Categories
Companies customer service Good customer service

The Complaining Cow Meets The CEO With Common Sense at AO

A little while ago someone tweeted me to say that ao.com’s customer service was really good. Me being me tweeted something like “I bet I could find fault!!!!” Next thing I knew I was being invited up to Bolton from London to see round the place for myself.  All my train tickets and accommodation were sorted and off I went. In the meantime the Post Office didn’t pick up the tickets to send me. Quick as a flash I was telling them what to do to get some money back but I don’t think they needed me to tell them! James, the Customer Services Manager gave me a tour round and have to say I was impressed. One of my Top Ten Tips for companies about preventing complaints in the first place is about ensuring that staff are well trained, equipped and looked after. Look after your staff and they will look after your business. It’s common sense and appears to be the CEO’s ethos.

How does AO look after staff?

Now, frankly, free chocolate always available has got to be a winner in my book. They keep it in the fridge though which is the wrong temperature for chocolate and I wouldn’t want to wait for the chocolate to reach room temperature. (Told you I would find a fault, took me ten minutes.) But actually they do do more than that. Days out, subsidised cafe, a Starbucks, with hairdressers and therapies and a bar to come….! The days after I went a member of staff tweeted that they had a massage at their desk. Not happy about that either, they could have done that when I was up there! There’s even a team dedicated to organise this stuff! “Creator of Happiness” is the job title of one member of staff. The Daily Fail would call that a Mickey Mouse job title.  She and her team spend all day cooking up ways to make staff happy and enjoy working at AO. I’m sorry, but this is not rocket science. It is obvious that if staff are looked after they look after your customers which means they pay money and stay loyal and spread the word. Yeah well common sense is seriously lacking. As you may have seen on the picture on my Facebook page “Common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone’s garden”. Many companies could learn from the continuing success of AO.

They train staff for 8 weeks before they are really let loose on customers. That’s more than most customer call centres methinks. Nice that the call centre is in Bolton and not India too. Staff are supported if it is felt that they could do something better and staff turnover is minimal, again saving costs! Interestingly, their HR department is small, another saving.

Staff are put on a Performance Improvement Plan if their customer service needs support. This focuses on call quality, effectiveness and feedback levels, key areas in customer service. I met one member of staff who had been on this and spoke highly of it. Rather than seeing it as a method of getting rid of poor staff he said he had learnt a lot from it and was really glad he had gone on it. That’s the theory behind such schemes in the Public Sector but they don’t work as well funny enough…

AO is the 4th (second year running) best place to work in the UK according to The Sunday Times. But although I could be tempted to work there if I actually liked people, I couldn’t. Too many happy smiley people. Before going freelance I worked in the public sector, all this smiling felt a bit alien to me. That and having to be nice to people complaining, being idiotic and the like. *shudders.

The CEO

Met the CEO. I liked him. (I know, it’s a rarity but it happens). Why? Well firstly anyone that says publically that they would rather stick pins in their eyes when asked to meet David Cameron because he has no interest in meeting a politician who does not care about making things better for everyone and not just the rich, is of course onto a winner with me! I bet Phillip Clarke from Tesco has/would. But then Clarke doesn’t respond to customers because he doesn’t care about them, only profits. A foolish short sighted approach but then you know my thoughts on Tesco! The CEO of Currys of course is one of Cameron’s mates. See how happy their staff are! (just Google “Unhappy Currys staff” you don’t need links from me!) Compare that ignorance and contempt for staff with John Roberts who invited me up to Bolton, paid for the travel and hotel (I reviewed on Trip Advisor!) and spent over an hour with me. Could have chatted for ages especially about the foolishness of this Government in not putting money into preventative services for children and young people which costs dearly later but that’s another post…! Compare Clarke ignoring his customers so much that they end up taking Tesco to court with John’s approach. When I went into John’s office there was a pile of letters that he was signing, personally. A couple of apologies following up complaints and loads saying thank you to people, staff and customers. He certainly feels it is important to treat each customer individually.   The company empowers staff to make decisions regarding how to resolve complaints and believes that the customer is always right. Not in that trite ridiculous way but they do do what the customer wants to have any issues resolved. Dedicated staff in all areas with good internal communications (yep that other thing I keep banging on about) means that they get good comments on their Facebook page. Unlike certain other retailers….

