Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Customer Service 101 – Don’t P*** off your loyal customers!

I recently responded to a special offer from British Gas to service my central heating boiler. Being a somewhat cynical soul, I checked out the website first and the offer appeared to be genuine.

Rather than book via the website I decided to call and, hopefully, speak to a ‘real person’ in case I had any questions.
My call was quickly directed to a customer service person (only one set of options to go through!) and I told the young lady in question that I wanted to book a date for one of their engineers to come and service my gas boiler for the special offer price.

I was asked if I was aware that by paying a very modest monthly sum, I could insure for parts replacement and labour. Saying ‘Thanks for the information, but no thanks’ politely, I repeated my request to book the special offer boiler service as advertised.

I was then asked how I wanted to pay. This came as a bit of a surprise to me and I naively said that I didn’t expect to have to pay until after my boiler had been serviced.
This apparently was not possible, despite my asking if being a loyal customer for nearly 30 years counted for nothing?

I decided against taking up the special offer.

There are 3 areas where I believe British Gas need to look at their customer service:

1. By all means upsell to another (higher price) product but please, not until after you’ve made the initial sale!

2. Asking for the money before even checking for a convenient appointment date is just being greedy!

3. Wanting the money upfront from new customers is understandable. Wanting it upfront from existing customers is an insult. If it isn’t possible for the engineers to take money, why not add it on to the next bill?

I realise I’m in danger of being labelled a ‘grumpy old woman’, but at a time when customers have so many supplier choices, it isn’t rocket science to realise that loyalty needs to be rewarded. Keeping existing customers happy is a lot cheaper than trying to find new ones. But then, perhaps that isn’t an issue for British Gas?

(Since writing this post Centrica, the owner of BG have announced profits of £1bn and BG tell us there is to be a price rise of 35% - I rest my case.)

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