Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Customer service - postscript

As I was so cross about David Lloyd's letter to me, I actually took the time last week to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and wrote to their Communications Director expressing my displeasure.

No response yet ...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A lesson in customer service

Why oh why do some companies get customer service so wrong? 

Do they not think that it matters?  Do they not realise that they may lose business if they don't service their customers well?

In the last month or so, I have been both lucky and unlucky with service I have experienced from companies of which I am a customer.   One of them, though, no longer.

Let's start with first direct:  

Since I started banking with them, more than 22 years ago, I have never had a single cause to complain about the way that they handle my financial affairs.  I use them for telephone banking, making it a highly personal interaction.  Without fail, the call handlers have been efficient, helpful and personable.  It really feels like they are there to do my bidding.

Last time I called them, after we had completed the transaction, the call handler thanked me for being a loyal customer.  Now, I'm not totally stupid, and I realise she was probably being prompted via the script on her computer screen - but nevertheless, it sounded spontaneous, and I was really chuffed as it came so out of the blue.  

So lots of warm, fluffy feelings about my bank.  Not many banks can claim that these days, can they?!

Now let's turn to David Lloyd Leisure:  

I've belonged to my local gym for around 20 years.  For many of those years, I have simply paid a monthly fee not to use the gym, as life got in the way of a regular exercise routine.  But since the start of this year, I have become a regular gym goer and have been seeing a Personal Trainer at least twice a week.  This is a serious commitment on my behalf - in terms of time and most particularly in terms of money.  

A couple of weeks ago, I had a letter telling me that my monthly membership was going up.  Not by very much, but it was enough to make me evaluate just how much I was paying for the privilege of my membership.  Only a day later, I got another letter.  

It started off well.  If I could introduce a friend to personal training, I could win free personal training sessions myself.  Given the cost of these sessions, this seemed a very attractive idea.  If only I knew of any friends who wanted to sign up ...

However, buried in paragraph three of the letter was the real killer.  My personal training bill is going to be increased by £20 a month.  An increase of more than 7%.  So not really a nice, friendly 'how can we reward you' kind of a letter at all.  More a 'let's see if we can slip the bad news out in a way that it may not get discovered' kind of letter.  

I was angry.  Prices do sometimes have to go up.  But be transparent about it, please.  

When I called the club to query this, I was told that they routinely increase prices every two years.  Really?  How many of us get a routine pay increase these days?  In the current climate of austerity, how many of us are going to happily accept price increases of this magnitude?

Next I was told that the price increase was to bring what I paid in line with what people who use the Kensington club pay.  Lovely.  There's a reason I don't live in Kensington!

Interestingly, at the same time as I was frothing at the mouth about this, this article appeared in The Guardian:

David Lloyd Leisure faces painful refinancing

This sentence, in particular, is noteworthy:

"The current economic conditions create uncertainty particularly in relation to membership levels ..."

Well, I'm adding to their uncertainty.  My membership has been resigned, and I'm now a member at another gym - saving myself almost £40 a month.

David Lloyd made no attempt to keep me.  There was nothing from them about how much my membership was valued.  No recognition of my 20 years of membership.  Just a sneaky attempt to get more money out of me.

Not good.  Not good at all.  Hopefully Mr Branson and Virgin Active will value my custom and my loyalty rather more!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

By way of complete contrast ...

We went out to dinner tonight.  We were invited by friends who chose the venue - 8 of us, going to a restaurant in Borough Market.  I was really looking forward to it. (I'm not sure I should name it, just in case it gets me into any kind of trouble!)

But it turned out to be something of a disappointment.  Or a 'damp squib' as Dave might have put it.

First impressions weren't great.  We all huddled in the cramped reception area (a narrow corridor really) waiting to give our coats to the cloakroom attendant.  I don't really expect an expensive restaurant to hand out tokens for coats, but hey ho.  Then the table wasn't ready for us, despite us being a couple of minutes late on arrival.

The restaurant is divided into two areas.  A small, narrow area, where a pianist was playing (my heart sank at the sight of this - it always seems so cheesy), and a larger area, on two levels.  It's a large room with very high ceilings and big windows.  And lots of hard surfaces, with no soft furnishings anywhere to absorb the noise.  So it was very noisy.

Our table was tucked away in the top corner, yet it was still so noisy in the restaurant that there was little point in trying to talk to those at the other end of the table.  Even conversing with the couple opposite us was difficult at times.

And then came the up-selling.  An attempt to sell us bottled water was quickly headed off at the pass.  But then the next thing was Christmas crackers, at £1 per head, the proceeds of which were to go to a children's charity.   So I said 'yes'.  For me.  However, this resulted in crackers for all of us.  I felt very guilty about this, especially when it turned out that all the crackers contained the same gifts, and only two different jokes.  I know Christmas cracker jokes are pants, but we could at least have had 8 different crap jokes!

Eventually we were asked for our drinks order.  Then we were served the wrong wine, which delayed us ordering our food.  But finally the right wine came, and our orders were sent to the kitchen.

My starter was wonderful.  Lorne square sausage Scotch egg with piccalilli.  It was presented beautifully and tasted even better.  My husband had griddled scallops with hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichoke puree.

So far, so lovely.

The main courses were much less rewarding.  This despite their hefty price tags.  I chose the Saturday special, Beef Wellington, at a breathtaking £32.50.  All main courses exclude vegetables.  Yes, that's right.  They exclude vegetables.  So we ordered two vegetable dishes between us.  Roast potatoes and Brussel tops with chorizo, at £4.50 a pop.  We didn't have a clue what Brussel tops might be, but these turned out to be over-grown Brussels sprouts, or mini-cabbages, served in rather rustic chunks, with slices of chorizo and a quarter of a lemon to squeeze over.  I'm not sure that really worked, to be honest.  Three very strong flavours that didn't really complement each other.

Anyway.  It turned out that despite what it said on the menu, my main course did come with vegetables, so paying extra for side dishes was a waste of even more money.

The main event was very disappointing.  The meat was beautifully tender, and appropriately rare, but oddly bland.  The pastry was soggy and the mushroom duxelle surrounding the meat was unpleasantly bitter.  My husband's meal was a bit more enjoyable - pot roast of feather blade of beef, with horseradish cream and herb dumplings, although the dumplings were soggy and got left behind on the plate.

None of us wanted a dessert, although some of us had coffee, and some of us had liqueurs.  Along with four bottles of red wine (shiraz and cabernet sauvignon), the bill ended up being £76 each.

Oh, and it's one of those places where they very thoughtfully include a 12.5% service charge.

We are very fortunate to be, at least at the moment, in a position where we can afford to spend this kind of money on an evening out.  However, like many people, our income is not secure or guaranteed at present, so spending over £150 in one evening is not something that we do lightly.  And it's galling, to say the very least, when you feel you've been just a little bit fleeced.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Join the #frothers!

Anger and frustration with the coalition government is growing.  The recent demonstrations/strikes by the unions, which saw 2 million workers leave their posts is clear evidence of this.  Nobody gives up a day's pay lightly.

It reflects the anger about the cuts which are affecting the most vulnerable in our society.

How can we describe ourselves as a civilised society if we sanction such cuts?

Please read

... my fellow 'frothers'.

If you support us, please add the hashtag #frothers to your tweets

Blimey! I appear to have a blog!

I'm not really sure what I'm doing in the Blogosphere, but I'm glad to be here.

Hopefully someone will hold my hand and help me through the whole process ...