Comfortably numb

Hello, hello, is there anybody out there?

We live in an age where we have all the tools to help us respond to customers as individuals.  Why then in an age of mass customisation do companies and organisations still manage to do things that make you wonder ‘is there anyone at home?’  This week’s prizes for poor customer service go to Asda and Student Finance England.

The price of going to Asda

A friend of mine called me recently.  He went to an out of town Asda to buy some food.  They did not have any onions, so he drove up the road to Tescos to get some.

What, no onions with my guitar?

He returned to Asda a couple of hours later.  A few days afterwards he received a parking ticket from APCOA parking for exceeding the two hour limit.  They had logged him entering the first time and leaving on the second visit.  He has so far had to submit receipts from Tesco for the onions but had no reply from Asda regarding the waste of his time for doing this.  The store is an out of town development with no other shops or reasons to park within range.  Are they not satisfied that he buys his food there?  Why no reply?  Why do a lack of in-store onions lead to tears?

SFE = Student Failure England

I hear that Government departments have been through extensive ‘lean’ training to make them more effective and efficient.  Well, it does not look like it’s working.  I have recently applied for my son’s student loan and have all but given up, having written to them dozens of times only to get standard responses which did not deal with the issues.  Worst still, I get 2 or 3 copies of the responses sent by post every time.  On one occasion recently I got four letters telling me that his loan was approved and then one on the same day telling me that they needed more information (which I had already previously sent months back).  They tell me that there’s nothing they can do about repeat letters and conflicting information, as it is the computer’s fault.  Student Finance England have a facebook page so that they can answer individual queries (you cannot contact them by e-mail).  I mentioned the waste of everybody’s time to them and they told me the thread was closed!

Rant over.  The point is that we really ought to be able to do better than this if we are to rebuild the UK plc?  Great service makes the difference between repeat purchases and a one off trial as companies such as Toyota and First Direct understand. Excellence is not a luxury good in today’s marketplace.   In Asda’s case, they need customers to come back time after time, so this really should matter to them.  Student Finance England is a Government monopoly, so I guess it matters less, but don’t we owe it to our kids to get this stuff right?

  • Who gets your vote for superb customer service and personal service in an age of mass consumption?
  • Whose service should go in room 101?

Post your comments here.

A bit more Floyd to finish us off.  I don’t think The Gnome has a message for us, but it is a strange little piece anyway:


6 responses to “Comfortably numb

  1. Hey Peter, maybe we need a “Deprtment of Youth ( Alice Cooper) so we can stop “Selling England by the pound” (Genisis)? It seems as though the new “Customer Service” teaching focuses on keeping the cost of this service to the minimum and not making contact easy or the procedure for dealing with customers is a good way to avoid potential costs?

    Keep the faith!



  2. Peter

    THIS is great customer service!!!!

    Reading a great article while listening to the Floyd!

    Thank you!

    ps Love your stuff – You’re bang on the ‘Money’! We’re certainly not ‘Poles Apart’ when it comes to these things, so go on ‘Have a Cigar’ mate!

    Would be great to ‘Meet Up’ at some point – that’s if you want to ‘Speak To Me’
    (Apologies to all non Pink Floyd fans!)


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