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We continue the sometimes joyful and sometimes painful path to try to be better human beings - this is only possible because we can rise above logic, that we find the wonder and hope, the language and words to inspire us and keep us going. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No its not a Fawlty Towers episode, this REALLY happened

So How Bad can Bad be?

Read and weep till you have to laugh in despair....

I've highlighted the saddest parts

"One customer who complained to MyCustomer.com received a bill for £750 for a one bedroom flat in which only the central heating was gas-powered. Energywatch told him that such a bill would be feasible for a large family house for an entire year, but was totally realistic as a quarterly bill for a one bedroomed flat.

While he attempted over a period of days to contact British Gas to question this, he received a series of letters from the company warning him that they would enter his premises with the police to recover the debt unless he replied within seven days. The letters were of course backdated to seven days previously!

When he finally did manage to get through to British Gas, he spent the first 40 minutes being passed from department to department. Eventually he was able to convince British Gas to send an engineer to look at the meter, which as he pointed out was clearly defective. On the appointed day, he took time off work after being told that the engineer would arrive between 10am and 4pm.

Inevitably, the engineer did not turn up. At 4pm the customer phoned British Gas only to be told that he had been misinformed and that the engineer was scheduled to come between 10am and 5pm. Come 5pm, still no engineer. The customer called back again and was told that he had been misinformed again and that the engineer was in fact due between 10am and 6pm.

British Gas then told him to call Transco, the outsourced engineering firm that dealt with this. He called them, only to be told by Transco’s call centre that – incredibly! – “We don’t have anything to do with British Gas.” When he asked what he should do now, the operator at Transco suggested he should call the National Grid.

The by now furious customer called back to British Gas and demanded to know if the engineering appointment had ever actually been made in the first place. The call centre operator happily told him that no appointment was booked on his customer record. Nor were there any records of his previous conversations with British Gas that day or earlier.

The operator also said that when – or if – the engineer had come out, he would have had to take away the meter which would then be destroyed during the fault testing process. If it was deemed not to be faulty, the customer would then be liable to pay £50 to have it replaced. This was all news to the customer who had not been informed of any of this before. When asked by the customer what proof he would have about whether there had been a fault or not if the meter had been destroyed, the call centre operator told him that he would have none."

Thanks to MyCustomer who has brought this tale of sorrow, this modern day Sisyphus to life!

Customer MisManagement - Another Management MIA story

Sigh..... the lowlights of this cautionary tale.

Bottom Line

Key Performance Indicators look great while in reality customer trust plummets

10,000 customers were polled about service in the UK, the Nominees of this Hall of Shame are......


1. British Gas

2. Sky

3. BT

4. NTL

5. Royal Mail

6. Orange

7. HM Revenue and Customs

8. nPower

9. Lloyds TSB

10. O2

11. Currys

12. AOL


14. Vodafone

15. ScottishPower

16. Halifax

17. Barclays Bank

18. Virgin Holidays

19. Argos

20. HSBC

So what helped the winning nominee British Gas standout?

"British Gas manages to beat them all with customers regularly left hanging on the telephone for more than 45 minutes at a time before getting to talk to an operator.

Two thirds say they have been further irritated after staying on hold for hours, only to find they are put through to someone who cannot understand English, while 54 percent of callers hang on the line for ages only to be cut off by the operator.

"The knock-on effect is further trouble for the customer as almost a third of us end up receiving a final notice on a bill or a final warning after failing to get through on the phone and hanging up.

What British Gas management thinks is going on (sadly I think they CAN'T see the problem, rather than WON'T see the problem)

“The average call waiting time to our general enquiries line in February was just over two minutes,”insists Rhys Jones, corporate affairs manager for British Gas. "British Gas has appointed 800 new agents in its call centres and we are seeing significant improvements in average speed of answer times to our general enquiries line. We have also reduced the number of internal transfer of calls through investment in agent training and in customer relationship systems.

"British Gas CEO Phil Bentley is the man who has to sort out the unholy mess that is the firm’s customer management strategy. He has gone on the record to reporters with the stock ‘blame the computer’ response of so many utility firms."

Customers have reached their limits of accepting technology as an excuse for poor service

Management is right on the firing line.

"....Bentley must be aware that competition is only getting stiffer.... Powergen has spotted a chink in British Gas' armour and is attempting to thrust home its advantage. The message for consumers is coming in loud and clear - the market is being shaken up, but the best deals to be had are still online.”

Are you MIA on what Peter Drucker reminds us is the Business of Business?

