Typography

Have you ever noticed that the companies who spend the most money on marketing deliver the worst customer service? This is particularly true of customers offering services, where what we judge them on maybe more the experience than any physical product that we can take home and use.

David Brown is a language consultant and journalist, regularly covering stories in Africa, Asia & the Middle East. He has lived in Finland for 10 years.

Have you ever noticed that the companies who spend the most money on marketing deliver the worst customer service? This is particularly true of customers offering services, where what we judge them on maybe more the experience than any physical product that we can take home and use.

I have had cause to think about this recently during the months I have spent waiting for my Lumia phone to arrive. I first started asking about the availability of the new models back in October after reading a story on BBC. Of the three stores I asked, two had no idea when the phones might arrive in Finland, and the other had never heard of the phone at all.

You might think buying a phone would be as simple as going into a store and asking for one. At least, unless you have ever tried any of the stores operated by Finland’s telecoms. In a half dozen visits I have never once waited less than fifteen minutes for service, and a half hour is commonplace. Staff never acknowledge customers, and at times seem intent on waiting it out - figuring you will give up and walk out before they ever have to actually speak to you. At one stage I stood in front of a staff member for fully 10 minutes while he did something on his PC, never once speaking, smiling or making eye contact with the customer who was trying to give him €500.

The salesman told me that he had ‘no idea’ when the phone I was ordering might arrive. Five weeks later, he was none the wiser. I find it baffling that companies operating multi-million dollar logistics systems and multi-million dollar marketing budgets cannot do better than ‘no idea’. Is this 1955? If Amazon can tell me to within a day or two when a book ordered from the US will arrive in my mailbox, why can’t a Telecom tell me to even within a month when my phone might arrive in their store?

One of the telecoms generously offer a massive discount to any new customer – while doing everything possible to assure that you never want to become one. A lack of competition may be a factor in this – with only two major players and a host of subsidiaries, companies do not have to do a great deal to hold on to clients. They, like us clients, are also aware that the other company is every bit as inept as they are.

The problems are legion but the solutions simple. Employ enough staff. Train them to actually help people. Suggest that they smile and learn to say ’Good morning’ once in a while. Buy enough stock. And why not provide staff with product information and release dates so they know when new models will be launched?

The attitude of the staff I have dealt with seems to be – if I were you, I’d give up. Well, in future, perhaps I will. Lumia phones are on sale online, after all. One claims it can deliver in three days. Thank God for competition.

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