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.

Filming means going that extra mile – high!

This week we’ve been filming with Wiltshire Fire Brigade looking at the valuable, but often unseen work, done by the fire safety specialists.

A team within the fire brigade works day in day out, trying to prevent fires and accidents. They go into schools, into colleges, into homes and can  go into businesses, organisations to talk about safety on the road, in the home, on boats…the list goes on. The skills and the practical hints and tips they can give are worth listening to…How many of us think about what these officers, both male and female, can offer in terms of training? Debbie, who goes into primary schools, to speak to children about fire safety was awesome. Anyone who can not only hold, but fascinate,  a class of seven-year-olds for more than an hour deserves huge respect.

Today I learned what to do if my clothes caught on fire, what to do to check if a fire is behind a door, how to get out of a house safely in a fire. I’d already had a fire officer look around a house and offer advice about smoke alarms, safe practice in the kitchen, planning escape routes, where keys should be left….I could go on. But now I know what to do with my body if that very rare house fire occurs.

As part of my research, I’ve also found out that Wiltshire Fire Brigade works closely with the British Red Cross which provides 24-hour support for people caught up in the trauma of a house fire or flood. The fire officers will call out the BRC team and they will attend night or day – and all of them are volunteers. I’m going to blog more on this later so watch this space.

Our grand vision for the fire safety fiming, was to do a shot of the team and all of the vehicles at their disposal. This meant that we had five fire engines, a four-wheel drive car, a little white van, a British Cross support vehicle, a BMW complete with blue lights and a boat. We allowed two hours to get this one shot right and to arrange the vehicles in an arc. It was great fun.


Vehicles getting into position with my thumb at top of frame!...

But here are a few tips I’d like to share with you when doing a ‘key shot’ for any filming:

Whatever time you’ve planned to arrange the shot – double it.

A good cameraman will look for the most inaccessible shot and go for it – be prepared to follow.

Don’t go to the top of a very high tower on a cold, foggy March morning without gloves or without having visited the loo.

Take into account the last time you climbed a very high tower – in your 20s it’s easy, in your 40s, it’s a lot scarier.

Taking lots of heavy kit up a very high tower is not easy – bring along an extra pair of hands.

Swindon's magic roundabout from top of high tower!

Coming down wobbly ladders is a lot more terrifying than going up – especially when your hands are so cold, you are not sure if you’ve got fingers any more.

From these few tips, you can probably guess that we got some of these things completely right and others, while not quite so right. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the shots we captured are wonderful. However, my own personal shots from the iPhone were a bit ropey – probably due to numb fingers, or that’s my excuse.

All in all, today showed the joy of a portfolio career, you just never know what you are going to do, who you are going to meet or what the camera is going to show you…


Are you rascist? Football matches or elsewhere? Are you sure?

No rascism even in the heat of the moment.....

I’m not a football fan – I’ve only been to a few matches and I’ve never grasped the off-side rule and, frankly, if someone explains it to me I’m asleep by the end of the very long sentence.

But I have been interested in this latest argument about FIFA’s boss and rascism. It’s made me think about rascism and how it affects us all.


Sepp Blatter has said that racist remarks on the field of play should be dealt with at the end with a match with a handshake and various other comments. Listening to a debate about this on Five Live, I listened to a female caller and a male caller argue the issue.

The woman, talked about her children, of mixed race, who  suffered abuse because of the colour of their skin. For her, dealing with such comments, even if said in the heat of the football match, was something serious which should be stamped on strongly.

For the male caller, it was a storm in a teacup. He talked about playing in football matches where things were said in the heat of the moment which would never be said in the office, in the pub or elsewhere. The emotions and adrenalin of the match caused such things to happen. He said, as a man with dark skin, he’d said things that he’d never ever say in any other environment. He said it was not rascist.

The woman countered, saying that things said in the heat of the moment, off the cuff, often revealed what someone really thought deep down. So such comments had to be punished.

I thought about this carefully. I applied it to myself. What do I think?

I have many friends whose skin isn’t the same colour of mine. I don’t think of myself as rascist at all. Just as I don’t think of myself of homophobic  – I have many gay friends. Frankly these friends are my friends and the rest is irrelevant.

But I also believe that everyone has prejudice in them and it’s dangerous to think otherwise. If we think we’re immune we may not recognise when something we say or do hurts someone else.

I’m reminded of two things that sometimes pop into my head unbidden and when they do I mentally slap myself for being so stupid.

One is seeing a gold coloured old Mercedes or BMW with a black man driving, of any age, and the words ‘drug dealer’ come into my head. Why is that? Where have I got that message from? I have no idea, no memory of where this comes from. I know it’s not real, it’s not logical and I feel ashamed to even allow this to pass fleetingly through my mind.

Another relates to groups of Irish travellers, who visit  each year in Swindon. As soon as I see a group of caravans I think ‘mess, criminal damage, petty pilfering’. I know why these thoughts come unbidden into my head, because I’ve written many stories from residents who do feel those things.

However, I have had a group of travellers move on to land near my house – nothing was stolen from me or my neighbours. There was mess and I can’t say I liked them being there. But they caused me no personal distress.

Should something we might not always be able to control be punished?

One of my children, while at pre school, refused to hold another child’s hand because she thought that child’s hand was dirty. These children were three at the time and the other child was black. I was called into the school about this matter. I was horrified that my child thought such a thing. I apologised to the child’s parent and explained to my child that this was wrong. Even though I knew she didn’t mean to be rascist. And rightly so. Years later, my child cannot believe she ever even thought such a thing.

When any of these things happened to me – or happen to me – I berate myself and remind myself that it’s unacceptable even though it’s not deliberate.

So overall, I have to agree with the mum in the argument. Things said in the heat of the moment may be rascist , and may well pop out of the mouth without the brain being engaged, but it’s still not all right.

And the moment we don’t act to stamp it out, we’re allowing rascism to creep in under the radar.


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