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April, 2012

Review an example of good customer service – from a car dealership….

Anyone who reads my blogs frequently will know that I hate bad customer service with a passion – I truly believe we should not put up with it.

However it then means that when I suffer bad customer service – and it’s put right that I should shout about it. If only to illustrate that making a disgruntled customer feel that they’ve been listened to, is so important. It’s even more important with the advent of social media and blogs. Hands up the company which doesn’t care if its reputation is being rubbished online by the drip-drip effect?

Here’s the story. Last week I went to have my car serviced at Fish Brothers Renault in Swindon. My car is four years old and I’ve always had it serviced there. I’ve been happy with the garage and have had no reason previously to complain. I’m not a car fanatic nor do I have more than a rudimentary knowledge of the knobs and whistles under a car bonnet. However, I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to cars. I drive thousands of miles a year and have been through many cars in my career.

Big bill for my car service....or was it?

After a few hours that dreaded call came – ‘Mrs Scott, this and that and the other needs to be done to your car, will you agree to the work? I said yes. Then ‘Mrs Scott, we think a shock absorber is wearing out, you’ll have to have it checked in a few months’ – okay. Then another call, ‘actually Mrs Scott we’ve now driven your car and the shock absorber will have to be replaced” okay. I asked for a total for the bill, working out quickly that with the service I was looking at around £400. Oh, the lady said it will be around £522.

Shock, horror! I went through the costs and found out that my annual service was almost £350. I was staggered. Not only had this not been mentioned to me but no actual service (even on BMWs I’ve owned) has ever cost me that much. I questioned this only to be told that I’d signed the job sheet  – where the cost was clearly stated (in very small print I later observed).

Sometimes there are things that should never be said to a customer- such as ‘you signed the job sheet’. I’m completely the wrong person to throw that claim at. I pointed out firmly that all service contracts should have main terms and conditions spelled out clearly, regardless of small print. Price is usually the number one term and condition.

One very unhappy bunny later has to pick up hire car as parts are not available until the next day. In that 24 hour period, I told several people in my immediate circle how unhappy I was with this level of service.  And I filled in an online feedback form, which I always do but which I seriously doubted would be read.


However, the next day, as I was collecting my expensively serviced car, the service manager asked to see me in his office. Girding my loins for another verbal battle, I mentally prepared. Only to find that the service manager completely agreed with me. He had read my feedback form, had looked at the paper trail relating to my booking and felt that I had been misled in that the cost had not been made clear to me and I’d been given no opportunity to negotiate or side-step certain aspects of the service which were not strictly necessary. To say sorry he did not charge me for some of the extra work on the car – which cancelled out the overcharge I felt had been made on my service.

In a nutshell, my concerns were heard, understood and acted upon – even if I was bit of a pain in the arse. He didn’t give excuses, he didn’t bleat or wring his hands. He said sorry.

So I am able to say today that Fish Brothers Renault of Swindon, has a service manager who understands how important good customer service is – and  I now feel that good service will be provided even when things don’t quite go according to plan.

Selling off Titanic treasures – some articles are a pleasure to write….

An article about an auction of Titanic memorabilia and the man behind the auction – is the subject of a piece I’ve had published in May’s local lifestyle magazine Wiltshire Life.


Two articles from Fiona in May's Wiltshire Life

I’m proud to be a contributor to this publication where care is always taken to ensure that my work is showcased with style. This article is based on an interview with Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge & Sons, of Devizes – an auction house which specialises in Titanic stuff.

This year, the auction house is holding a number of sales of Titanic memorabilia, and one took place on March 31, with another in July. Andrew, who’s 38, has become an authority on Titanic after years of travelling the world valuing items from descendants of those who died, and those who lived.

I didn’t really know what an appetite there is for Titanic-related items. When I attended the auction, it was packed and items ranged from posters (some very beautiful and decorative) to pamphlets, leaflets, anything you can imagine that related to Titanic in any possible way. Even objects related to James Cameron‘s film are relevant.

Being the nosey person I am, I made a bee-line for the star lots, a first class luncheon menu which someone put into their handbag as a memento just hours before disaster struck. When we looked at it, we were surprised about how small it was – making the ‘putting it into their handbag as a memento’ really credible. The dishes on it made me smile – if only to demonstrate my ignorance of  high cuisine. (I can never understand why there are so many words for ‘sauce’! )

Did you know about this auction house in Devizes?

So first course was consommé fermier, cockie leekie, fillets of brill, egg a l’argenteuil, chicken a la maryland, corned beef, vegetables, dumplings and many, many more. However, even though such an item interests me – would I pay £76,000 for it? Ummm – no.

It’s the letters which really struck me as interesting and, if I’d had the money, I’d have been tempted by some of posters as they are so decorative. Also you feel a pull at an auction, it’s almost like a game or a race, where you feel the need to participate. I didn’t though because feeling the need is not the same as being able to afford it!

I also found a little snobbery around the room – my family were the only ones present with children and there was a certain sniffiness about turning up to such an event  with little people. I ignored those looks and tuts (not from any of the staff I hasten to add). An auction is a wonderful place for children to see old things, and in this case, history for real. In some auction houses, things can be touched. Children quickly sense the connection between the past and the present. I’ve always found taking a child to an auction is fascinating as they see things so differently from a parent. Their likes and dislikes are wonderful and illuminating.

