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Customer Service

I was wondering what to entertain you with this month, when I received this pearler of an e-mail from Easyjet. The background was a summarily cancelled flight back in November (yes, four months ago), which I discovered by chance - no one bothered to tell me my booking was null and void - and I asked for advice on rebooking. As it happens, a friend effected the rebooking, so any advice would have been unnecessary, but they clearly didn't know that.  Here it is in all its uselessness, two days before I'm due to fly:
Dear Customer (sic),
You have recently requested some assistance from our customer services team at easyJet.
As you are aware, there have been exceptional weather conditions throughout Europe for a number of weeks between December 2009 and February 2010. This has caused many customers to contact our customer services team and we have received over ten times the usual volume of emails. From our records, we have seen that we have not yet responded to your request and this is below our usual next day standard.
Responding to our customers as quickly as possible is a top priority for us, so we have already doubled the size of our customer services team to meet this demand. We're also looking at other ways we can speed-up replies.
To help us respond quickly, can we ask if you could avoid sending follow-up emails to check the status of your initial contact? Further emails increase the backlog that we need to deal with, slowing down replies overall. Please be assured that we will respond to your original email just as soon as we can.
We would like to thank you for your patience during this difficult time.
Yours sincerely
easyJet Customer Experience Team


 As Basil Fawlty would probably put it

Arriving back from Paris on Sunday evening, three more e-mails await me: two telling me how passe and pointless it all is (never), and one asking for my feedback.  So here it is.

I spend half my life banging on about the principles of "The E-Myth" and having systems and processes in place to allow the business to operate efficiently without the owner/manager in it all the time. As you will know if you've had any dealings with Easyjet, they have embraced the internet with fervour, as a means of driving down costs (and I should declare here that I have flown many times with them and on the whole the experience has been a good one - on Sunday the plane was an hour late, but hey ho...)

So far, so good.  The problem starts... well, when there's a problem. You can systemise every business process known to man, but still you know that they cannot cover every eventuality.  You have to have resources to personalise the exceptions: when not everything goes to plan; when a customer makes a request that is not covered by all your processes; or god forbid, someone just screws up.

When any of those events occur, all your customer wants, nay expects, is some personal intervention. Someone to just sort it out.
Of course with this example, there's a double whammy. To be perfectly frank, I'd completely forgotten about the message I'd sent: e-mail is a transient communications medium - anything over a week old is pretty much redundant. So not only is their system unfit for purpose, they're determined to remind me how crap it is several months later. Doh!
And the use of phrases like, "Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you" just adds insult to injury. Who writes this patronising bilge?

Easyjet are not the only, or worst, offenders, by a long chalk. Ever tried having a conversation with a sentient human being at Google? With no published phone numbers for customer service purposes, you'll be lucky. They're too busy counting their Adwords revenue. And don't piss them off by mentioning the fact, or they'll likely black-list your site and remove you from the search engines altogether. I'm probably history if they spot this.

Yet customer service really is incredibly basic. Of course you need systems and processes to streamline your business and make dealing with you easier, but when things don't work, just put yourself in your customer's shoes, and imagine how you would like to be treated in their place.

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While we're on customer service (and complaints), here's some food for thought: for every ten people who have a bad experience, only one complains, on average; but all ten tell ten others about it.  So for every complaint you get, 100 people out there think less well of you than you'd like. I've just told several hundred of course, so that's pushed the average up a bit.

David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail

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David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire