Friday Fury – PC Whirled

I’ve been contacted by a disgruntled customer of PC World. The writer wishes to remain anonymous and has asked if I’d care to share their tale of woe. What follows is truly the stuff of Friday Fury. How does service get to be this bad? What’s gone wrong with the customer experience and the employee experience? And why don’t organisations take a more holistic view and try harder to weave the two together?

If you’d like to appear in person or anonymously in a future Friday Fury – feel free to get in touch. Now it’s over to our mystery shopper…

I told a friend that I was going to write to The Daily Telegraph after my trip to PC World. This means I was angry. In turn, it means I was ribbed by said friend and offered an imaginary monocle and honorary red bulbous nose. By the way, the cure for a red bulbous nose is to drink more of the brandy that caused it in the first place.  It will then turn purple. Thats one of my dad’s favourite jokes.

We had gone to PC World to buy a laptop. I was disappointed at how hopelessly I was served and how haplessly they then missed the opportunity to sell me something. Despite the ranting tone I employ here, the key word is disappointed. Disappointed by the false economy of seeking to compete with online shopping by stripping out all the value out of the bricks and mortar experience of buying something expensive, useful, which had been the subject of careful consideration and which was therefore worth paying a little premium for in return for knowing it’s really what you were after and, most importantly,  for having it RIGHT NOW!

The bad service was bordering on the funny. Having loitered purposefully for 20 minutes next to the machine I wanted and close to a couple who had been waiting to buy an iPad for 40 minutes, a young man, whose left ear someone had cruelly attacked with a hole punch, told  me that while he could inform a manager of our need to be served, he could not actually go to the store room and get me a laptop himself. This despite my clear and unambiguous requirement for “one of those”.

I did not need to be advised, merely served. I got a computer science degree in 1989 and therefore have a life long right to pretend that I know all about computers and if I need IT advice these days I just ask someone in HR on Twitter anyway.

Eventually, Holepunch told  Manager, seemingly a Mr Demarcation, who told Bob (no cavernous piercings but a tattoo of his name in mirror writing on his forehead to remind him who he is every fourth or fifth day when he gets a shave) that we would like one of those laptops. Normally, say in a bar where I have the futile habit of trying to ensure that queues are managed fairly, I would have pointed Bob, when he finally arrived, at the iPad buyers first, but I feared someone giving Bob a gold watch in the further intervening 20 minutes and ushering him off to retirement before he got back to us, so I allowed him to serve us. The other couple went home to pre order an iPad 4 (ok, so I made that bit up, and the tattoo).

The haplessness was that when we were finally served they didn’t have any of the laptop we wanted, the one which came top of the latest Which survey, in stock. They carry one at most. This isn’t lean, it’s stupid. I am a middle aged man. Therefore, in turn, I am stupid enough to pay an extra 10% to instantly own a product that will be used for ~5 years. In other words I ascribe 10% of the cost to the value of getting it five days earlier than if I bought it on line. I am that stupid, and so are lots of people. It is easy (trivially so) to predict that the most popular product will sell, even in tough times. This is not a one off, it happened in the same store when I last bought a television, the sort that comes with a nylon shirt, jogging pants, a nosebag and which is so big you have to watch it the wrong way through a telescope through which you can still see the bubbles in Wayne Rooney’s spit.

On both occasions I went home, bought the item on line, with the gratuitous and deliberate intent of buying it anywhere but from PCWorld / Currys.

Do you want to hear the one about the man (one guess who) who stood on top of a huge pile of a4 paper in another PC World to shout and attract the attention of the staff so they might serve a group of people all of whom wanted, separately, immediately and without question, to buy large items? Perhaps another time, but it’s entirely true. I never learn, but neither do they!

photo c/o Joelk75


I have been sent a sad tale of unrequited love. So heartbroken is the author, they wish to remain nameless. Grab a tissue and read on:

“I’ve been a content Vodafone pay monthly customer for 8 years.  My contract is due to expire this April and normally, Vodafone’s upgrade team has been very efficient and helped me to get the best new deal as well as regular new handsets every couple of years.

With impending contract renewal looming, I decided to shop around.  My first port of call, naturally (as a loyal customer) was Vodafone.  I looked at upgrade options in their store and spoke to some pleasant staff members.  However, the upgrade deals they were offering me, cost MORE per month than I was currently paying, while I would receive LESS calls / texts / mobile internet allowance.  I’m no businessman, but those economics simply don’t add up.

