IKEA vs Greenwich

This post started as a way of comparing different ways of managing customer relationships. It ended up as rant, but I’m not going to delete it. But I will write another post in the future with some suggestions.

A good experience: IKEA. I recently bought some furniture from IKEA, using their online services in the UK. The furniture was delivered on Friday morning, and in the evening I discovered that there was package less than expected.

I contacted their online customer service that evening, and received an automated reply that my comment had been received and that they aimed to reply it in three days. I could have contacted them on the phone, but I didn’t use do it while I was in Spain and in English it’s more difficult for me.

On Sunday evening (on Sunday!!!!) I received a reply apologizing for the problem, and informing me that the package will be delivered by courier in 5-7 days. But in the mean time, if I really needed the package I could go to any IKEA store and ask for the package.

I will recommend their services. Yes they fail, but on the customer relationship, they set reasonable expectations (3 days for an email is good), and they manage to fulfill them.

A bad experience: Royal Borough of Greenwich I recently moved into the Royal Borough of Greenwich. I filled in their online form for that. I received an automated reply informing that I should receive a letter in ten working days with the tax amount (in the UK the people living in a property pay the property tax).

Nearly 20 working days later, I hadn’t receive the promised letter. So I contacted them again.

One could think “why bother? No letter, no taxes”. Well. Two reasons.

  • I have two daughters and I need to apply to get a school for them. But I cannot apply without a “Correct proof of address” and “Correct proof is a current council tax bill/statement or council tax reference number”.
  • If I’m going to have to pay amount x, I prefer to do it in as much months as possible. It is not the same to pay x/6 in 6 months than to pay the whole x in one month, and I prefer to do it in 6 months.

This time I received an automated reply with the following:

“Emails are treated with the same level of importance as other communications, i.e. post, telephone and fax. We will do our very best to respond to your email within 20 days.”

20 days for replying an email?.

Are you kidding me?.

And you still say that email has the same importance for you as phone?

15 days later I contacted them again. This time by phone. 10 minutes on hold (telling me how good their web services are) and then a bizarre conversation later (I don’t blame the person on the phone), I got to know that it is taking them from 4 to 6 weeks to process the moving (4/6 weeks to process something that is in a digital format!!!). Or maybe was her way of saying “Vuelva usted mañana

They didn’t set reasonable expectations (10 days for a letter is OK, 20 days for processing an email IS NOT) and they didn’t fulfil (4/6 weeks for something they said it was going to be 10 days).

Now. You could bet I’m not happy with the experience. I’m not angry, but I would like to provide feedback to the Council. What should I do? It would seem pretty straightforward. You can go to the council complaints page.

Well, but I don’t want to complaint as in “get my issue solved” (I expect it will get solved eventually), but as in “you are not having a nice relationship with your users and I, as a user, would like to tell you why”.

Well. You can’t.

It turns out that if you want to make a compliment, you can send an email. But if you want to complain, you have to download a form, print it, fill it and post it as a letter.

Yes. My dear friends. 2013 and you still have to send a letter.

OK. What form should I use. Well. It turns out it is a 6 page form with 1 page for the actual complain and 2 pages for my profile (Do you really need to know my religion or sexual orientation “to help [you] to ensure that we are providing our services fairly to all members of our community”?). You don’t want to get my feedback, neither ensure you are providing your services fairly. You just want to cover your *ss.

Note: As a contrast, I also notified the Tower Hamlets Borough about the change of address. In less than a week I had a letter in the new address, with the difference between what I had paid and what I was expected to have paid, and how to get a refund. From what I’ve been told, and from my experience, THAT is the usual time it takes to process a council tax record.

Update (19/07/2013): A couple of days ago, I sent another email. Today I received an email from a real person, apologizing for the delay and confirming the Council Tax is set up and that I will receive the form in a few days. That’s the way.

First published here