This has probably been filed under the wrong category, because I’m actually not in the least disgruntled despite waiting in most of the day on and off for our comfy new spare bed to be delivered.
It all started off so well, with the firm ringing to confirm the delivery date a couple of days in advance and then ringing in the morning to give us a target arrival time – so none of your British Gas style house arrest, when the engineer promises to come ‘between eight and one’, leaving you stuck for the entire morning (and then arriving during the three minutes you pop out for a paper, but that’s another story altogether). They duly arrived as advertised, brought down the bed and started assembling it, only to discover that they had brought the wrong bed. Profuse apologies all round, a quick call to the head office and a new bed was promised, they left the mattress and the drawers and disappeared off leaving me to arrange a new delivery time and get on with my day. Then I get another call. They have also left the wrong drawers (‘They’re the wrong drawers, Gromit!’) so can they come and pick them up. I go back to the house, get another call – they’re on their way – hang around in the garden in the sunshine – get another call – they’ve found the bed and are going to bring it with them. Half an hour later, bed has been delivered and assembled, cheery delivery men have apologised for the nineteenth time, correct drawers are here, wrong drawers and bed have gone, and I am waving my new best friends off as they drive into the sunset.
This episode has raised a lot of questions (like how on earth can you lose a bed?) but the main one is why I am so happy about it. Fundamentally, the company cocked up, not once but several times. But then they did a strange and unusual thing: they put it right without me having to do anything at all. And so here are Disgruntled Consumer’s rules on how to stuff it up big time and still maintain a happy customer:
1. Apologise early and apologise often. I don’t know why this is hard for companies to do. I suspect there’s some legal principle behind it, but mostly what people want is to hear someone say sorry. A lot.
2. Ring up – that’s you ring them – and sort it out as soon as possible. If you cock up again, sort that out too. Apologise a bit more. If you reach the point where the customer is apologising back at you, you have probably hit the right level of apologeticness.
3. Do what you say you’re going to do and a bit more besides. Then apologise again. Then sort it out promptly. While apologising. I don’t think I can overstate this apologising part too much…
4. Don’t allow even your most cynical of staff to try and imply that it is somehow the customer’s fault that you have cocked up. If you hear one of your staff trying to do this, cheerfully contradict them. If they are hinting that the customer might have forgotten what she ordered or might be living in an inconvenient part of London or be a little unreasonable in not wanting to take a whole week off waiting in for delivery men, overrule them (and then apologise). Offer them something they haven’t even dreamt of instead, like evening delivery. I didn’t even know that was legal …
5. Have insanely cheerful (but apologetic) delivery men. Oh, and try and cock up on a gorgeous day in May when everybody is happy anyway. That helps a lot.
So there you have it. British Gas, are you listening?
* you know I only choose these titles to attract unsavoury Google hits