First World Problems…When Complaints Bear Fruit!

As you may have noticed, I can be a bit publicly moany. But sometimes, being a bit publicly moany can actually get results, whereas being a bit privately disgruntled gets you nowt.

I thought I’d share a success story. The names have been altered, to protect the innocent me because I don’t want to get sued

Here is a little email that I sent to a Generic Mobile Phone Company:

Hello there Generic Mobile Phone Company:

How are you? Well? Good.

I’m not so good.

Allow me to explain:

The reason I’m not feeling so hot at the moment, is because of something that you (not you personally; you, The Company you) have done. And I just feel that I should let you know about your customer “service”. You may have noticed that I used quotation marks around the word “service.” It’s to highlight the irony. Because, service is sadly lacking in some parts and is shoddy, at best. As a positive (I was always taught to follow negatives up with positives) you (you, the Company you – I can’t review you personally) are excellent at selling. You genuinely can’t do enough for me, Mrs Customer, at that crucial stage where I am about to sign up for a commitment to you (you, the Company you.) But, once the selling is done, it all goes a bit downhill, doesn’t it? Once I’ve signed over a bit of monthly salary for two years, and you’ve got me – what then? If I dare to have a problem…well, that seems to be a different kettle of fish entirely.

Allow me to explain:

One day what happened was this – my mobile became unusable. I was unable to download anything, I was unable to purchase anything, and I was unable to get online. And then, suddenly & for no reason, after 3 months of ownership, the screen went completely black. So I took it into my local shop who sent it off for repair on 21st March.

I was comfortingly told, that I would have my phone back within 14 days, unless there was a big problem, but I would be kept informed at all times.

14 days came and went, and I was left uncontacted. If you know me (which you don’t) you’ll know that this is the sort of thing that makes me make this noise: “Grrr”

So, I waited another 3 days (just in case you were operating on some sleepy European time-scale.) But, after 17 days, of being phone-less I had heard nothing. So, what I did was this – I called the shop and explained that I wanted to know what had happened to my phone. The woman on the phone “listened” (there are those quotation marks again) to everything that I had to say, and then “helpfully” (do you see the pattern?) told me that my phone had ben sent away for repair.

I knew this. So I tried to progress the conversation.

I asked for any update on how my little patient was doing, and she told me: “It’s nothing to do with us – we don’t have it”

I knew that she didn’t have it, because I understand the concept of “sent away.”

Eventually, and after much cajoling on my part, I wheedled a contact number out of the woman who took my call, and I even got my repair number, although she did sullenly tell me I could obtain that myself from my paperwork. I mentioned that I was on the phone and it would be easier if she could just tell me what it was, and she said “I’ll have to boot it up and it’ll take ages. Do you want me to have to do that?” I did. I allowed her to boot it up. I thought it would be the most convenient for me. The customer. The paying customer.

Obviously, having to respond to a customer’s request during her paid working hours ruined her day, but I fear that I simply do not care…

So, armed with my spanking new contact number and my individual repair number, I decided to call your “repair hotline” (that is what you, The Company, call it. It is not an accurate name)

I tried to phone your fabulous repair “hotline” on no less than 18 occasions. Each and every time I called, I was advised by your robot that I was in queue position “1” and each and every time I called, something very strange happened – my call was cut off on each occasion after 4 minutes and 40 seconds, and I was simply told to email you from my phone as an alternative. I can’t email you from my phone – you have got it. Which is why I’m trying to phone you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Joseph Helier’s rather excellent classic work of fiction “Catch 22” – this strikes me as a modern-day (albeit more simplistic) interpretation of the conundrums faced within that novel. If you haven’t read it, may I suggest you do. It’s very good.

Right – back to this communication, and my reason for initiating it:

Generic Mobile Phone Company:– I just want to know where my sodding phone is, and if there’s any chance I’ll get it back within a reasonable amount of time, so that I can (if I wish) email, phone and take photographs using the phone that I am still paying a monthly charge for (bravo on that, by the way. Bravo.)

