Customer service done right

I’ve been ranting a bit of the last few posts about my poor experience of customer service. Well it’s time to change the tone. on Friday, I had the best experience I think I’ve ever had, and just goes to show what you can do as a company if you put some effort into it.

First the lead-up; In making a cup of tea, one of the teabags splits. I don’t know if it was split before or after pouring water over it, but I noticed it when tea leaves started floating around the cup. I just thought I’d post a message to the Yorkshire Tea Facebook page and see what happened. I wasn’t really expecting anything, much less a whole swathe of other fans commenting on my message with words of wisdom. What I really wasn’t expecting though was a reply from Yorkshire Tea themselves within 45 minutes of me posting the message up, saying they were going to contact me directly through Facebook to try and resolve the issue.

Five minutes later, a message popped up in my inbox asking for an email address or phone number on which I could be contacted, so I replied and another ten minutes later I had an email from Taylor’s of Harrogate (the company who own the Yorkshire Tea brand) saying they’d like to replace the box of tea, and if I might have the details of the batch (I didn’t, but that didn’t seem to really be an issue). A couple of replies later and I am about to receive a new box of tea.

This all within the hour of posting a message on their Facebook wall. Now, for any company providing any level of customer service, that which I received from these guys has been exceptional. It also proves that if you put the whole infrastructure in place instead of trying to scrimp and save here and there on bits of the chain, it can really work wonders for you. I’ve told everyone about this episode, and they’re all as amazed as I am. But the word is spreading, and that makes Yorkshire Tea an ever stronger brand in the face of competition. I see that, because its the industry I work in, but I feel it’s fair play – they make a great product, and on top of that have astounding customer service when things do (and they do sometimes, for everyone) go wrong. It is far too easy, as can be seen by my previous posts, to think social media can be controlled without making sure that the rest of the company is aware of the consequences in this digital age of getting it wrong. It doesn’t work though so kudos has to be given to Taylor’s.

Update 09/02/2011: I’ve just had a package and an envelope through the post. The envelope had this in it:

On top of that, a box with a hand written note from the person who I dealt with at Taylors of Harrogate by email:

And of course a big box of Yorkshire Tea and the marmalade cake too:

I can’t explain how impressed I am with their customer service levels!

A warning against using Lloyds TSB as your business bank

I’ll be honest, it’s not just Lloyds TSB that are bad. When I started up, my company was a body for me to freelance through, and I didn’t need much from a bank. No overdraft, no additional facilities. Nearly three years ago, I approached them to ask for a business overdraft, having decided to take the business full time, and they said “No”. Lloyds TSB came to the rescue and provided the vital lifeline that got me on my way.

It didn’t last. I had a bank manager I could call, on his mobile if needed, and ask questions of. All great, until he left and I was sent a letter saying I now didn’t have a bank manager, but a relationship manger who was based 200 miles away in Leeds, and who I couldn’t just meet with and discuss the business as and when needed. That seemed just about OK to me, until just before Christmas last year when it all got a bit too much to deal with.

I’m sure any of you with Lloyds, and some of you with other banks, have seen these Chip and Pin card readers that are being sent out to customers on the premise of increased security. You put your card in and enter your PIN along with various other pieces of information to put in theoretically unique codes, which, depending on the bank, let you perform various tasks – logging in, paying people, and so on. Well I got sent one just before Christmas, and when I did, I dutifully put the details into the online banking platform provided to me by Lloyds TSB. It promptly locked me out. The code which I entered was somehow invalid, despite being the same as what was on my little card reader device. First bad experience. I build web applications. That’s just shoddy.

A short, but what should be unnecessary, call to telephone banking sorted that and I was on my way. Or so I thought. I have staff to pay, and I have freelancers too. So whenever I want to pay one, each and every time, I have to enter my PIN number to sign in, then enter my PIN again, the account number and amount of the payment in order to get a code to enter on the site to make a payment. I’m told this is to enable Faster Payments. I personally bank with First Direct and Faster Payments works just fine without this ridiculous mechanism that just makes my life a chore. It’s security by obscurity, and doesn’t prevent fraud because people can still swipe my card if I’m in an unscrupulous shop or restaurant for instance.

So I tweeted. And to my surprise Lloyds TSB responded! I sent a private message and a few minutes later I was talking to someone on the Lloyds TSB Twitter team over the phone. The only part of the entire business it seems that wants to try and help. I’ve been informed that by applying for Bulk Payments, which requires me to apply for a credit limit, I can avoid all this fuss. Shame I can’t avoid the fuss caused by not being able to get anyone to actually make Bulk Payments available on my account. It is apparently supposed to take a couple of days, and I gave a bit of leeway over Christmas and New Year. 3 weeks in though I’d expect to have either got it on my account, or to have heard something. So I tweeted again saying nothing had been done, and I was duly informed that my relationship manager would contact me asap. Well he’s supposed to have contacted me three times now, and I’ve not heard a word from him. So I now have a bank that doesn’t care about what its users have to say, or even about servicing them in any kind of way.

That’s where we are to date. I’ll keep you posted on anything else that happens, but I think I’m off to HSBC with my business banking. If you have a business, you’ll at some point ask your bank for something or other, however small it may be. I’d strongly urge you to avoid Lloyds TSB like the plague. They just don’t care. About anything or anyone.

Update 19/01/2011: Well I heard from my relationship manager today. Finally. Apparently my application hasn’t even been processed in any way shape or form. I’m now being asked to send previous two years of accounts to them, despite them being MY BANK and having full access to all of my finances for this entire period. By Fax. Which I don’t have. Because I’m not 90 years old.

And apparently, Bulk Payments doesn’t actually alleviate the need for the card reader. It just means you only need to enter it once per set of transactions made through it. And the application is processed like a business loan. And lets me go over my predefined overdraft limit. This feels like more of a problem than it sets out to resolve. So here’s to some more waiting once I’ve sent my details over and here’s to HSBC who are about to become my new business bank.

I’d like to hear about anyone else’s experiences with these kinds of things. I’m sure I can’t be the only one!

Update 01/02/2011: Turns out if you report your card due to fraudulent activity, Lloyds stop you using their online banking service.