Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Pulling Down the Big Bucks

On average, CEO pay increased some 32% from this time last year. That's going to hurt a few people when they read that.

Are these guys worth it? I mean, as a customer, when was the last time you got visited or called by a CEO of one your suppliers? When did they last even get visibility of your complaint let alone help with it?

Instead, low paid, often offshore staff get the blunt end of the customer wrath when things go wrong and all they are equipped with is a few scripts to handle supposedly every situation. Not one of them is empowered to make a decision and none of them are allowed to escalate something beyond a local supervisor. You want to speak to a Director? Oh dear, they don't take calls, I'm afraid, sir.

Hearing that makes me so angry.

So what precisely do Directors and CEOs do while these poor wretches have to deal with unreasonable people like me who don't take their fob-offs?

Let me give you three examples that occurred to me recently.

1) The Good

Step up Virgin Media. OK we got off to a bad start as they took my order to change from Sky and then found out their records were wrong and my house was not served by fibre. I complained and some offshore chap said a new installation would be arranged. The engineer came and reaffirmed that no fibre came to the house. The cable pit was 5 metres from my front gate but a small private road was in-between. So no go. That's it - no services and you can go and re-order Sky, pal.

Never to take things lying down, I Googled CEO email addresses and there is a super site that gives you them. The CEO at Virgin Media is Neil Birkett. I dare say he did not personally handle my case but I got an email of apology back immediately and within a few weeks the road was dug up and I was cabled up too.

Damn good job, Mr Birkett. You deserve every penny you earn in my book for responding to customer needs and realising when mistakes are made they need to be rectified. For the cost of digging up a road he will probably get a lifetime's loyalty and some.

2) The Bad

I fell for it. I bought one of those cheap and nasty Apps on my iPad that tells you they can make the thing print on any WiFi printer. Like heck they do.

So I emailed support as phones do not exist on this App world. Someone responded soon enough and told me to install something called 'WePrint' on my PC and this would solve it. Err, not as such. Now my iPad recognises my printer is there but the signal gets lost in the ether somewhere and WePrint sits there doing naff all.

It's not a great deal of money at stake but, frankly, if something doesn't do something it should do then do not have the gall to charge, I say. Not so, Print Central was a waste of a few quid and nobody was happy to refund me. Now EuroSmartz Ltd the software writers can suffer by having their name mentioned negatively in a user's blog. The software was rubbish and the support was hopeless. And you had the cheek to keep my money.

Shame on you. Where was the CEO when I asked for them? They don't get involved in such trivia. Ah well, my mistake.

3) The Ugly

There had to be a humdinger. Step up Charles Dunstone and his Carphone Warehouse crew. Let me explain, I have been a customer of theirs via a single number my wife uses for over 12 years, always upgrading and spending £thousands with them over time.

The love affair ended abruptly last year, sadly. My wife took an upgrade and got a Sony Ericsson phone - nice too. Within a year the thing could no longer be charged up. It still worked fine, just the external copper connecters had a short on one of the prongs and would no longer accept charge. So we took it for repair to the CPW shop in St Albans and my wife, as she runs her entire business from her mobile in terms of contacts etc, explicitly pointed out that the phone worked fine and that the data on the phone should be preserved, i.e. do not zap it. This was typed onto the Work Docket and signed by my wife.

Two weeks later the phone came back. It still worked but all the data had been zapped off it. With it came a diagram with an arrow pointing to the charging connector saying it had shorted. The genius engineer stated that 'water damage' had caused this and therefore it invalidated the warranty and the phone was now 'Beyond Economic Repair' (BER in their parlance).

The kid in the shop said the only remedy now was to buy a new phone at £350+. At this point, I must admit, I lost my customary cool. To all the questions about why it had been zapped when we asked for this not to be done, why can't the connector be replaced, why can't we pay for the repair if no warranty, what does the manufacturer say was 'like it or lump it' in so many words.

I subsequently got the phone repaired for less than £40 at a shop around the corner. CPW somehow kept our memory card which they did return eventually but perhaps not before some enterprising person might have taken a peak as to what was on it as was revealed in a recent court case which CPW lost involving Chris de Burgh's daughter. I would never say such a thing but you wonder, don't you?

Some weeks and a verbal admission of blame by an engineering manager later which was subsequently denied, I got through to the 'Office of Charles Dunstone' no less. This is an elite team of 'fixers' who act in his name to remedy customer problems. Don't believe it.

By this time I had cancelled our remaining contract with CPW which happened to be with O2. I was charged the outstanding amount. So when I contacted Dunstone's office all I wanted really was my £40 and remaining contract money back - after all they had agreed not to zap the data and the phone could have been repaired. There was no need to try and scare us into buying a new phone and part with all that cash.

No way. A Neil Rosen actually called me a blackmailer over the phone for asking for my money back. It was as if I was extorting him by holding his family at gunpoint when I had paid them £135 for no service.

What possesses people to say such slanderous things to customers is beyond me - what did he hope to gain by doing so? Did he not know that it as actually something for which he or his company could be sued for? I even consulted a lawyer who said to take them to the Small Claims Court. But guess what? I didn't. Why? Because I could not be bothered even though it would have cost me nothing to do so. I simply did not have the time and energy. Dunstone won.

In the end, I lost the will to live. But I marked down this. To my mind Charles Dunstone and his Carphone Warehouse team tried to extort money out of me for a new phone when the one I had was less than a year old and still working save being able to be charged up. For the price of a new copper connector, the thing could have been repaired and I would still be customer today and set fair for another 12 years of coughing up money to them.

Instead, here I am blogging and tweeting about a bunch of nasties who even had the audacity to accuse one of their customers of 'blackmail' when raising a problem.

So there are CEO's and there are CEOs. Neil Birkett and Virgin Media could not get higher praise from me and they deserve any recommendations I can give.

Carphone Warehouse - don't touch them with a barge pole is my advice and the CEO is full of hot air in pretending to be involved in customer care. Count yourselves lucky you did not get a case raised for slander.

Blackmail, my backside. It was my money - perhaps we should look up the definition in the dictionary.

The Point

All these situations can be avoided. Empowering front line employees is a brave act but giving them the power to make on the spot decisions that even cost money will save loads in the long run.

If you don't believe me, just try and it and see. Customer loyalty doesn't cost that much when you do it right. Do it wrong and it costs a bomb.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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