I do expect a replacement to be dispatched asap upon the proviso that if the warranty claim doesn’t hold up then I will be further billed for the replacement item. No…they expect me to wait a week and a half for the wheels to turn slowly before issuing a replacement. They have a way of making it sound like they are doing you a favour when all they are doing is meeting their minimum legal obligations under the Sale of Goods Act 1989. I am grateful and loyal if they go a little bit above and beyond, not the bare minimum.

A couple of points to internet retailers: – have a phone number (Amazon do, Chain Reaction do); empower your staff to make common sense decisions; don’t take the default position that customers are just shysters trying to get one over on you.

Why do some retailers use the internet to hide away from their customers? It seems Wiggle view this method of transacting as absolving them from treating you in the same way as a high street retailer. It has cemented one thing in my head though. I’ll never buy from Wiggle again. I have a choice and anything that requires technical advice I buy from Beeline as I value the personal service and their expertise. Commodity items like tires get bought online for the lowest price as I have 30 years experience of fitting them.

Here is the text from the Human called “Josh”. You decide. If Josh is a human then he is relying almost entirely on pre-written scripts.


Please wait for a site operator to respond.

Hello my name is ‘Josh’. How can I help you today?

Josh: Hello, how can I help you today? Please could you enter your registered wiggle email address to help us locate your account?

Dominic: Morning. Are you a machine or a human being?

Dominic: Josh, I had a “chat” once w. a machine that was v. unhelpful so excuse me asking

Josh: I am a human

Dominic: 🙂

Dominic: good

Dominic: can you see my order number?

Josh: How may I help?

Dominic: I have just sent an email w pics. I wanted to know how Wiggle handled obvious warranty issues?

Josh: One moment please while I find that information for you.

Dominic: I am mid-training for an event and bought v. expensive tires and now the tire has failed catastrophically (the kevlar bead went BANG yesterday) so I need a rapid replacement of one tire even though they were bought as a pair

Josh: Apologies for the problems with this item.  Please send it back to us using the returns system found on our website and we will refund your returns carriage if found to be faulty. If the product is out of warranty we may only be able to offer a repair service which may incur a fixing charge.  http://www.wiggle.co.uk/h/option/ReturnsProcedure#Items  Let me know if there are any further issues with this and sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Dominic: Josh, If I understand this the onus is on me to package at post it at my expense and in the meantime be without a specific tire? The pics aren’t sufficient?

Dominic: It is not out of warranty as you will be able to see from the order date.

Josh: I can confirm that we will need the tyre back to get a warranty claim processed for you

Josh: I apologise for the inconvenience.

Dominic: Whilst not holding Wiggle responsible for the faulty Continental product I was hoping for a more flexible and responsive reply.

Dominic: Will Wiggle sent me a single Continental GP400 All Season 700×28 in the meaNTIME SO I CAN GET RIDING AGAIN?

Josh: I do apologise but we do need all faulty item back to get a warranty claim processed for as they do all need to be inspected and deemed faulty

Dominic: sorry about the caps – I hit the caps lock by accident

Dominic: you are saying that the pictures accompanying the email are insufficient?

Josh: These are helpful but we do required faulty item to be returned so that we can get a warranty claim raised for you

Josh: I apologise for the inconvenience.

Josh: I can confirm that as this is a folding tyre you can return this to us using the collect+ service.

Dominic: So in the meantime it is tough luck for me? How long does this take?

Josh: Returned parcels through collect+ must have specific dimensions of no larger than 50cm x 30cm x 30cm.

Dominic: Collect+ – so it will be 4-5 days before it even makes it you guys?

Josh: I can confirm that once we have received this back this shhould be processed the same or next working days for you we will then be in contact by email.

Josh: If you would rather return by an alternative method for quicker return time to us please do this and we will cover the return postage costs for you

Dominic: So what you arte saying is that I will be at least a week and a half w/out a tire. I only have a pair. Thank you Wiggle. Way to lose a customer.

Dominic: I’ll post it back and stick to Chain Reaction in future.

Josh: I do apologise for the inconvenience and we will get this resolved as soon as possible

Josh: I have not heard from you for a few moments.  Are you still with me?

Josh: Sorry we were not able to continue our chat. Since I have not heard from you for some time, I am going to close this chat.  If you need any help in the future, please do not hesitate to chat with us again.

Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.


Learn from CostCo

I am a member and was perusing the latest free magazine. Whether it’s a promo puff or not there was a very enlightening article. Long before it was fashionable CostCo had a customer centric philosophy. Still does.

This is a logo for Costco.


People make a big deal about transformation, customer-centricity (language mangling that only a management consultant could love and perpetuate), customer centred organisations, customer first blah, blah, etc, etc, etc.

The theory isn’t hard. Start with a respect for your customer and ensure that no matter how big the organisation grows that that respect remains. Alone that will shape your growth appropriately.

The learning from this? The respect for the customer starts at the beginning and the focus should never waver.