In terms of your customer “service” – do you know, (or care) how frustrating it is for a customer to have their call constantly cut short? Why do that? Why put me in position 1, and then snatch the promise of speaking to an actual person clean away from me? 18 calls at 4 minutes 40, is over an hour and a half of my life, that I will never get back. And that I am paying for. I am also without a mobile phone, which is a huge inconvenience. I am resorting to putting my sim into an old handset, which doesn’t really work properly (touch screen doesn’t respond to touch – NATCH) for emergencies, but this is proving fruitless also.

Look, Generic Mobile Phone Company. I just want my phone back. Or at least an approximation of when it’s going to happen. Or the opportunity to speak to someone who knows where my phone is.

Who’s going to help me out? Come on – there must be someone.

I would also like to take this opportunity to explain why I have emailed this account instead of using your contacts facility. Your online contacts page doesn’t really give me enough of an opportunity to explain myself. If it was more accessible, then I might have just sent you a brief complaint and left it at that. But the fact that you make it virtually impossible for anyone to send you any negative queries just makes my blood boil. It gets my sarcasm going. And then this happens. Do you see?

With that in mind, may I suggest that a) 3000 characters is nowhere NEAR enough to enable me say what I really think and b) when you ask how I would like you to respond to my request, in this instance offering me the choices of “text” and “call to mobile” is, once again, a little shortsighted. If you respond to my complaint with a “text” or a “call to mobile”, then you (the Company, you) will get to read it before I do. That just seems silly.

So that’s why it’s this way, rather than try to utilise the rather difficult-to-access complaints procedure on your website

May I also take this opportunity to “congratulate” you on your fine “Question and Answer” section. When I asked “How Do I Make A Complaint” you suggested I meant one of the following:

How to make a complaint against a third party provider

How to make a complaint regarding nuisance texts

How to make a complaint regarding nuisance calls

Complaints about online billing

…but nothing about how I might make a complaint about you….. I do hope I’ve found a way…

Yours in eager anticipation

Bectora Morrisio

My Reply:

Thanks for your email Bectora advising me that you would like to know your repair status.

I’m sorry if you still needed to get back to us about this matter and I know how important it is for you to know the progress the repair. I’ll be more than glad to sort this out for you.

I can understand that you preferred to receive an email response however, I feel that your concern can be best resolved over the phone and you might have follow up questions about your account. Hence, I’ve decided to try to call you on this numbers 079******93 and apparently, I’m unable to get in touch with you.

Bectora,, I appreciate your comment about our customer service, rest assured that this will be taken care of immediately. I will send your feedback right away to my manager so he’ll be able to cascade this to our next level of support and will be addressed right away. It will be cascaded to everybody so our service will be improved in the future.

I’ve consulted our repair team for you and I was advised that your phone was received on 25 March at around 12:36. Once it has been received it may take up to 14 calendar days to be repaired and returned to you.

Furthermore, you may get in touch with our repair centre through this helpline number
************* so you’ll also be advised what exactly the progress is about your phone. However, you can still always monitor your repair status through our website by clicking HERE

Moreover, as gesture of goodwill, we’ll compensate the number of days you’re unable to use the service and I would also like to offer you one free month of phone usage as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience that you have been caused just please get back to us once you receive your phone back so we’ll be able to effectively add the credit on your account

If you wish to further discuss this matter, you may reply to this email with your alternative number and the convenient time to call so I can arrange a call back for you.

Thanks again for your email Bectora,I hope this puts your mind at rest and I’ve explained everything clearly for you.

If you have any further queries, please feel free to reply to this email

****************************

Result!

Will You Never Learn, ADT?

Oh ADT – what were you thinking? Didn’t we already have this discussion last year? Didn’t we resolve the situation to everyone’s (my) satisfaction? Didn’t we sign off on the dotted line with a big fat “case closed”?

I say we did. Which then begs the question: “What the deuce do you think you’re doing now?”

