One of the cliches that's rapidly crept in over the past year of this economic meltdown is the one about how CRM aims have shifted from customer acquisition towards customer retention. It's not about winning new customers at a time of downturn and belt tightening, it's about hanging on to the ones that you've got and not letting them slip away. That means beefing up your customer service standards and keeping the customer experience at the forefront of every aspect of corporate thinking.
To which I say, fine in theory, not happening in practice!
Take Vodafone as an example. I changed banks back in December to First Direct. First Direct went through the due process of shifting all my direct debits over. All of the direct debits went over OK, except for Vodafone. I called up Vodafone and asked what had happened and got an absolute denial that they'd had any change of instruction. I got First Direct to provide documentary evidence that they had indeed been so instructed. "Oh, we don't talk to banks," said one particularly gormless individual in the Vodafone call centre, an excuse so mind numbingly stupid that it defies belief!
Anyway, cue months of calls back and forward. I tried to update the instruction, but got nowhere. I then got a default letter through and my service was cut off. I complained. It was reinstated and I was promised the situation would be resolved. Four weeks later, same process, same calls, same complaints, same excuses. This of course after I'd been through the whole sorry tale on the phone as clearly there was no record of my ever having contacted them before!
Eventually after many months I got someone with a brain engaged in customer services who resolved the situation - essentially by realising that I was now a totally lost cause and releasing me from my contract. He was as glad to be rid of me as I was to be rid of Vodafone. As of this week, I am free of them and they can get back to screwing up other people's lives. Checking out some of the Vodafone customer blogs and websites suggests that this is a full time occupation and one that demands a lot of resources.
Bu you know not once in the whole saga did any Vodafone customer service rep - until the last one - apologise or accept any form of responsibility for the mess which was entirely of their making. Customer retention may be a priority for some firms, but for others the customer remains no more than a right royal pain in the proverbial.