Friday, 5 June 2015

My Carphone Warehouse Customer Service Experience

I decided to get a new phone contract through the Carphone Warehouse rather than direct with my current provider (EE). The pricing was better and the website seemed easy to use. When my new phone and case arrived early I was impressed. However, my sim did not fit into the new phone. I rang the Customer Service team and was advised I should have received a new sim with the new phone. However, if I wanted, I could go to a Carphone Warehouse store and get a new sim. As there was a store close by, and it seemed the quickest option, I went into the Loughborough store. After a twenty minute wait I spoke to a member of staff who explained that this was not possible, as EE would only accept sims from their own stores, although I could get a new sim from an EE store. The other alternative was to trim my current sim so it would fit; which we did and that worked.

A little over a month later, my case broke. This was a free item with the new contract. I had not dropped it, the rubber seam along the side split away from the main case. I filled in an online complaint form and got a call from the Customer Service team who told me if I visited a store they would assess if I had dropped it or caused the damage myself and if the case was faulty it would be replaced. I visited the Loughborough store and spoke to a staff member who told me that as it was over 28 days old under no circumstances would they replace it. He said it was “wear and tear” and that “everything has a shelf-life”. When I asked him what he thought of a case only lasting over a month he said “I’d buy another one” and smiled at me. As I work in Customer Services myself I pointed out to him the deficiencies of his general poor attitude in speaking to me and of the fact that I had been told one thing on the phone and another in the store. I did not shout or swear but I was clearly unhappy. Getting no better response I walked out telling another couple being sold something not to buy from them as if it went wrong they would not get a replacement or refund.

I think had I received an ounce of empathy from the staff member I would not have been so angry. I received only smug condescension from someone who clearly did not have any interest in helping me. I appreciate this is a personal rather than a quantifiable observation, but this is an important element in how you deal with people in any customer facing role.

After I calmed down, I rang back the Customer Service team and explained what had happened. The phone contact was extremely calm and professional and told me the staff member should have called them. She advised me to go back into a store and get them to call the Customer Service team and added notes to my account explaining that when I next visited a store, the staff should check the case and if a defective product they should replace it in store. Feeling no confidence in the Loughborough staff, I drove over to the Coalville store. I spent about 30 minutes in that store with very friendly staff who confirmed the case had not been damaged by me, but who were unsure what they were supposed to do. They called the Customer Service phone number and as they did not have a phone case in store, they sent me over to the Thurmaston store. I did try to ask for the case to be sent to me but this did not seem to be an option.

I drove to the Thurmaston store and after another 30 minutes in store whilst the staff again rang the Customer Service phone number and had trouble with their systems which eventually they managed to resolve. I left the store with a new phone case and finally drove home.

Many reading this will wonder why I went to so much effort (37 miles of driving) to get this resolved especially for a free phone case! I have to be honest, the reason I am writing this is not just to vent my frustration at how difficult the Carphone Warehouse are to do business with or with my frustration about the time and petrol-cost I had to put into getting a replacement for a £20-30 phone case. As I wrote earlier, I work in Customer Services myself so I understand how it is supposed to work. There were some severe deficiencies in the Customer Service processes and practices and if I am going to risk getting a new phone contract with them, which is likely given that they helped me save money, I want them to improve. Often from the inside problems and failures are not obvious to the business and British people do not take the time to complain and explain our frustration, we just do not use them again.
Below is the list of issues I believe they need to resolve if they want to provide good Customer Service.

·         There was a clear tension between the staff in store and the staff on the Customer Service phone number, this was obvious in all three stores I went into. This tension seemed to be caused by the different sets guidelines in place.

·         The skills and knowledge of all staff members in all three stores was variable, (as nice as all, apart from the Loughborough store, were).

·         The outcomes and knowledge of the people I spoke to on the phone were also variable, no notes were left after my first call and email.

·         No one in store seemed to have any authority to do anything meaningful to help me.

·         The whole process was difficult and was centred around sticking to inconsistent Carphone warehouse processes, not what was easiest for the customer.

#####   Update from 08/06/15.   #####

I received the following email on Sunday after reporting this to the complaints team:

"I'm very sorry and concerned to hear of the issues you have mentioned in your email regarding your recent visit to the Carphone Warehous stores. Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience that may have been caused as a result of this. 
At Carphone Warehouse we take all feedback seriously, both positive and negative, which allows us to continually improve the level of service we offer. We also set a very high standard of customer services which sets us apart from our competition, however, regrettably on this occasion these high standards weren’t met.                                                 
A copy of your complaint has been forwarded to the Store Regional Managers of each branch. The Manager will bring your complaint and comments to the attention of their team. This will hopefully bring to light any conduct, behavioural or procedural issues so that they can be addressed accordingly. The outcome will enable the Manager to put into place measures they believe are appropriate to avoid a repeat of the issues you faced.
I would also like to provide you with a goodwill gesture, totalling £20.00 to cover your time and fuel spent.
I can arrange for the total credit amount to be provided to you via a card refund, this would result in you receiving the credit within 3- 5 days or we can send out a cheque in the post which you would receive within 28 days.
Please let me know if you wish to accept this offer as a resolution to your complaint; you can reply to this email, or you can call my direct line *******. Alternatively I can call you to discuss this further if this is more suitable?"

A pretty decent response as I was not expecting a credit. I hope the feedback was valuable to them.

#####   Update from 16/06/15.   #####

I have had my credit through and a couple of calls from the nice woman who wrote the email above to confirm this had come through. How we deal with complaints, which are inevitable, is important. I cannot fault the service received since my complaint.