Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Virgin Trains quiet coach a damp squib

I, like several of my contacts, was pleased when Virgin did not after all lose the West Coast Main Line franchise, because their trains are a lot more comfortable than First TransPennine's alternatives - and their customer service is better.

At least that's what I thought.

Yesterday evening I was travelling home from Edinburgh by train as I often do.  I sat in the quiet coach, again as usual.  And someone behind me in the carriage was playing their music so loudly that I could hear it even when the train was going fast.

You're really not supposed to do that in the quiet coach.

I wondered whether to say something to the person concerned, but decided to keep quiet and let the train manager see to it.  Which I would have thought was part of what he is there for.

He came in to check tickets - and didn't say anything to the culprit about turning their music down.

Then he came through the carriage again - and still didn't say anything.

By now fuming, I tweeted:
What is the point @VirginTrains of having a quiet coach if you are not going to police it?!
Virgin replied:
Hi Emily, we do have signs, and sometimes the Train Manager will make announcements.
I fired off several tweets in quick succession:
@VirginTrains If someone is playing really loud music and the train manager TWICE walks past them without saying anything... Poor do!
@VirginTrains Signs and announcements are not always adequate, they need to be reinforced and enforced individually!
@VirginTrains That is your cue to ask me which train I'm on and send the Train Manager to the quiet coach to sort the problem... come on...
(Emphasis added for the blog.)

I really did hope the last one might spur them into action, given that I'd actually spelt out how I thought they should resolve the problem, instead of just expecting them to think of something to do and do it.

No such luck.  Their reply was:
sounds like there are some very naughty people in your coach :( but yes we do rely a lot on the public to follow
By now I was spitting teeth.  As my final tweet to them said:
@VirginTrains That is not good enough. There is no point YOU nominating a coach as quiet if YOU are not going to enforce it!
To which they made no answer!

People will not always obey signs.  And it shouldn't be up to fellow passengers to challenge those who break the rules of the quiet coach.  I'm a woman who's often travelling alone, and I don't want to - and shouldn't have to - go and challenge some hulking teenage lad who's got his iPod on too loud.  It's surely the train company's and train manager's job to make sure that passengers keep to the rules.  Otherwise there's no point putting up signs to make a coach quiet.

So Virgin Trains, on this occasion you have won a Damp Squib award for poor customer service!

UPDATE: I posted a link to this blog on Virgin's Facebook page.  They've had over 24 hours to respond but so far they've ignored it completely!  That's a double damp squib!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Brilliant service from a brilliant team!

Michael Heppell's team answer the phone, "Hello, it's a brilliant day at Michael Heppell, [person's name] speaking, how can I help you today?"

That greeting, spoken in a sincere, friendly voice as if the person at the other end of the phone is really happy to be talking to you and genuinely cares about helping you, was all it took this morning to cheer me up.

Why did I need cheering up?

I'd been struggling to book on Michael's seminar in Gateshead next month.  First the (third party) site had the wrong date for public booking, then it said I had to register and give my boss's details as well as mine (why?!), and then it said I couldn't book at the moment.  The lady at Gateshead tried to resolve the problem by referring it to their design team, but I hadn't heard from her in a few hours.  And when I tried to phone to book, the phone wasn't answered.

In a state of some frustration I rang my contact at Michael's office, Ruth.  She had been very helpful in advising me of the seminar in the first place, and then in advising me how to book.  And her friendly voice coming down the phone made me feel better straight away.

Ruth understood immediately the trouble I'd been having, and she personally rang the Gateshead office to try and book.  She had no luck either - and she rang me back to tell me so and that she would keep trying.  Now that is top service because she kept me in the picture.  She really did care whether I booked on the course or not.

Eventually, my contact at Gateshead said she would book me on the course herself if I would give her an address for the invoice.  That was good service too.

Thanks to both those ladies but especially to Ruth, who made me feel valued and appreciated as a customer and delivered brilliant service.

Why my Pinterest account lasted... 5 minutes!

I liked the sound of Pinterest - being able to make a collection of images and videos - so I created myself an account.

Then 5 minutes later I deactivated it.


