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Special delivery

I ask this question because there does not appear to be a day in my life when I feel that I am treated fairly as a customer. It would not take a team of researchers to tell me that we all experience underperforming services from other industries. Here are a few examples of customer service that I have experienced recently.

A telephone company tells me that I do not exist. Nor does my number, nor a member of staff I spoke to earlier on the same day. Before you say it, it wasn’t a wrong number.

Companies tell me that they will call me back. I am still waiting.

A hotel closes its bars and dining rooms because of a corporate function without prior notice or alternatives for its other guests.

A shop adds its own extortionate mark-up on a book of stamps.

It is a weekly occurrence that our rubbish bins are not returned to where they were put out for collection. They are left in the middle of our drive, meaning that as you turn in, often with a car behind, you have to brake suddenly and move them.

Our daily newspaper is pushed through the letterbox on dry days but on wet days it will be left hanging half out, so it has to be dried on a radiator before it can be read.

Then there are deliveries to my house. “What sort of time will you be here?” I ask.

“Can’t say, it’s an all-day service.”

“Can you tell me morning or afternoon?”

“It should be between 8 and 12 o’clock.”

So you phone at 1 o’clock and repeat what you were told. “You shouldn’t have been told that. We cannot give an idea of time.”

“But I was. What time is it scheduled for?”

“Can’t tell you. The delivery left here at 7.45.” Presumably, plumbers, electricians and delivery people are the only people in England without mobile phones.

Or what about the heavy load delivery? The driver says: “Under safety at work rules, I cannot lift this on my own.”

“So why come on your own?” you might ask. The choice is no delivery or risking a hernia or putting your back out lifting.

Then there are the leaders of our nation, who would do well to remember the law of unintended consequences.

The 10 per cent tax fiasco was followed by hints of a stamp duty holiday to help get the housing market moving. I do not know if the Treasury consulted those people best able to form a view but I would have thought, silly me, that this included estate agents. We now hear that many people have put their plans to buy a home on hold in anticipation of avoiding a big stamp duty bill later in the year. Looks like another PR disaster, especially if you have your home on the market.

Alistair Darling has been urged to make up his mind quickly or risk being held responsible for paralysing the housing market at an already vulnerable time.

I, and you, have many more examples and reflecting on them helps us to understand what customers expect from us. Anyone can make mistakes and we all do. The problem is that many companies have staff hiding behind anonymity who just do not rise to the challenge of treating customers fairly or even realise that they need customers. They simply do not care.

There is a sloppiness that is not just irritating for a Jon Gaunt, Richard Littlejohn or Victor Meldrew but for little old us, too.

So is all this hugely depressing? No. The encouraging thing is that if we are in a business that intends to deliver on treating customers fairly, we will not have to be more than average to be outstanding. And if we are outstanding, the value of our proposition will be off the scale.

Len Warwick is chairman of Warwick Butchart Associates

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