Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Personal Admin - the pursuit of Good Customer Service...

I spend a couple of days a week working as a private PA, as well as having some ad hoc clients. It pays the bills alongside the comedy and the writing, I rather enjoy it, and you get to sit in someone’s house, rather than in an office. People often ask what I do, and my usual answer is “all the personal admin we never get time to do, myself included”. Everything from Meter readings, filing emails, paying bills, sussing out if you could get your Utilities cheaper, to the more fun tasks – organising Christmas presents and cards, researching travel, planning parties, shopping. It’s varied, you have to learn how someone works and then try and fit your methods (which you know work) into their routine – making their life as smooth as possible.

And yet, I rarely get or take the time to sort my shit out. I’m much better than I used to be, and my email inbox is another beast – anything more than a page and I start to stress out – everything is in folders, there’s even one for the boyfriend. But the dressing table in the bedroom is a 50/50 split of cosmetics and paperwork. I then bought 3 stand-up magazine files to put my filing in – the idea being that one was urgent, one was comedy/writing, and one was for filing. They’re all now mixed up. And that’s before we’ve even got to the other piles dotted around the flat. I don’t know quite why I love sorting out someone else’s stuff, and so rarely sort out my own. Maybe paperless is the way to go. In a burn it and regret it later sort of way.......

I think the main reason we put this sort of admin off, is that it takes FOREVER. There are the odd occasions when it’s your fault – you can’t find any paperwork because you’ve probably thrown it out in a fit of pique, and you definitely can’t remember the password from 1999. Then you remember it’s your dead dog’s name, your ex’s name, or worse, a holiday from years ago that you could never afford today. Then you’re not only frustrated but depressed ;-)

But it’s not always our fault. There’s a startling lack of competence in so many companies, that it sometimes beggars belief.  Having worked in Retail in my time, both on the shop floor and in Head Office, my aim was always to be as helpful as possible, to offer the best Customer Service and Brand Experience possible, because, really, that’s my job. And whilst there are companies offering amazing service – Net a Porter, Luigi’s Deli, LRB to name a recent few, there are some shockers. And I’m afraid, that in my old(er) age,  I find myself adapting a Grumpy Old Women state and complaining every time. Because I’m sick of shoddy service.

My O2 broadband is finally back to normal having been moving at a snail’s pace – 0.25Mbps to be exact (it should be 6.0) for what feels like eternity. About a month ago they emailed to say I’d reached my limit (I know, who still gets Broadband with a limit), and they would be slowing my speed down until the next bill. So, I upgraded – no more limit, speed cap to be reduced. Except, the speed cap wasn't removed. Cue emails backwards and forwards with the 'tech' team who seemed incapable of answering my questions, or realising the blindingly obvious, 4 phone calls with the 'tech' team (one of whom was a complete dick), who still refused to believe the speed cap was on, until they did. They offered me a month free - effectively the time I was with zero broadband. Not acceptable. Am awaiting a response from the CEO's office, because yes, I found the email format, followed him on Twitter, and emailed him - because all too frequently, the people at the top of an organisation have no clue what is happening beneath them.

A month or so ago I turned up for a Nail Appointment at Nails Inc, having booked in a week before, and confirmed by text (their system, not mine) the day before. There was no booking in the system for me. This was the second time it had happened. One of the girls admitted that a member of the team was on a promotional day and had been double booked, so it had “probably been taken out of the calendar”. They apologised, but didn’t really seem to think that cancelling and not telling the client was a biggie! What??! That is your entire business! I went mental. And I went mental on Twitter. Cue some vouchers. They redeemed themselves, but I’ll never go to that particular branch again.

My utmost favourite, was when I was trying to buy the boyfriend a pen, but knowing he likes a very thin line, I wanted to know how thick the nib was. I emailed Mont Blanc, and asked them if they could give me the spec of the pen and the nib. A lady from Customer service emailed back, with their Manchester Store address on the signature of the email (presuming that’s where Head Office was), and said she wasn’t sure what size it was, perhaps I could pop into a store and take a look. I replied and said that as they were a luxury pen maker, perhaps a) she should know, and perhaps b) as the store was downstairs from Head Office, she could go and take a look herself....

I’ll stop there, before the moaning takes hold. These are just a few examples. And to be fair, if I get good Customer Service, I often email and say so, so I’m not a complete grump.
But it does make me realise that if something goes wrong, you need time to put it right. In the same way as you need time to do all your paperwork. And most people don’t have time. So most people miss out on offers, miss deadlines and payments, and miss out on refunds which they are surely due. (Setting aside the fraudulent companies that submit PPI claims for people that aren’t due them and hold all the legitimate claims up.... stepping off my bandwagon now... ) And I think a lot of Companies rely on that. They rely on us not pursuing what we are due. What is right. And we really should. Otherwise nothing will change, and that would be a shame.


  1. See now this is one of the reasons I love Twitter, which I've unhelpfully forgotten to include in my latest blog post (KOF KOF), a love letter to Twitter. I cannot ABIDE bad customer service, but Twitter, while it certainly can't stop you from receiving it in the first place, can sure as shit go a long way to resolving it. The last couple of bust-ups I've had - one with my washing machine repair company and the other with Sainsbury's, ended with grovelling apologies and vouchers for me. Twitter makes justice easier to pursue, in ALL walks of life, from the minor irritants to the more profound.

  2. You make great points here. Yep, a common mistake with organization heads is that they overlook what happens beneath their post. I'm sure they'd be shocked to know everything about it. I'm so sorry to hear about your customer service "misfortunes". True, as customers, we should get what we rightfully deserve.

    -Noreen Clay

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