The cost of ignoring customers

Quite a fresh approach. Like I said, it’s not flipping rocket science but it is rare in my experience of being a customer…. It’s obvious and common sense to me. Why? Simple. When I complain and don’t get results I escalate. Now when that escalates it has cost the company far more than if they had just dealt with me properly in the first place. Let’s take Tesco as an example (Surprise!) In my case which led to taking Tesco to court, the first few emails were responded to but then they didn’t honour their promise. I involved the Twitter team. Nice people, they tried but poor internal communication lack of training and empowering them meant that they made the situation worse. I only wanted my money back that they had promised to give me! Off to court. Their legal people got involved, made an offer, I refused more legal people time. I won. I wrote up the post it’s there to stay. How much did that cost Tesco? In real terms far more than if they had just paid up in the first place. Look around the blog and you will see lots of examples of my contacting a CEO, sometimes this gets passed down to the Executive team (happens in Tesco sometimes if it isn’t ignored) sometimes as often with Sainsbury’s, the CEO responds. Isn’t it obvious to a company that that costs them more than if staff at the frontline were equipped to deal with complaints properly?  I’m loathe to say this at risk of people trying it on with AO, but they even pay out when it is doubtful that then customer is telling the truth. This would irk me I have to say, “IT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING” I would yell! But you can see the reasoning behind it. A low percentage of people are dishonest so therefore a low percentage of paying out. Very few complaints get escalated leaving the more senior people to get on with other things.

Then what?

(Well, currently putting together a few questions about irons sent from someone with a different name and I’ll be testing knowledge, with any luck I’ll be able to complain about something). So far it would appear that in the North “pants” are ironed…

View from Bolton Whites Hotel
View from Bolton Whites Hotel

Back at the nearby hotel I had a lovely meal thanks for asking. The view was wasted on me though but the food and drink wasn’t!

Enjoyed the meal even if view was wasted on me!
Enjoyed the meal even if view was wasted on me!

 

CEO With Common Sense. 

Look after your staff and they will look after your business. It’s common sense and appears to be the CEO’s ethos.

I emailed James and asked for the emails of everyone I had met so I could thank them for their time. He wouldn’t give me John’s email. Some things are still the same whatever company you look at. It was of course no matter that I didn’t get the email address from James. I sent my email directly to John later that day. Obviously. I am The Complaining Cow after all.

The Complaining Cow logo complaints, consultancy, speaker and more

 

There’s always room for improvement in any business and if you are interested in looking at creative ways to do so, check out The Complaining Cow services.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Business Latest News Legal Action

The Complaining Cow v Tesco #TescoFail!

Oi! Don’t just jump to the bottom to see if I won! There will be a test later you know to see if you read it all!

Let’s start the post with a great big sigh. *Sighs. Most people who ever shopped at Tesco will share my frustration. Actually I didn’t realise just how many until I took to Twitter and looked at the @Tesco timeline!

Yet More Reasons to Avoid Tesco
Yet More Reasons to Avoid Tesco

Okay so where to start. Well, unless you are some rich person who doesn’t live on the same planet as the rest of us, (in which case thank you Mr Cameron and colleagues for taking the time out of working out how to cut even more payment to the most needy so that they can’t afford to live and therefore die and become less of a burden to the tax payer, (I mean that is the theory isn’t it?) to read my Blog) you will know that Tesco provide reward vouchers for spending in their shop. More if you use their credit card.  Every so often it is double up rewards time. Great. Nope. Why? Because most of these double up vouchers people tried to use on the TescoDirect website. Oh how efficient. Wrong again. Why? Because the website was utterly flawed.

So, I start my sorry tale back on the 20th November. The system said items were in stock, got to checkout they were not. I emailed and said this was failure of their site. I had cashed in vouchers that if not spent by the 13th December would be lost! I got the vouchers to buy something that once at the checkout (i.e. after you get your vouchers!) I couldn’t use! They would not refund if the items didn’t come back in stock. Personally I do not think that is fair do you?

So I spent them. Later I tried a million times (ok a slight exaggeration, maybe hundreds of thousands) to process my vouchers on £80 worth of items.  I got this message “Sorry, we cannot place your order at the moment. We’re trying to fix the problem as soon as possible. Please try again later.” So fed up was I that I telephoned. That’s how annoyed I was. I hate telephoning complaints! The automated answering message informed me that they had had problems on the site and they were resolved. They were not and as was quite clear from the @UKTesco Twitter timeline, remained. Whilst waiting to try again on the line the line was cut off. Now, I wasn’t even speaking so it wasn’t me being rude! So I emailed. I got a response to say that the technical team were looking into it. I emailed back saying still a problem and expected redress as the time spent on the matter amounted to more than any savings from using the vouchers.

I got an email back saying that I would receive a goodwill gesture. (I believe that many gestures followed and none of them were goodwill ones). Charlotte told me that if I couldn’t use the vouchers then pay and she would refund on receipt of the voucher codes. So I duly tried again leaving the system for 24 hours. This time it was a different error. It accepted some of the codes. So I just paid for the full amount and emailed Charlotte. This was now the 26th November.

Now Tesco had my money. Actually it had the £80 plus £40 of vouchers which doubled up were £80 and those couldn’t be used. So I told Charlotte this and of course Charlotte just responded saying okay just let her have the voucher codes. No, it went unanswered. I forwarded it 2 days later stating that I would go to Trading Standards for breach of the Consumer Act for unfair trading and the Sale of Goods Act 1994 as amended for not honouring a contract. So that obviously got an answer. Nope. Emailed the following day saying that papers were ready to go the Small Claims Court. So of course I got a response then when they knew what I was talking about? Nope.

