Andrew’s been blogging about service lately and it made me think of an experience I had recently.
My BT line is rubbish so I thought I would try cable. NTL had a deal where I could get broadband and a phone for £25 a month so I thought I would give them a go. My problems started when I tried to arrange installation on their website; it was only February so naturally they hadn’t updated their website to allow bookings to be made in 2007. I tried selecting 2006 from the drop-down but that wouldn’t validate as it wouldn’t let me make bookings in the past. So to get around their broken website (I wanted to sign up online because there was a £25 discount) I used a cool Firefox extension called Tamper Data to intercept the posted form and manually change the date to 2007.
Naturally NTL ignored my installation request so I ended up arranging installation over the phone when I chased them up the following week. They said they would still give me the £25 online discount but they had a weird way of processing this. They needed to charge me the £25 immediately and then this would be refunded on my first statement. OK, whatever. So they charged me £25 and fixed an installation date.
Five minutes later, they called me back saying that actually they couldn’t provide a phone service to my address, only broadband and TV. Since the whole point of this was to get rid of BT I said I wanted to cancel. Ok, he said, he would refund the £25 but this could take up to fourteen days. Great.
When I realised that during this time Virgin Media had bought NTL I knew I was going to have a fun time trying to get my money back. I called NTL/Virgin after fourteen days without a refund and of course (once I got through the horrible phone system) the person I spoke to had no idea about anything. She took my details again and said it would be about fourteen days for the refund department to process it. Fourteen days later, I called again with the exact same result…
About a week after the second follow-up call I received a letter from Virgin payment processing asking for a copy of my bank statement showing the £25. I sent this off a couple of weeks ago and am yet to hear back or receive my refund.
The whole thing is ridiculous, I was charged £25 for a service that I never received and that £25 was meant to be an online discount in the first place!
I had a totally different customer service experience the other week when I bought a MacBook. I won’t go into how nice the machine is but the way the Apple Store works is really cool. I told one of the assistants I was interested in buying a MacBook and he then spent some time asking me about how I was going to use it, what I was looking for and he showed me some stuff on one of the MacBooks they have set up all over the store. He clearly knew his products and he seemed genuinely interested in helping me make the right choice.
Once that choice had been made, he went to request the machine and came back with a handheld that read my credit card. He gave me my receipt and then went to fetch my new MacBook. I didn’t have to queue at a counter or anything. It was really cool.
Some stores just get customer service. They understand that if you provide excellent service you don’t need to be the cheapest. HMV understands that while you might be able to buy DVDs cheaper at Tesco you’re not going to be able to talk to the girl behind the checkout about film recommendations. Apple understands that while you can buy a cheaper laptop elsewhere, they can charge more for beautiful equipment sold by knowledgeable staff in a pleasant atmosphere. I’m sticking with my ISP Zen because although Virgin Media can sell me broadband for a cheaper monthly price they lock you into a twelve month contract and their service is shit.