0 currys

Every week friends and family share stories with me. The stories are a reflection of what is happening in the real world – the world we all live in as consumers and customers. Whilst many of the stories are positive reflections of people doing great things, more often than not, the story is one that would make the most prolific author of fiction get excited – they are almost that unbelievable!

This week I am delighted that Kirsty Scott, a fellow Customer Experience Professional has agreed to share this with all of us. Written quite brilliantly, Kirsty describes the horrific experience her Mother went through to purchase a new dishwasher. Something that should have been so simple turned in to a shocking demonstration of missed opportunities.

The company that is the subject of the story is Currys PC World. Having read it, you may be interested in reading the Customer Experience Review I wrote about Currys PC World recently – you can do so here. We can all learn from what you are about to read – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did….


I wanted to use the opportunity to write a guest blog post on Currys and their deliver and install service – Know How.  It’s a great idea, but in practice, are they setting customers up for a disappointment?  How a chain of events can create the perfect storm of customer disappointment and frustration:

My lovely, little mother recently purchased a new dishwasher.  Her previous machine had given many years of faithful service but eventually succumbed to a critical fault on its mother board (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds painful).  So, Mother Dearest toddled off out for a wander one Friday afternoon and found herself in a retail park where there was a Currys.  Having previously run into problems with Currys regarding an oven that she’d purchased and paid to have delivered and installed, when it turned out that the chaps who delivered it couldn’t install it, she went against previous experience and decided to pop in and look at dishwashers and maybe give this familiar High Street brand another chance.

A dishwasher was found, an order placed and next day delivery and installation service paid for.  Here is where the problems began.

The dishwasher was duly delivered the following day, on a Saturday and the men from Know How took the old one out, tried to disconnect the pipes from the water source and found the valves had seized.  They downed tools, announced it was ‘not their job’ to fix the valves and left.  No dishwasher installed, no old dishwasher removed and one very disappointed customer.

Missed Op 1:

Own the issue!  If it’s simple, fix it!  “Not my job” and sloping shoulders push the effort back on the customer. 

If Currys could ‘upskill’ their delivery guys to deal with common faults discovered on installation, how delighted would their customers be?  Consider:

“I’m sorry Mrs Frustrated, I can’t fit your new machine because your pipes need a new valve and that’s not my job.” Vs “Mrs Frustrated, I’m afraid fitting your machine isn’t straightforward, the valves on the pipes are seized and you need to fit new valves – But, I’ll nip out to the van and see if I’ve got one that will fit and we might be able to sort it out for you today.”

They may have a tight delivery schedule, but what’s the real cost of spending 20 minutes fixing something vs having to return another day to reattempt delivery?  I suspect there will be an ROI on that extra 20 minutes, not least in future sales from a happier customer, but also in cutting wasted repeat journeys.

Back to Mother Dearest.  Clearly, there wasn’t very much ‘installing’ going on.  The Deliver and Install service is an optional extra which customers can opt to pay for and they also take your old machine away, which saves you a trip to the tip; marvellous, if you’re a little, old lady (reader beware: little, old ladies can be dangerous when riled!).  Mother called the plumber.  He arrived the following Monday and fitted a new valve in a matter of minutes, all the while grumbling about how these ‘deliver and install’ guys make easy money, don’t do any of the vaguely difficult jobs and charge a fortune for the service.  Mother was inclined to agree.  She called Currys back and asked for a new appointment to ‘install’ the dishwasher, as it was now sat in the garage awaiting attention.

The following day, with no appointment (they just seem to turn up whenever they get around to you), a second attempt was made to install the machine.

Missed Op 2:

Give customers a firm time or at least a 2 hour window in which you’ll deliver – it can’t be that hard to figure out once you’ve got the route planned and will massively reduce perceived customer effort.  Sitting in all day doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it is a real pain in the proverbial, and if you’re a customer, isn’t that the same thing?

Said installation chaps arrived, let’s call them Laurel and Hardy.  They removed the old dishwasher and plugged in the new one.  Mother was told at point of sale that the delivery would entail a 15 minute run of the machine to make sure it worked and didn’t leak.  Laurel plugged in the machine and set it to run for a 15 minute pre rinse cycle.  The duo made a move to leave, were questioned about making sure it worked and responded with “Oh, it’ll be fine, it’s a new machine.”….  I think you know where I’m going with this.

Missed Op 3:

If you make a promise, KEEP IT. Simple!  The service states they’ll check the machine.  They should check the machine.

Laurel and Hardy hot footed it to the van and left the scene with a speed that made Mother Dearest wonder where the fire was.

