Johnsons Revisited

Many moons ago I used to be a customer of Johnsons Dry Cleaners but their service wasn’t great, and then they famously mucked two of my friends around something rotten. I wrote a song and blog about this and my friends shared it with Johnsons and they chose (as is their right of course) to ignore the song and my friends requests for help. And I chose to unsubscribe and take my business elsewhere. Since the song went online I’ve had a steady stream of visitors to my site searching for things like ‘Johnsons poor customer service’, but aside from that, peace has reigned for some time and all has been well.

Earlier this week, this arrived in my inbox.

Johnsons unsolicited email

 At the top of this email it says: ‘At Johnsons we never send out unsolicited e-mail  communications’

I didn’t ask for this email – it is therefore unsolicited. I admire Johnsons seemingly persistent ability to do dumb things to customers. And I guess I should thank them too. Why? Well I figured they’ve given me a reason to bring their song around one more time.

Taken to the Cleaners by Johnsons

The Death of Service

dance of death

photo c/o Zaqarbal

Following Dad’s death, I’m starting to tidy up some loose ends. I’m not used to dealing with the vagaries of quite so many companies at once, and I’m having some interesting customer experiences. Here are just a few:

I contacted EDF Energy because I wanted to take over the electricity supply payments at Dad’s place. After long waits on the phone I told EDF their existing bank mandate from Dad’s account would stop and I’d like to start to pick up the tab. And I gave them a meter reading. Two days later – they sent me a final bill into which they’d inserted a piece of marketing titled ‘How Will You Celebrate?’ Now I’m all for celebrating the life of dead friends and family, but come on EDF, that’s a marketing #fail. And they also sent me a sniffy letter saying I was now moved onto a crap (my word), higher priced (their words) tariff because I cancelled the bank mandate. #fail

I wrote a note to Credit Suisse advising them Dad has died and that in due course, I’ll be closing his deposit account. I sent them a certified copy of the death certificate and asked for it back as I need to show it to plenty of other companies too. Today I got a letter from Credit Suisse acknowledging receipt of the certificate and enclosing a bunch of claim forms. No certificate though. I called them up and was told ‘we don’t normally return those’. OK smarty pants, so how the hell else am I supposed to prove the fact of death to all the other companies then? I’m placed on hold for a while before being told ‘we’ll return it to you’. I should coco! #fail

BT has cancelled the phone line and broadband at Dad’s place promptly, I appreciate that. Then they send me a refund cheque made payable to a mystery character, neither me nor my father. So I called them up and after a ten minute wait I get told ‘sorry we made the cheque payable to the wrong person, please return it’. ‘How about I just shred it and you send me another one?’ I ask. But no. BT doesn’t trust me to destroy a cheque for £24 and furthermore because I want it to be made payable to me they now want to see a copy of Dad’s death certificate. BT are now wasting my time, and my money thanks to their mistake. #fail

It’s not all bad. British Gas have been fabulous. They have a dedicated bereavement team and every thing was switched over to me with no fuss and they have kindly offered to hold all the bills and keep the supply going while I sort probate of Dad’s estate. How thoughtful of you, Thanks! And Sutton and East Surrey Water have been simply fab. Easy to deal with, correct about everything. Spot on.

I don’t believe that any of these companies set out to deliver such a poor experience, and at the same time, in order to have front line service people doing such a poor job, something is wrong. It’s not just me taking hassle on board to manage this crap service, all these companies are incurring costs and wasted time too.

I’m not interested in blaming anyone, I have no interest in a departmental finger wagging contest. What I’d really like to see is closer links between HR and customer service and the customer so that we can have better conversations about how to make these things easier. For all of us, in all circumstances. Is that too much to ask do you think?


Five star service from the gutter

While the sun shines I’m doing some house maintenance, namely fixing some guttering (note to my builder, water prefers to flow with gravity – not against it). In the course of my work I need to replace some parts. Some are made by Osma, some by Polypipe. Osma are by far the more expensive option (example – a gutter jointing bracket from Osma is almost £5, a similar Polypipe piece costs less than £2). There seems to be no discernible difference in the quality but I reckoned it was easier to replace like with like.

Osma – sold by Travis Perkins

I arrive at the shop and after a brief friendly chat with someone behind the desk another guy takes me into the yard. He points at where the Osma stuff is and then stands there while I fiddle about with stuff. The guy offers no advice, replies reluctantly to questions and is about as uninterested as he could possibly be. I pay for my (expensive) stuff and leave. To be fair, not a bad experience, but definitely underwhelming and not what I expect when I’m paying top dollar. Although as you’re about to read – the price ain’t what it’s all about.

Polypipe – sold by Plumbase

I arrive at the shop needing a replacement bracket. I have one with me as an example. A friendly guy asks to take the bracket from me and he takes a look. “yeah – we stock these, but this little fixer here” he points to a part of the bracket “it looks wrong.” “How long has it been installed?” the guy asks me. “Around 18 months” I reply. “Well I reckon that’s faulty then” says the helpful chap and quick as a flash he replaces the little piece at no charge and sends me on my way. What a difference. Hands on, interested, and positive. Friendly and fantastic!

I appreciate it can be more tricky when you distribute your brand through others, but in a couple of day’s time I’m going to need a whole load more bits and pieces to complete this project. I wonder where I’ll be returning to buy them?