Big isn’t always good

I’m fed up.  Specifically, I’m fed up of large organisations, organisations that have lost the concept of accountability.  Allow me to explain.

All too often, I will call a company to express my disappointment and displeasure at the service they’re offering, only to be reduced to a heap, rocking backwards and forwards in the corner of my living room, defeated by the interminable bureaucracy.

Below are some recent examples:

British Gas

I have an insurance contract with them (HomeCare) that covers my electrics, drainage, boiler and central heating.  I pay a handsome sum for the privilege.  I called on a Friday reporting blocked drains.  They deemed it a non-emergency so refused a weekend callout, but promised me an 8–10am slot on Monday morning.

No one arrived.  At 10.02am, I called asking their whereabouts.  I was told that no such slot should have been promised, but that someone would be with me before 6pm, and they would call giving one hour’s notice.  At 4.54pm, I called again asking their whereabouts, only to be told that they weren’t coming today.

I arranged for the problem to be sorted privately, and am awaiting their response on reimbursement of the invoice.

Lambeth Council

Last week, I arranged a bulk rubbish collection, of which I’m allowed four per year.  The guy arrived today and took away a rug and a bedside table, but couldn’t be arsed with the large carpet.  The operator couldn’t do anything about this because the ticket was still “live”.

A man with a van is coming tomorrow morning to take the carpet, costing me £50.

Virgin Media

In October, I signed up to an all-inclusive Virgin Media package for a monthly amount quoted to me over the phone.  After the service (including new set-top boxes) was installed, they started billing me 20% more than that agreed monthly amount.  On questioning, they apologised for quoting the wrong figure and told me that the correct figure was the higher amount.

I am still working out how this might be resolved.

Many of the people I speak to in these organisations are, in themselves, lovely.  They are polite, courteous and seem to want to help.  But the bureaucracy that surrounds them, through no fault of their own, prevents them from doing so.

You see, no single person is empowered.  Each department exists in isolation, calls passing between them but with no one having a holistic view of the customer experience, nor the power to manage that.  And often, as was the case today with Lambeth, the operators blame the process for their inability to resolve the issue.

Smaller companies carry more accountability, don’t blame their colleagues or sister departments and generally give a shit about the customer.  The above companies, as organisations in themselves, do not.  Even if some of the people therein do.


One Response to “Big isn’t always good”

  1. slatfatf on March 19th, 2010 09:50

    Interesting piece and I suspect the answer to your own question is your actual article. You decide to have contracts with these big guys (Gas) where you could use smaller providers who are local. Same for council services (albeit I accept that you pay for this in an non optional way so its not really the same as the private sector examples (sloppy)).

    You could hire the local gas fitter trader bloke but you know you would have to pay for him at a higher rate than the big guys. What you want is the personal service but volume pricing. You want whole sale pricing on your retail goods.

    I used to work in a diving shop. The goods in there were more expensive than you could buy online for obvious reasons. But you could get your stuff serviced which you could not online. So people used to come in, use the facilities of the shop, try on gear and suits etc and then go off and buy the one they liked online for cheaper.

    Then moaned when the shop went bust and there was nowhere to service your gear.

    So make your choice. Support your local traders and pay the right price or stick with the cheaper big guys and live with the service.

    Shit or get off the pot as they say.

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