June was a big month for us, customer service wise.  We had occasion to test the service of hotels, restaurants, technology providers, a few airports, an insurance company and the police.  Mostly we had good experiences.  In fact some of our experiences were exceptional.  And one was, and still is, like walking barefoot over shards of glass while giving a piggy back to a whale.  What we have gleaned from our experiences isn’t rocket science.  It’s not news, either.  What we’ve seen is a direct correlation between how empowered the front line staff are, and the level of service that customers receive.  Which in turn affects whether we will use that service again.  Of course, with the police you don’t have much choice, but we found them very helpful.

The stand-out experiences for good customer service came from Apple, and the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel in London.

At the beginning of June we bought a new MacBook Pro from the Apple Store in Glasgow.  We’d had a consultation with the business team and I was excited when Kimber and I brought it home.  But the excitement soon wore off.  We just weren’t that impressed with the  machine.  It seemed so slow compared to what we were expecting.  I was disappointed.  After a few weeks I emailed the Apple Store to tell them of my experience, not expecting that there would be anything they could do about it.  After all, it’d been almost a month and I’d been using it.  But that’s not how Apple rolls.  They replied immediately and followed the email up by phone.  Please could I bring it back so they could check it out, and even if there was nothing technically wrong with it, they’d swap it for something else that I deemed more suitable.  Wow!  I wasn’t expecting that.  So I took it back, had another consultation, and had an iMac delivered the next day!  Awesome service and they couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful.  Very impressed.

At the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel, on Baker Street (of course!), London, we had a lovely room, but there was a small problem with it on our second day there.  The receptionist was fantastic: she apologised, sympathised, empathised, and told us exactly what steps she was going to take.  We were happy.  But on our return, not only had they fixed the problem, there was also a personal apology letter from the manager, and complimentary wine and chocolates.  It shouldn’t have surprised us to get such exceptional service, because every single member of staff was so friendly and helpful.  I would definitely recommend it and we’ll certainly return.

So that’s the heaven of customer service: easy to deal with, customer focussed, and staff who are empowered to serve the customer’s needs.  What of the hell?  That experience belongs to Playstation.  My husband has been loyal to Playstation since the beginning.  He had Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and when it came out last November, I stood in a mile-long queue to bags him a brand new Playstation 4.  And now I wish I hadn’t bothered.  He’s had problems from the start and eventually, when certain games wouldn’t play, he contacted their customer services.  They suggested reboots and other ‘fixes’, but none of it worked so they asked him to send it back.  After a couple of weeks it was returned with a standard letter saying, essentially, that it might have been repaired (I’m not joking!); and whether it was or not is irrelevant because it still didn’t work properly.  At this point, my usually patient husband was asking for his money back so he could go and buy an X-Box, but agreed to send the console back if they sent him a new one.  Well it turns out that Playstation customer support aren’t empowered to do that, so they sent him a console that someone else had sent back and that they had ‘remanufactured’.  I know you won’t be surprised to learn that it doesn’t work properly either.  When he contacted Playstation for the hundredth time (and they only employ about two people so you have to wait on the line for over forty five minutes, listening to music that will drive you to commit crime), the chap said that it sounded very unusual and he would escalate it to Head Office to see what could be done about it.  And that the husband could expect to hear back in around two weeks!!!!!  Now the machine won’t even switch itself on.  So the saga continues.  And all for a little empowerment!

Please share your experiences with me!  I’ve probably had enough heaven to make up for the hell, but it’s a fine balance, and I reckon Playstation are about to tip it… 😉