Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Tale of Two Services

The irony of service encounters has been aptly illustrated in the Neely household today. This morning we received two separate letters in the post. The first from Customer Services at Lloyds Bank, the second from the energy company e.on

Lloyds have written to us because I phoned the call centre last week to ask why some funds had not been transferred to a cash ISA (savings account). During the call I asked about the interest rate we received on our savings only to be told - "oh, you are on a terrible rate. We changed the accounts about three years ago, but your account wasn't moved over. You would get a much better rate if you moved to the new account". I asked what I thought was an obvious and reasonable question - "why don't you move customers automatically or at least write to them and ask if they would like to have their account moved". The reply "oh, we publish interests in the press and in the bank. The best way of making sure you are on the right rate is to call the bank once a year and ask us whether you are on the best rate of interest". This call took about 45 minutes in total - for about 30 minutes I was only hold waiting for different people and Departments inside Cheltenham & Gloucester to answer question.

So the letter this morning was from Lloyds customer services telling me that while the bank welcomes "customer comments as it helps us put thing right for you", their "review shows no mistake was made". And that in the future I should "meet with the branch, call the helpline or view the website"... For Lloyds, and their subsidiary business Cheltenham & Gloucester, it is clear that the onus is on the customer - you check the rate, you see if it is the best one that is available, you contact us if you want to move to a different rate.

Compare the Lloyds approach with e.on, the second letter we received. The e.on letter was unprompted. It started by saying "we've looked at your energy account and can save you money". The letter went on to explain how e.on has reviewed the pattern of our energy usage and recommends that we shift to a different tariff, because by doing so we'll reduce our energy costs by around £90 a year. The letter from e.on is clear, precise, explains what to do next - who to call to get the tariff changed. Most importantly, e.on does not expect the customer to take responsibility for ensuring they are on the best tariff. The company recognises that they can help their customers by providing them with clear and unambiguous guidance. These two contrasting experiences have made me ask - who should take the responsibility for ensuring great customer service - the firm or the customer? Clearly both parties play a role and have some responsibilities, but where should the balance lie and how many organisations have got this balance right?

PS - as I type this I am on the phone to e.on to act on their advice, but I am in a queue... maybe in another blog the story will continue...