So I wrote to the CEO. Now, if you’ve read my other post about Tesco then you will know that I knew I wouldn’t get a response. So I did actually start the email with “Obviously this is a pointless email because you have demonstrated incredible contempt for your customers and this attitude it would appear is reflected all the way down the store and I see in your profits. There is a slight chance that someone in the Executive Office might see this though and save me the time and trouble of going to Trading Standards and the Small Claims Court”. I know I advise not using sarcasm but some people just really seriously try my patience.

Obviously no response.  So I took to Twitter. @UKTesco offered to help. Great. Nope. As I have now learnt from chatting to many people who complain to @UKTesco you get standard responses, delay tactics and no actual resolution. (Mind you look at this lack of security for Tesco customers that the Tesco Twitter team revealed). To cut a long story short, @UKTesco said Charlotte was waiting for the voucher codes. Huh? Yes. It would appear that she didn’t think it appropriate to respond to 3 emails to her to ask me for them even if it was “again”. Look how many times I tweeted the same thing to @UKTesco as I bored many of my followers! At first I refused, demanding the courtesy of a response. That tweet went ignored. (All very rude and not the done thing on Twitter at the best of times never mind being the face of a large company). So I said I would do it their way and sent Charlotte the codes. So, of course, I did what they requested and I had a response. Nope.  I tweeted @UKTesco, I said hello I’ve done it. I rt’d their response that they would look into it the following day when they still hadn’t got back to me. I asked if they were ignoring me. I didn’t get a response so take that a yes then! The last tweet they sent me said they would get back to me. They didn’t.

So there was nothing left for it. The Small Claims Court. I love it, the time consuming bit is over and it takes very little time to fill out a form. £25.

Small Claims Court Confirmation
Small Claims Court Confirmation

So over Christmas I took ‘em to court. All online, easy peasey £25 . Their defence was, shall we say non existent? I quote “That the defendant has been unable to use the vouchers is neither accepted nor denied” Eh what? Even better “The Defendant has no knowledge of any problems with these vouchers, as long as the claimant was using the correct process..” Copies of 3 emails saying there were problems, automated error message on their site and  implementing an automated telephone message saying that there was a problem meant…?

So, a week before the 6th June they tried to negotiate. Obviously. They were gonna lose. I knew this. First off they didn’t even offer me the court fee! Asked for more got the court fee and a few quid extra and you know what? Sod ‘em, that’s what I thought! They know they will lose I know I will win, who else will take on these giants it’s up to me to show Tesco that the humble shopper will not be treated in this way. “See you in court” said me.

But I didn’t ‘cos they didn’t turn up. Well obviously it wasn’t worth their while, they knew they were going to lose. So suited and booted (well sandals actually the sun was shining) I sat before Judge Vokes. He told me that he couldn’t see how I was owed any more than the £80 and court fee. Uh oh, Uh oh Uh oh, panic panic I’m a gonna lose I thought! “They told me in writing that they would give me a goodwill gesture” I said. “Not legally binding” said Judge Vokes. Oh I was going off this guy. “Sale of Goods Act… Supply of Goods and Services Act….” said I. “Technical babble about vouchers and stuff” said the judge. I was really going off this guy now. Hmmmm “I thought it was important that the single person should make a stand against a big company like Tesco and make people realise that they can stand up to organisations treating customers with contempt” I tried. The judge gave me a big big smile nodded and said “Well done”. I was warming to him now. I wish I had taken a photo. “Although the goodwill gesture is not legally binding I can deem Tesco as being unreasonable and therefore award you £80 refund, £11 for expenses, and £50 for time. Total of £166”. I seriously liked Judge Vokes big time now. I’d done it. I’d won.

Now, what I want to know is, will I get Clubcard points with that? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let them not pay up in 14 days. I can send in the court bailiffs to sieze goods to the value of £166…… I’ll be picking up all the offers to get my money’s worth ‘an all!

I wanted to ask the Judge if he thought Tesco should employ me to reduce their level of complaints and increase their sales but thought better of it, thanked him for his time and bought some chocolate from Sainsbury’s across the road from the court and not the Tesco Express next door!

In short. I won. Many many hours of time on the matter and 7 months after the event, was it worth it? I think it was the principle of the thing! Would you have done it? Would you have let Tesco get away with keeping your £80 or would you have taken them to court?

June 21st update  – payment not received watch this space for what I intend to do about that…

Update 09/07/13

Update 23/07/13

Links to all Tesco posts and contact details

Film made for Citizens Advice Bureau on the importance of complaining and taking companies to court if necessary

The Complaining Cow - expert complaining