Remember, dear ADT, in the Summer of 2010, when we met? My first – Mr ADT Salesman, you pattered your way into my heart with promises of free intruder alarms and low-cost monitoring. I relented. I gave in. I couldn’t resist the tiny monthly fee, the gratis shiny alarm box and the prompt and free installation.

Remember how we laughed, Mr ADT Engineer, as you installed my alarm, and I told you about my former professional relationship with Mr Chubb Alarms. Remember that heady conversation where you pledged that you would “never be able to pull the wool” over my eyes, as I knew all about the pitfalls and detractors of alarm companies.

Remember the signing of the paperwork? That special moment where I read the small print, and noted that my monthly fee was a 2-year commitment, and that when…nay… if…I wanted to end our relationship at the end of those beautiful first days, then I could – with no remorse, no recrimination and no pleas to stay. I could walk away with, as a memento of our time together, my lovely bells-only alarm box.

Remember how I said how much I admired the deal? How impressed I was at your generosity. We even talked about how, if I moved, I would get a new box. A shinier one, and at no cost to me.

ADT, I felt wanted. Valued. Desired.

But then, it went wrong, didn’t it ADT? It just went wrong.

The honeymoon period was over, and the box began to show faults. I called you – more than once. Do you remember, Mr ADT Call Centre Man? Do you remember how I told you that we were in line fault? That our alarm was no longer being monitored? Do you remember how you denied it at first, and then admitted it? There was a fault.

And it was yours.

You had left my line unwatched. Unloved. For five lonely months. You claimed that you had written and tried to call – but then I discovered the truth. You were sending letters to another address. The correspondence meant for me had been going to another – on my own street.

At first you tried to laugh it off – tried to tell me it was an honest mistake. But we both knew, right then, that this was the beginning of the end for us. Do you remember, Mr ADT Call Centre Man, how you offered me a paltry one month’s free monitoring? As if that would compensate for the hurt I had suffered. You then stood down – you realised your fatal error, and you offered me a full refund of those wasted months. You offered me compensation for the following six months.

I accepted your offer.

You lied.

There was no compensation. No refund came my way. And, to add insult to my poor, injured alarm-pride, you sent me letters telling me I owed you money.

I OWED YOU!?

So I spoke to Mrs ADT Supervisor. I explained everything about the breakdown of our relationship. She held my hand through that terrible, dark period of not-knowing. And she made things alright.

The money came into my account. I terminated our arrangement. I told you I never wanted to see you again. The box remained on my wall – a bitter reminder of what might have been. No monitoring. Just lonely bells.

Months passed and I started to heal. When I set my alarm, there was no message of line fault. No plea to call an engineer – just an alarm, and gradually I forgot the pain of those months before.

And now – ADT – now this? Now you send a letter, telling me that you want my box back. That it doesn’t belong to me, and that you only let me have it whilst our relationship included monitoring. You tell me I must pay, or you will remove it.

And do you know what I say to you? I say this: “Screw you, ADT.”

You have taken enough from me.

I will not allow you to remove the last vestiges of my dignity by scurrilously unscrewing my box. For it is, mine, ADT. It is mine.

Do you remember, when we signed that form together? Me and you, Mr ADT Salesman? Do you remember what it said? It said that should our monitoring relationship falter after 24 months together, then the box would belong to me.

I know that’s what it said, because I found it and read it earlier on tonight.

So, my darling ADT, you can take your indignant letter and your passive-aggressive direct debit form, and you can shove them up your bells

The box is mine, I owe you nothing and I am free.

Estate Agents? Pah!

I have, this week, had the misfortune to be on the wrong side of some incredibly poor customer service from one of our biggest Estate Agencies. Let’s call them Thy Motion.

The facts are pretty straightfoward. My good-sized three bedroomed semi in a nice quiet street in a decent-ish sized town with great transport links and a good back garden, was placed up for sale in September 2010. By December 2012 it had been the subject of three viewings. Three. In 27 months. That’s pretty poor, but the Estate Agency cannot necessarily be held accountable for the stagnancy of the market.

