Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Kiddicare - a test of customer services

A few weeks back we bought the Maclaren Quest Sport stroller. It has been a breath of fresh air. Don't get me wrong, the Quinny Buzz has been a faithful servant over the last year and of all the travel systems I still rate it highly. It's just a bit heavy now that Jake's got heavier. It was a real work horse and we still use it when we need more space for shopping and such but we wanted a cut down version for, well, strolling. It's also great for holidays, you can literally open and collapse it one handed and it weighs nothing. Perfect for when you need to collapse it at the steps up to the plane so you still get a good seat.

Anyway, it has a fault. The mechanism at the back which you push with your foot when you want to collapse it gets stuck so as you have to bend forward and wiggle it loose with your hand. You may think this is not too much of a hassle but do it a few times every day and you'll see the problem. Also, at £130 this wasn't the cheapest we could have bought and besides, it should work as it's meant to.

So, we email Kiddicare and get a series of frustrating replies. The first is to ask us for a photograph. They want a photograph of a buggy which has a stuck lever. The point is that the level is stuck in a position it has every right to be in. A static picture shows only a perfectly good lever, it's just that we can't push it with our foot. Perhaps they'd prefer us to go to the trouble of recording and editing a video? Anyway alarm bells started to ring.

The next email is a series of instructions so patronising, they could have come from Sky TV themselves. The ones where they ask you if your satellite box is plugged in. Anyway we go back to them to say we've tried it, and believe us, there is a fault, we're not doing this for fun etc.

Then they tell us we must pay them £29.95 to have it collected and if they do not find a fault then they keep our money and send it back to us. This is like saying 'we don't believe you but you can pay us for our time to prove it'. Incensed, I called the technical department and spoke to the only person there who sounded like they knew what they were talking about - I should point out at this point that every email we had received was peppered with spelling and grammar mistakes and that when I put this to the technician, he told me that their email system does not have a spell checker. In 2010, no spell checker! At best it shows that the emails are going out unchecked and at worse it shows that people are checking their emails and missing fundamental mistakes which is more worrying. A mistake is fine, a checked and missed mistake is pure incompetence. (God I hope there's not too many in this post!).

So after a few diagnostics with the technician, he concurred that there was a fault and put me back to the customer services operator after telling me the fee would be waived. We then were told we had to box up the buggy ready for collection. My loft is full of every box to every product I have ever purchased. Except one. For some reason I recycled the Maclaren box within minutes of getting it home. Typical. Admittedly the 'box' we sent the buggy back in was a rather makeshift affair but it did constitute a protected package of sorts.

Yesterday we received an answer phone message saying that no fault had been found and we'd have to pay the £29.95 to have the buggy released back to us. After we called back and were, frankly, insulted by a woman who could only say 'there's no fault' and 'we've all tested it', we are now waiting for a call back from the supervisor.

Depending on the outcome of that call, I may well have to write a letter to someone further up the pecking order. I hope that I do not have to write another 'Ryan Air sucks' type post but I can feel one coming on.

Web-only companies have only two things to offer. One is price and the other is customer service. Customer service should be a cost centre, not a profit centre. By providing excellent after sales customer service any cost associated with it, ought to be negated via word of mouth recommendation and repeat purchase. It really isn't rocket science.

Watch this space.

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