When you pin an image or a video in Pinterest, you assign a category to it.  There was no category for "business".  Most of the articles or videos I would pin as "of interest to me" would be business-related.  So I contacted Pinterest support and asked if they could add this new category.

Instantaneously they came back with an answer.


No.  Because it was a template reply written by a machine.

The reply had my name wrong (addressing me by the first part of my business name).  It said 'Unfortunately, we’re a small team and we won't be able to respond to your email".  Pathetic!  Don't invite customers to e-mail you if you haven't got enough people to answer them!

I answered the message saying "well if you can't add a category, please can I add one?"

And got another template reply!

This time it said:

"We received your reply. We love interacting with pinners, but usually can’t respond individually to this type of request. Rest assured we are always listening and we’re frequently making improvements to Pinterest and our documentation based on what we read in emails like this one."

Well I'm sorry but I don't believe that.  If they "love interacting with pinners" why do they not respond individually to their customers?  And if they're "always listening" why do they send canned replies?

I'm a passionate believer in the concept of customer delight.  Customers should come away from an interaction feeling valued and cherished, even if the supplier can't always do what the customer wants.  I came away feeling like I'd been brushed off like an annoying fly.  Not nice.

That's why my Pinterest account has been deactivated.  And it won't be reactivated unless Pinterest sharpen up their customer service.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Diamond service for a Diamond celebration

I was looking for something really special to celebrate the launch of Epoc's new Diamond and Crystal beds at Decorex International 2012, not only because they are the first beds in the UK to feature Biocrystal technology for an extra restful sleep, but because the first limited edition Diamond bed, named in honour of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, has been gifted to The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and is expected to fetch in excess of £20,000 when auctioned in the run up to Christmas.

That's not something that happens every day and a special gift for my contacts at Biocrystal and Epoc was in order.  So I asked the biscuiterie if they could make some iced biscuits in the shapes of - you've guessed it - diamonds and crystals.

The team at the biscuiterie, which is a new business this year, replied very promptly to my e-mails, sent pictures of what the biscuits would look like, and took payment by PayPal, which made it very easy for me to pay.

They then sent the biscuits in a strong box protected by plenty of bubble wrap, which meant they survived being posted from Northamptonshire to my home in Cumbria, a train journey from Cumbria to London, and being carried across London by tube in a rucksack, without a single biscuit being cracked or broken in the process.

My contacts at Biocrystal and Epoc were absolutely delighted with the biscuits - and so was I.  You can see why - they're stunning.

Thank you Matthew and Mylene for a great product and excellent service!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Eastern promise fulfilled

I booked a flight on Eastern Airways, following a scheduled client meeting.

The client postponed the meeting to another day.

I've had experience of what usually happens if you need to move a flight.  Sometimes you have to kiss your money goodbye and book again from scratch.  British Airways let you change your flight but they charge you a £60 admin fee for the privilege.  And as for moving a flight to an as yet unspecified day?  I've never asked any airline that before, and I wasn't holding my breath.

But when I e-mailed Eastern Airways to explain, I had a response within 15 minutes from a lovely friendly lady called Sarah, who said that she could put the flight on hold and I could re-book it as soon as I was ready.

Quick response, delivering exactly what the customer wanted, something that competitors can't or won't normally do, and friendly and cheerful too.  Fantastic.

So long as the flight, when I actually take it, lives up to the standards of the customer service team, Eastern Airways will leapfrog BA as my airline of choice.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Accounts production software