What they can be held accountable for, however, are the following issues:
1) Losing our mobile phone numbers and pretending that we never gave them to them – even though they managed to call us on them a few times in the early months. Then getting angry with us for not being contactable.
2) Claiming that we had not paid an energy certificate fee, accusing me of lying about it and actually removing our house from the market until they received payment – and then miraculously finding our (dated) cheque sitting in a drawer in the branch that I had personally handed it in to some weeks earlier
3) Contacting us from their own call centre, to advise us that our estate agency were under performing, providing very poor service and that we should ditch our agent and go with them – and then, rather rudely and swiftly putting the phone down on me when realising that THEY were, in fact, our estate agent
4) Failing to respond to FOUR requests to retake the photographs of our house, because they were initially done at night and looked rubbish – and then claiming that they had no record of our requests. In fact – taking rubbish photographs of our house in the first sodding place, and advising that it was “usual policy” to take them in the dark with poor artificial lighting.
5) Not listing our property in their branch window or in the local newspaper – and then disclaiming that by telling us that it was an ineffective marketing tool anyway. Which is not, let me assure you, the marketing that they used in the initial hard sell!
6) Telling us that they tried desperately to contact us on 13 occasions to discuss some of the above, but were unable to because they couldn’t get through via landline or email – and then emailing us on a totally separate matter and failing to mention it.

They can, and should be held responsible for all of those things. Which is what I told them when I sent them a beautifully worded letter, detailing those 6 plus another 6 offences that they have committed over the last two and a half years.

The course of action which prompted me to write this letter was their “withdrawal fee” of £250 +VAT, which we received an invoice for when we decided that as they weren’t actually doing anything, we’d probably be better off not having our house on the market with them. I feel quite strongly, that the withdrawal fee was unreasonable, considering the catalogue of error which befell our contract with Thy Motion.

The Withdrawal Fee is an incredibly cynical charge. You see, Thy Motion tell you that they are a “no sale, no fee” agent. What they mean by that is that they won’t charge you for not selling your house, if they don’t sell your house, whilst they are trying to sell your house. With me? Hang in there… what they WILL charge you a fee for, is if you leave the contract or if they bin you. So, basically, if you don’t sell your house, but stay “on their books” you won’t get charged. It’s only if you ask them to remove the For Sale sign that you get whacked with this fee.
Anyway, as the For Sale sign clashed with our venetian blinds, we thought we’d rather have it removed then it live there indefinitely, so we withdrew from the contract, but I did go on to dispute their fee. I wrote a very respectful and eloquent letter detailing why I felt we had not received good service, and that we felt the waivering of the fee would be a goodwill gesture and small recompense for the (numerous) difficulties that we had had.
Thy Motion disagreed. Which, actually, is fine. It’s their business, and even though their service is dreadful, they did loan us a lovely For Sale board and they occasionally answered a few phone calls. And we did sign a contract tying us to the withdrawal fee.
That was not the problem.
The problem was an unimaginably rude letter which I received in reply to mine, from their “Customer Relations Manager”. The quotation marks here are sarcastic.
Essentially, her letter consisted of a list of most of my points (most, not all. She helpfully ignored the ones that she clearly couldn’t dispute) and a couple of paragraphs for each one of my points, detailing exactly why none of it was their fault, and all of it was mine

I’ll give you some examples:
I advised that our property had not appeared in the estate agency window or the local newspaper, in direct contravention of their policy. I contacted the branch three times, and was told that it wasn’t a very effective advertisement anyway (like that was alright then.) This was the reply I received:

“You say that we did not advertise your property in the window. Yet you did not complain about this at the time. Complaints at the time of an issue are a good indication of how much importance a person attaches to a problem. You did not complain. This is a non-issue”

Ooh – But I did complain. I did. I did. Am I allowed for it to be an issue now, m’lady?
Here’s another:

