Sunday, 11 February 2007

Is poor customer service necessary?

It's probably been clear that I have been largely unhappy with Superfi Coventry's customer service. Superfi Coventry were consistently polite but were always passing the buck to Panasonic, their Nottingham headquarters or Superfi policy. Martin at Superfi Head Office, on the other hand, was active in resolving the situation and I felt confident in his desire to get the matter expedited. From my first contact with him, it took two weeks to receive a replacement projector in my hands. For comparison, within two weeks of returning the projector to Superfi Coventry, they had simply sent it to Nottingham Head Office but without any details of its provenance or even that it needed to be replaced because it was faulty (none of my emails were forwarded and mention of a fault was made on the appropriate paperwork).

Things going wrong, especially new technology items (and the Panasonic AX100 is not just a minor evolution, indeed, it's new size may shock owners of former models), is a circumstance that must happen with reasonable regularity. While there is natural disappointment at an item you have purchased being faulty it is how that situation is dealt with by the retailer that determines the quality of the customer's experience.

So what would have made me happy? I shall propose such a solution and leave it to you to determine whether it is unreasonable or financially undesirable from Superfi Coventry's point of view.

This is an overview of what happened:

  1. December 1st: I ordered the projector.

  2. December 8th: I received the projector.

  3. December 16th: I reported the fault but told Superfi I would be placing the projector into Normal for fifty hours to see if that sorted it.

  4. January 5th: I requested a replacement on January 5th, 28 days after receiving it.

  5. January 8th: Superfi Coventry responded by saying they could not arrange a replacement because it was now more than 28 days since I had received it and Panasonic don't furnish replacements after 28 days. An interesting note here is that this is the only time in all my email correspondence with Superfi that they replied on a different day to when they received the email.

  6. January 9th: I returned the projector to Superfi Coventry. They say that it will take about two weeks to be sorted.

  7. January 10th: Superfi Coventry send the projector to Superfi Nottingham for processing but do not supply the email provenance and do not make it clear that a refund / replacement / repair is being waited for. The fault description on the repair job card says in its entirety: "see notes can you please call panosonic as they are aware of fault" [sic].

  8. January 19th: I request an update from Superfi Coventry and they get in touch with Superfi Head Office and inform me that the projector is still sitting there awaiting collection by Panasonic. When asked to chase it, they suggest I call Superfi Head Office direct and give me the appropriate name and number. I call Superfi Head Office and he sounds genuinely surprised when I tell him it is faulty, that it has been faulty for nearly six weeks now and that I am waiting for a repair / replacement.

  9. January 22nd: Superfi Head Office call me (a most pleasant surprise) to tell me that Panasonic have now picked up the projector and should be authorising a replacement. He'll call me when they confirm.

  10. January 26th: Superfi Head Office call me and let me know Panasonic have authorised a replacement and that it will be at Superfi Coventry with their next delivery. Panasonic items arrive there on a Thursday.

  11. February 1st: Superfi Head Office call me and let me know that the projector is at Superfi Coventry ready for collection. I make arrangements and collect it.

What I wanted to happen:

  1. January 5th: I request a replacement projector. Superfi Coventry respond in their usual timely manner after making appropriate arrangements and tell me they'll call when it arrives and I can bring my faulty projector in and swap it for the replacement at the same time. This is especially nice because they know of my severely limiting health (I have told them about it on several of my emails) and that travelling to Superfi means making special arrangements and extra physical effort and pain.

  2. Preferably January 8th or, acceptably, January 15th: Superfi Coventry call me to let me know that the replacement has arrived. I make arrangements and take the faulty one in and return home with a new one.

In general, I wanted Superfi Coventry to do the chasing. I wanted to leave this matter in their hands and for them to contact me when the situation was resolved.

I was happy when this was the circumstance with Superfi Head Office. It instilled confidence and a feeling that a satisfactory resolution was something they were actively working towards on my behalf.

Am I being unreasonable?

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