Making and Keeping Customers?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Trust: A Prize Indeed

The Edelman Agency, which is a public relations firm, publishes the Edelman Trust barometer, "a multi-country research study seeking to understand trust which they define as "trust to do the right thing" Their focus is on how corporations build trust and what they need to do to get their message out. While a different focus from ours here in this blog, in that our focus is about building trust with customers, there are interesting highlights to report... with areas of interest to Customer Relations in bold (my 2 cents). These snippets are drawn from the blog of the firm's CEO Richard Edelman http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/

"We are now at a point where CEOs and other members of top management have to lead in a more public manner
.....As Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal said so well, public companies are now political institutions and need to solicit support from stakeholders including NGOs, employees, communities as well as shareholders

"First, the smart company will communicate on both the vertical and horizontal axis. The top down, one way, controlled messages often from the CEO that have characterized corporate communications is still important. The traditional media, particularly business magazines and newspapers, is vital to achieving credibility. So are expert spokespeople, such as academics, financial analysts and doctors, who can help the CEO carry the message because of their credentials. But the peer-to-peer horizontal conversation, led by impassioned employees and consumers, is now a critical companion.

"Second, the proper treatment of employees is the new “green” in building trust as a global company. The number one activity for a socially responsible company is fair treatment of its employees, comparable to how its products meet environmental standards. Positive employee relations are as important as fair pricing of products in being a good corporate citizen.

"Third, there is a general decline in trust in all spokespeople and sources of information. That means a company must tell its story consistently and in multiple venues in order to achieve trust. We live in a world—as Linda Stone describes--of continuous partial attention."

Management MIA : Chasing Customers Away

Can you afford to ignore customers? Can you afford to chase them away? Even worse, what if every unhappy or ignored customer from the past 10 years starts telling their stories.

In the age of bloggers and Google Alerts and commentary, all kinds of up-to-now hidden cases of customer abuse (to small or larger degree) are surfacing.

I just have to re-produce the conversation that Valeria Maltoni had with Chase - she just wrote about it February 10th and IT HAPPENED TWO YEARS AGO.

"I called Chase and after hitting many numbers on my touch-tone phone, I finally got to a live person; life was good, now I could explain they had made a mistake. The conversation went like this:

“Hello, how are you doing today?” said the customer service rep at Chase.

“Very well, thank you,” I tend to start these calls on the cheery side for good measure.

“How can I help you today?” he says.

“Well, I just received my new platinum Chase card, and I think there was a mistake,” and then I plunge in, “It’s a MasterCard and I used to carry a Visa.”

“There was no mistake, the platinum Chase is a MasterCard.”

“Well then, since I did not ask to be upgraded to a platinum card, can I please have my old Chase Visa back?”

“That is not possible; Chase has upgraded to MasterCard.”

“So let me understand this, indulge me for a moment. Are you saying that all of the cards Chase issues are now MasterCard?”

“Yes madam, that’s what I’m saying.”

“But I already carry a MasterCard. I want a Visa.”

“We switched thousands of customers and nobody is complaining.”

“I’m not complaining, I’m explaining to you that I do not need a MasterCard and I want a Visa.”

“We communicated that to all our customers and nobody complained.”

“Sir, this is not a complaint, it’s a request. And I am not thousands of customers; I am the one who is talking with you on the phone now.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you at this time?”

“Well, I guess there isn’t. Chase has already decided to cut an exclusive deal with MasterCard, whether its customers like it or not.”

“Thank you for doing business with Chase, goodbye.”

And that was the end of the call. The extremely polite customer service rep has been trained to follow the guidelines, not take comments or feedback from his company’s customers. Since I did not intend to keep the card and carried no balance on the account, I wrote a letter to the President of Chase Bank at the time explaining why I was canceling my card and referencing my call.

I never heard back..... " Valeria ends with some salutary advice:

"why not listen to customers? Why not take the time to answer letters and emails? If the communications come from just one customer here and there, it wouldn’t be so time consuming after all and you might make a few friends in doing so. That person on the other end of your phone might be an influential. Is it smart to ignore the inquiries of customers? In this new business context where social media is gaining in credibility and scope can you afford to ignore these inquiries? What’s in *your* wallet?"

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • ConversationAgent@gmail.comwww.conversationagent.com

For another unhappy credit card customer story, look at the one told by Millie Garfield at

" I'm not happy losing my 5% rewards program and I'm not happy with the new rewards plan but listen to this!

....when I received the new card I followed the instructions, called to activate the card and did what they reminded me to do, "I destroyed the old card."

The next day I.... used my NEW CARD. Well, what do you know, "card NOT AUTHORIZED."

I tried it several times but it was not accepted!! I did not have enough cash to pay for my purchases ......"

A tip - for Business working out how to build relationships with Customers - what are you doing to chase customers away? Or make them love what you do?

Just do a google on "your company name" + "happy"