“What strikes me upon reading your file, is how difficult it was to contact you. Our branch attempted to contact you on no fewer than 13 occasions, but we had no response, and there was no facility to leave a message. Also, you didn’t furnish us with your mobile phone numbers until your house had been on the market for 16 months. If I was a seller, I would have been concerned that I had not heard from my branch, and I would have checked in with them. You did not seem to show such concern. Perhaps the other minor issues that you mention could have been cleared up, had our branch been able to speak to you. I cannot confirm that this was, indeed, a problem”

13 occasions, you say? Hmm. It’s funny how I actually have a text on my mobile from Thy Motion around 6 months after it went on the market, booking a viewing. Oh, and an email confirming a price reduction. Oh, yes, and I dug out an old phone bill and…voila…there is Thy Motion’s phone number on it. I guess I called them a couple of times. Oh, and I have my carbon copy here of the original assessment form, with all of our contact details on it, including those pesky mobiles. Still, if you say 13 times, then it MUST be right.

Do you see a pattern forming?

Essentially, this patronising, truth-bending, fact-omitting tosspot had the nerve to respond to my well-mannered request with a long list of exactly why everything was my responsibility and my fault, and actually blamed me for not following up with the branch after I had complained about something. Because apparently, that’s not their obligation!
If I claimed that I had a conversation with a member of staff, she disputed that it had ever happened because there was no evidence (dammit, if only I’d taken a Dictaphone, or video recorded my visits!) At no point did she apologise that I felt inconvenienced and at no point did she express any kind of empathy or concern that a client had cancelled her company’s service because of a bad experience. In fact, at one point she even stated: “We do not guarantee that anybody will ever want your house. This is not how an estate agency works”

Well, no shite Sherlock?! Really??

You see, I thought you had a cellar-full of ’em somewhere? You know, itching to get on the ladder. Or, failing that, I thought you were a marketer of properties. Well, shoot – now I feel bad for expecting you to, you know, MARKET OUR PROPERTY.

At the end of the day I didn’t get the money off, which was what I wanted. And that’s disappointing. But it was worth a shot. That wasn’t really the problem. The problem here is lack of good, old-fashioned giving-a-monkey’s-about-your-end-user customer service.
You know, I look at this, and it really gets on my nerves. It could have been so easily avoided whatever they thought of me personally – I don’t care if they read my complaint, laughed about it in the office, “filed” it in a bin, or called me a harridan or whinge-bag in the privacy of their offices. I don’t care if they laughed at my audacity, were incredulous that I’m a chancer, or just thought “here we go again.” I don’t care if I NEVER stood a chance of getting a bit of a discount.
I care that WHATEVER their personal responses to my complaint, their directed response to me should have been respectful. They should have acknowledged I felt inconvenienced and unhappy. They should have advised me that they were investigating. They should have confirmed they believed me. And they should have said sorry. Apologies do not have to represent culpability and they could have apologised that I was left feeling that way, assured me that they were going to look into some of those practices, and then advised me that unfortunately they can’t waiver the charge, even if they didn’t mean a rotten word of it.

Instead, they have inflamed me. So, I have written back, and I have withheld nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

I have let them know exactly what I think of their response, and I have even, very kindly, written them a template that they can use in the future.

I know how companies like that sort of a thing.

I have sent it to the CEO, the board members, the committee members, various business managers, a few people in HR, a number of branch managers, and quite a few pretenders to the customer relations throne. Oh, and to several of their competitors along with a copy of their original letter. Because, let’s face it, I can’t fight a company that huge on any kind of productive level – they won’t give a gnat’s doodah about what one house-seller feels, and nothing I do or say will have any kind of business impact one way or another.

But I can waste a bit of their admin time, I can infuriate a couple of them on a minor level, I can maybe even raise a bit of awareness within the closing ranks, and I can hope against all hope, that the “Customer Relations Manager” gets a paper cut.
Because, actually, this week I’m sweating the small stuff.
And because it is making me smile!

Thy Motion? Gazump THAT up your leasehold!