So I started look in other shops, just to see the state of the mobile industry with other providers.  Needless to say, T-Mobile’s Full Monty proposition (£36 per month for 2,000 minutes, unlimited T-Mobile minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet) has been causing quite a lot of interest.  I spoke to some helpful staff in a T-Mobile store and have made the decision to take out a contract with them, when my current one expires in April.

I set about contacting Vodafone to inform them that I wished to cancel my contract when it expired, since T-Mobile offered the best deal for me on the market.  Their response?  Not a lot.

‘We’re sorry you’re thinking of leaving us…’  ‘Good’ I thought, thinking that they would be able to offer me a similar sort of deal in order to keep my custom.  ‘Here’s what you need to do to cancel your contract with us.’

That was it.  After 8 years together, through thick and thin, I felt like I was being let go.  No effort to fight and save our relationship; no pleading that they can change, we can make it work, we’re meant to be together.  Just a cold email accepting that they no longer want to keep me in their lives.

And as a customer, that feels pretty shoddy.

Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that losing my £30-odd quid a month is going to cripple Vodafone.  Perhaps their business strategy for this year does not permit them to price-match T-Mobile’s Full Monty offering.  BUT, I would at least like to be reminded of the memories we shared together.  Made to feel like they actually cared we were breaking up and moving on with our lives.   Instead – nothing.

Over 8 years with Vodafone, I must have spent over £2,000 with them – that ain’t small cheese.  And you know what?  Had they handled the current situation better, I might have stayed with them for another 8 years.  Got my future family on-board down the line.  And what does that add up to?  Lots.

So the point I’m making is this – I understand that when you can’t offer a customer a financial solution that fits their needs, for whatever reason, then you can’t.  But customer service remains a crucial aspect of a retail relationship – and Vodafone’s apparent lack of concern for my feelings has driven me firmly into the hands of a new, different lover.

Let’s hope this relationship proves more fruitful.”

So dear reader, what do you think? Is the customer right to feel jilted, or should Vodafone feel comfortable to let the customer run into the amrs of another? I’m not sure about this one. After all, the Vodafone logo has a giant teardrop right on the centre, maybe they are just too heartbroken to talk about it…

Vodafone Logo


Team Work

Today we’re looking at how teams of people can come together and integrate difference without losing it. As a result, they can create great power with and for each other, not over each other. Here are two good examples.

Last week a committed bunch of football supporters got together at a fund raising event to raise £10,000 for their club. The club will use this money to help fund a loan player for the squad until the end of the season. The group of supporters are known as the Tranmere and Wirral Football Supporters’ Trust, the football club is Tranmere Rovers. The event was promoted on national radio by the trust and club together, it was featured on the club’s official website and doubtless elsewhere locally too. The supporters trust succeeded and hit their fundraising goal. This interested me for three reasons:

1 – It’s unusual, and impressive, to see a football supporters trust working closely with the club they support. Too often these trusts are viewed as an unnecessary irritant by the club, and I know this has been the case in the past in this example. Now, differences have been overcome, and clearly everyone is working together for a common aim.

2 – This shows how powerfully people can unite in support of a cause, or brand, they believe in. The people who supported this fund raiser have lots of differences. Where they live, how they work, what they look like, religious beliefs will doubtless be just a few differences. Yet they’ve integrated those differences and come together to show visible leadership in support of something important to them.

3 – This proves that persistence pays off. As a lifelong Tranmere Rovers supporter and former member of the Trust I’m personally delighted to see that.

I had a chat with Brad Jennings this week. Brad’s an interesting guy, currently working with Vodafone. He focuses on the power of communication to create a branded employee experience which in turn will create a branded customer experience.

Brad spoke about the excitement that can be generated in large organisations around bringing the spirit of the brand to life. He spoke passionately (well what did you expect?) about:

How powerful it is when people come together in support of the brand they work for and believe in. The people who work in Vodafone have lots of differences both individual and the role they play within the organisation, so the goal is to merge those differences and bring people together to support something important to everyone.

Each employee loves the brand in their own individual way, so why not release that spirit and encourage employees to be brand advocates not brand clones.

Brad’s approach is about energy and passion to ignite the brand by integrating the difference without losing the difference. That’s powerful.