Don’t worry if you missed this article or the sale, there’s another in July. Andrew didn’t give much away to me but did say that there would be some rare posters and a ‘unique Titanic archive’ whatever that might mean. So watch this space – I think a Titanic II is in the making…….



Am I a special customer? Or am I a pain in the backside?

It’s the Easter holidays and I’ve taken a few days off to spend time with my children.  I’m not alone in this of course.

When I do take time off with the children and we spend a few days out and about – one thing which really bugs me is poor customer service – those occasions when, as a customer (often a customer with children) you are treated as though you are at best an irritant and at worst, a complete idiot.

There are few thing which rile me in life – but one is being treated with disdain when I’ve behaved appropriately and with good manners. I’m not the only one though – these last few weeks on Twitter I’ve seen some of my followers and those I follow, complaining about several companies including John Lewis, Jamie Oliver‘s Bath restaurant, an expensive farm shop and restaurant in Devon and others. I’m just one person – but I can remember these tweets and who tweeted them (and I’m not even trying). So to all of you business people who think social media doesn’t matter – this is one of the powerful reasons that it does.

I’ve said previously that I once complained about Thames Water on Twitter regarding their very slow response to a major water leak outside my house. To my amazement, the tweet was answered, an apology and explanation followed. This company didn’t know I was a journalist, I was a customer who was fed up – and the company responded. Good on Thames Water. It made me feel that they had listened to me – and that counts. Making a customer feel cared about is valuable beyond measure – more valuable than even what you charge for your services.

But my little gripe today is quite different and very specific. This week I went into a town centre car park and took my ticket at the  entrance, ready to pay on foot when I finished. On returning to the machine, it said my ticket was invalid. Great. What now?

Well I know what now because this has happened to me more than once. I had to drive down to the lower floor, park up, go to the ticket office. Have a lecture about how I’ve kept my ticket too close to my mobile phone and wiped the magnetic strip – so be careful next time. In reality, I’d kept the ticket in an outer pocket of my handbag for easy access (I’m like that) and my phone was inside my handbag inside its own zipped case (yes, I really am like that). I said I didn’t think that the mobile phone had anything to do with it – and if it did, where was a notice in the car park to warn people about this design fault? As most people who park there probably have a mobile phone in a pocket or bag. Blank stare followed.

Having handed me a new ticket, I then march off to another machine, pay the money and leave. Thus a simple task becomes a ten minute labour. That was last week and I haven’t bothered with town since – in Swindon we’re lucky and have lots of options when it comes to shopping so I’ve avoided the town as it’s too much hassle.

So a problem occurs – and as the customer I’m made to feel I’m at fault and have to go to extra lengths to sort out this problem. This is a council-run car park and I couldn’t help but feel I got a public service, job’s worth attitude (which seems to be within some public service employees).

I highlight this because the week before a similar thing happened at the Swindon Designer Outlet Village (which I don’t hesitate to recommend as a great place to go). An invalid ticket message came up again – I went to the customer service desk and they checked it out. The ticket machine had failed to print clear data on the ticket. Then, without hesitation and without any blame, they gave me a free pass to get out of the car park. For me, these staff gave the impression that they wanted me to feel good about the place – AND COME BACK AGAIN TO SPEND MONEY!

Treat all customers with respect.....

A little thing, but it shows that making a customer feel good is the best way of getting repeat business. Do you agree?



Corporate DVDs – do you need one?

It’s been a busy few weeks but our latest corporate DVD is complete. It’s been a quick turnaround – from conception to completion in under two months – and we, and the client, are extremely pleased with the end product.

We’ve been making a DVD for Wiltshire Fire & Rescue about the training services they provide to prevent disasters from happening before they occur. The safety team provide elementary fire training to young children, present courses on safe driving for young adults, and deliver numerous safety checks in homes and on house boats. Making the DVD has been enormous fun and I’ve met so many people who are really professional at their jobs that it made me feel very proud of our emergency services.

DVDs are a great tool for communicating a message about your business. It may be that you want to take the business in a different direction  or that you want to promote services that you already provide to generate new clients. There is always a story to be told about a business or a service and how it works, and with visuals it can hold the interest of the viewer and be used as a sales tool and to generate discussion.

Planning is a vital element whenever you make a broadcast item, whether for TV, the internet or for a company. There is always a limit to the budget, so it’s important to plan well to include the essential pictures and scenes that will tell the story you are trying to communicate. Every day filming is an expensive one, so each day out on the road is highly planned to make the most of the resources that you have. Experience does come into this. Fiona and I have been making items for broadcast for over twenty years and we were able to put together an excellent freelance crew for filming and editing, ensuring that we got lovely, big, close-ups and that the pictures knit together and make sense.

There have been some funny moments – watching Fiona’s eager canter reduce to a plodding ascent as she dutifully completed the tough climb up to the top of the fire training platform was my favourite. How we chuckled down below as we heard her puffs near the top. Sorry Fi! Not that I’d have liked being up that high – but the pictures were certainly worth it.

Our latest DVD is uploaded onto You Tube. If you would like to take a look follow this link


Your Safety Our Priority – Wiltshire Fire & Rescue fire safety team

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