Sunday 24 April 2011

Just can't get the staff these days...

Bad customer service is a personal bugbear of mine. Working in an industry that consistently delivers bad news to people who are often working through some of the most difficult periods in their lives, good customer service really matters - because that's all you have to play with.

If good customer service can be delivered in those kinds of circumstances, good customer service in a more relaxed environment - and, to pick any random example, let's say the BikeHut department of your local Halfords - should be kittens and cake.

So, my question is (to anyone who will take up the baton for the store) "Why, dear Halfords, do you get it so wrong, so consistently?"

Regular readers will know the initial difficulties we faced when trying to make Carole's pennies stretch a little further in these difficult economic times, and opting for the UK's largest cycle retailer rather then, well, anywhere else really.

It got worse.

We finally got someone to listen to us. We knew our budget, we knew what we wanted. The first salesperson tried to sell us the bike without actually getting the display model down off the rack for a feel. It was the right model, the right size. So, thanks, but no thanks.

We returned the following day, and got someone who actually let us see what we were buying. Satisfied, we placed the order, paid 100% up front, and were promised a delivery date at the end of the week. We agreed to pick the bike up the day after delivery. "We'll call you to confirm," we were told.

And call they did. At 7:30pm on the day of delivery. "I'm sorry, we haven't been able to get your bike off the truck."

So, a failed hydraulic lift isn't the store's fault. But the lack of communication that followed was very poor. The simple query of "When will my bike be ready?" was met, variously, with "Tomorrow," or "It's away back on the truck to Hamilton, I don't know." or "No, I can't find out. It's not my fault." or "You said you'd be away this week so we haven't arranged to get another one."


Finally, we got in touch with the Manager who, to be fair, gave an honest explanation that - had we been given up front - would have prevented three days of frustration and the prospect of me turning up with a rubber hose to beat information out of someone.

Said bike was finally collected from a different store by the Manager himself, and assembled. Full safety check, everything signed, us - finally - happy customers.

For two point five kilometres. Then the left hand crank fell off.

Luckily, Carole was only going at walking pace on a perfectly flat strip of tarmac, away from traffic and pedestrians. Had this been at pace, or off road, under load, or in traffic, the consequences could have been horrific.

Not happy clappy cyclists at that moment. The store was lucky it was closed at the time and, the following day, lucky that the hapless minion who had conducted the safety check was on a day off. Presented with a stripped crank and crank bolt, the staff were, initially, indifferent. I was seething, but remained calm - the Easter Bunny only knows how.

The Manager was duly summoned - "Oh, I don't know, I think he's over there." "Well, I'll just go and fetch him, because clearly you can't be arsed."

The Manager was apologetic, understanding, and put it right - in terms of a new and properly fitted crank, anyway - explaining that it was a problem with the assembly at the factory rather than the store. Fair enough.

But nothing else by way of apology or consolatory gesture.

The result? We're happy with the bike. But not the store. Or the chain. Returning customers?

Not likely.

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