I look after accounts for friends and family, which includes three limited companies.  That means I need professional accounts production software to help make sure I put everything in the right place and comply with the Companies Act 2006 and other rules and regulations.
I used, quite happily, to use VT Accounts Production running on Parallels on my Mac.  But when I switched PC-emulation software to VMWare, VT really didn't like that.  It kept corrupting.  And VT isn't supported on a Mac so there was no help available - but they were very good about giving me a refund.
By then I had a PC at home - it's my husband's actually but he lets me use it :-)
TaxCalc's Accounts Production software is very expensive for what it is (£499 + VAT), when you consider what VT and PTP cost.  VT costs £150 + VAT per year and PTP only £99 + VAT a year.  But I needed something urgently and I was able to download TaxCalc straight away.  That initially worked sweet as a nut but then for some reason it decided it didn't want to behave.  Support tried their best to fix it but after two attempts that didn't work, I lost patience and I asked for a refund - which I did get in the end.
Now I'm using PTP, from IRIS.  As I used to use the full range of IRIS software it felt blessedly familiar.  I could even remember some of the account code numbers it uses.
My only gripe was having to do 3 separate downloads to get this up and running - first .NET, then SQL, then finally PTP.  It would have been much easier to run that all as one download.  And it took three hours to run everything.
Still, that's all safely loaded now, and I've done 2 and a half sets of accounts today - a half because I'm still waiting on a set of bank statements to do the current year's accounts, but I've been able to post up the prior year and notes.
And I'm now looking to switch from TaxCalc to PTP tax software as well, I think.  PTP is all integrated and that saves a bucketload of time and reduces the risk of error.
But right now, my brain's gone to sleep.  I'd hoped to get this all done by lunchtime but the long downloads put the kibosh on that.  I need a very large cup of tea.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Why the BBC didn't make this customer happy

I think the Queen is a truly remarkable lady and I was really looking forward to watching the Diamond Jubilee river pageant today.  As well as the sheer spectacle and scale, I was looking forward to finding out more about the boats involved, their histories, their crews, and so forth - and also to hearing some of the music from the barges carrying choirs, orchestras and bands.

I thought the BBC television coverage would provide that.

How wrong I was.

They kept showing the same kind of picture, aerial views of the man-powered boats, and hardly had any coverage of the historic ships.  For example there was no mention at all of the "Matthew" replica.  The powered boats also only got a few shots in and very limited information.  And even for the man-powered boats, they only gave tiny snippets of information about one or two of the vessels and their crews.

And we didn't get to hear any of the music.

The BBC even kept hopping back to studio shots.

There was so much more they could have done with this afternoon's coverage - like more information about the different ships, identifying some of the lesser known Commonwealth countries' flags, playing excerpts from some of the music.

Instead the coverage came across as poorly researched and light on information - not at all what I would expect from the BBC.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Is David Cameron right?

David Cameron famously said he doesn't want the coalition to be seen as "a bunch of accountants".

To my view that's a sad indictment of how much of the wider business community regards accountants.  We're popularly viewed as reactive, regressive, backward-looking stuffed shirts who can't explain things in plain English to save our lives, don't want to know about anything resembling progress in the technological arena, charge astronomical fees that mount up every time the client calls, and are more of a necessary evil than anything else.

That's a stereotype, but how far is it true?

I attended a seminar last week given by Steve Pipe, who's a fantastically dynamic speaker and great advocate for proactivity amongst accountants.  Steve's view is that:

"Accountancy is a noble profession, clients deserve nothing less than extraordinarily great service and accountants deserve great rewards".

I agree with that.  But we can't deliver extraordinarily great service unless we stop looking in the rear-view mirror, give real-time practical advice in the moment by embracing technology, stop spouting accounting-speak and learn to talk to clients in plain English.  Say "trade debtors" to anyone who's neither an accountant nor a bookkeeper and their eyes will, quite rightly, glaze over.  Try saying "customers who owe you money" instead.  Bingo.  Wasn't it Einstein who said that if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it properly yourself?

Let's wake up and smell the coffee, and show David Cameron he's wrong!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A gold star for Lands' End

I regularly buy clothing from Lands' End, who sell excellent quality casual and smart casual wear.

In the autumn I bought two pairs of leggings from them. Recently I noticed one pair had begun to come apart at the seams, so I posted that pair back to Lands' End and asked for a new pair and a refund of postage.

That parcel went in the post on Monday.

My new pair arrived today - Saturday. Less than a week later.

With a refund of postage notification.

What great service.

We all make mistakes. Sooner or later every business sells a faulty stock line, or doesn't give tip-top service. But making a mistake is the perfect opportunity to "wow" a customer by putting it right.

Lands' End just wowed me.

That means I'm not only going to go back and buy from them again, but I'll recommend them as a great business to buy from.