Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A lesson in customer service

Why oh why do some companies get customer service so wrong? 

Do they not think that it matters?  Do they not realise that they may lose business if they don't service their customers well?

In the last month or so, I have been both lucky and unlucky with service I have experienced from companies of which I am a customer.   One of them, though, no longer.

Let's start with first direct:  

Since I started banking with them, more than 22 years ago, I have never had a single cause to complain about the way that they handle my financial affairs.  I use them for telephone banking, making it a highly personal interaction.  Without fail, the call handlers have been efficient, helpful and personable.  It really feels like they are there to do my bidding.

Last time I called them, after we had completed the transaction, the call handler thanked me for being a loyal customer.  Now, I'm not totally stupid, and I realise she was probably being prompted via the script on her computer screen - but nevertheless, it sounded spontaneous, and I was really chuffed as it came so out of the blue.  

So lots of warm, fluffy feelings about my bank.  Not many banks can claim that these days, can they?!

Now let's turn to David Lloyd Leisure:  

I've belonged to my local gym for around 20 years.  For many of those years, I have simply paid a monthly fee not to use the gym, as life got in the way of a regular exercise routine.  But since the start of this year, I have become a regular gym goer and have been seeing a Personal Trainer at least twice a week.  This is a serious commitment on my behalf - in terms of time and most particularly in terms of money.  

A couple of weeks ago, I had a letter telling me that my monthly membership was going up.  Not by very much, but it was enough to make me evaluate just how much I was paying for the privilege of my membership.  Only a day later, I got another letter.  

It started off well.  If I could introduce a friend to personal training, I could win free personal training sessions myself.  Given the cost of these sessions, this seemed a very attractive idea.  If only I knew of any friends who wanted to sign up ...

However, buried in paragraph three of the letter was the real killer.  My personal training bill is going to be increased by £20 a month.  An increase of more than 7%.  So not really a nice, friendly 'how can we reward you' kind of a letter at all.  More a 'let's see if we can slip the bad news out in a way that it may not get discovered' kind of letter.  

I was angry.  Prices do sometimes have to go up.  But be transparent about it, please.  

When I called the club to query this, I was told that they routinely increase prices every two years.  Really?  How many of us get a routine pay increase these days?  In the current climate of austerity, how many of us are going to happily accept price increases of this magnitude?

Next I was told that the price increase was to bring what I paid in line with what people who use the Kensington club pay.  Lovely.  There's a reason I don't live in Kensington!

Interestingly, at the same time as I was frothing at the mouth about this, this article appeared in The Guardian:

David Lloyd Leisure faces painful refinancing

This sentence, in particular, is noteworthy:

"The current economic conditions create uncertainty particularly in relation to membership levels ..."

Well, I'm adding to their uncertainty.  My membership has been resigned, and I'm now a member at another gym - saving myself almost £40 a month.

David Lloyd made no attempt to keep me.  There was nothing from them about how much my membership was valued.  No recognition of my 20 years of membership.  Just a sneaky attempt to get more money out of me.

Not good.  Not good at all.  Hopefully Mr Branson and Virgin Active will value my custom and my loyalty rather more!

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