The UK isn’t delivering

March 4, 2009

This is a bit of a consumer rant, but with a delivery focus. The UK isn’t delivering at the most basic levels. Being a customer in this country is a battle through marketing hype in a vain attempt to get the goods or services you want to buy or are already paying for. With businesses struggling you would think that some effort would have been diverted to delivering to customers and improving the bottom line. But not in this country. I’ve wasted half of this morning on the phone as a result.

T-mobile is having network problems. OK, technical problems happen. But when the network is down, customers need to find out whether the problems they encounter relate to the phone or the network. When it’s the network they need to know whether the problem is local or widespread. For a technology company with a large website you might expect some sort of network status on the front page. Not with T-mobile. You can’t contact them from the handset of course, so you have to find a landline. Once you get through, you might expect a recorded message to the effect that the network is down. Not with T-mobile. You get stuck in an interminable queue for 20 minutes, listening to some dire muzak selection. At the end of all that it takes about 20 seconds for someone to say the entire network is down, but by this time the customer has wasted the best part of half an hour.

Wake up, T-mobile. If you have problems delivering the network service, there’s no excuse for wasting the time of thousands of customers this way. Use the technology available to you to deliver information to the customer in 3 seconds, not 30 minutes.

And Keyline aren’t doing any better at delivering shampoo to customers. They talk about brands, not products that customers want to buy. It took numerous emails and phonecalls to find that they had bought the Henara brand from Schwartzkopf. Keyline customer services don’t want to get involved in anything so mundane as telling customers where they can obtain a particular product. All they do is pass the customer on to their wholesaler. The wholesaler doesn’t seem to know what they deliver, all the will say is who they deliver to. This leaves the customer ringing round individual pharmacies to find out whether they stock the particular product.

There’s a pattern emerging here and it’s not an encouraging one. For a long time there’s been a focus on branding and marketing. That’s not a bad thing in itself as it makes the product recognisable and visible. But all the branding and marketing in the world doesn’t bring in a penny if the customer can’t buy the product or access the service. And a customer service department is a complete waste of money if they can’t tell the customer what the customer needs to know.

It all comes back to delivery. In hard economic times customers naturally take more care of their spend, and money will gravitate to the companies which deliver the goods. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?  But companies are surprisingly slow to learn the lesson.