Back in the kitchen, over 90 minutes later, the machine was still earnestly running its 15 minute pre-rinse cycle.  A less sharp mind may not have noticed that there was something amiss, but my razor sharp mother realised that 90 minutes is far longer than 15 minutes and the machine had had plenty of opportunity to sort itself out.  It was promptly switched off and a swift phone call made to Currys, who advised Mother to call the manufacturer.

Missed Op 4:

Reduce customer effort at every opportunity and take responsibility.  Why is the vendor expecting the customer to do the run around?  Why don’t Currys own the situation and just do it?

Mother was more than a little miffed at the suggestion she call the manufacturer.  In true Mother Dearest style, she hopped in her car and went straight over to Currys to take her vengeful rage out on the first hapless body in a Currys uniform she came across.

Discussions (I use the term loosely, I suspect it was fairly one sided; think Attila the Hun meets skilled diplomat, she’s faultlessly polite and utterly terrifying) were had, Mother explained the unfortunate situation and the customer service agent in store agreed (there’s nothing else to do when faced with a livid Mother) that it was not acceptable.  Phone calls were made and after a lot of fuss, it was agreed that the Know How guys would call Mother back to arrange a visit.

On the Wednesday, Know How called to discuss the issue.  They had no knowledge of the case which necessitated a recap from Mother – way to go!  Why not kick the hornet’s nest?

Missed Op 5:

Communicate!  If your business has to deal with complaints, make sure the agent that has to speak to the customer has all of the information to avoid the customer having to recount it – it just increases frustration.

I suspect after the agent on the end of phone removed the flea from their ear, they were able to get on with their job.  They promised to get back to her.  No word by close of play on Thursday.

Mother returned to the store, once again, on the Friday, a whole week from the first point of contact, to ‘discuss’ the ongoing situation with the agents in the shop again.  Everyone she spoke to in store was wonderfully helpful, but their hands were tied by poor policies and the creaking machinery of an organisation too big to help.  They offered to send an engineer at the weekend to fix the machine.  This was declined and they were told in no uncertain terms that they would collect the faulty machine from the property and provide her a refund.  This is not within Currys’ policy, since they prefer to fix than refund.  I’m not sure the store staff were brave enough to have this argument and so they agreed that they would refund on this occasion, but that Mother would need to return to the store the working day after the machine was collected as they couldn’t issue a refund without the manufacturer’s approval.

Missed Op 6:

Why on earth should a customer have to return to the store for a refund?  Just because company policy states that refunds won’t be given until the manufacturer had authorised it, doesn’t mean you have to live to the letter of the policy.  In cases like this, take a little initiative and make life easier for the customer!

On the Saturday, the chaps from Know How (is anyone else cringing at the choice of name by now?  They clearly don’t all ‘know how’….) arrived to look at the machine.  Upon opening it, it was clear that Laurel and Hardy hadn’t removed all the packaging.  There was still polystyrene in the upper runners and plastic inside the machine.  No wonder it wasn’t running properly!  They pulled the machine out to find that Laurel had cross threaded the brand new valves and they were stuck on the machine.  Laurel’s sharp exit now seemed to make a bit more sense.  I suspect he knew he’d botched the installation and that’s why they didn’t want to hang around.

Missed Op 7:

Do I really need to point it out? If you’re going to do it, do it properly, don’t break it.

The man from Know How initially tried to explain that he’d have to leave and come back another day to remove the machine because of the stuck valve.  I suspect Mother deployed the ‘Death Stare’ and after an awkward silence he finally agreed to just get it done.  Eventually, the machine was taken away.  Mother had to return to the store on the following Monday to get a refund

The outcome?  Mother Dearest will never darken the doors of Currys’ ever again.

The common themes?  Effort, Expectation, Ownership and Empowerment.

It seems to me that Empowerment is one of the most important here: Empower your staff to make the RIGHT decisions for your customers.  Don’t tie them up with policies.  Policies are there for a reason, to protect the business, but allow your staff some autonomy to make the best decisions for your customers in these cases.  The staff all agreed in store that the situation was awful, but felt that they could do little about it.

Effort: Take the Customer Effort on where you can, so you bear the burden, not your customer.

Ownership: Manage out the “not my job” culture and encourage and reward initiative and staff who want to please.

Expectations: If you can’t exceed them, manage them!

Having said all of this, I struggle to do each of the above in my job as a Customer Experience Manager for a large company, so I have some sympathy for Currys.  Not least because they had to deal with my ferocious Mother, but surely there are some simple lessons we can all take from the above?  Do your staff feel confident that they can ‘go rogue’ if they need to?  Do your policies tie the hands of your staff?  Do your staff own customer issues?  There’s lots to think about and I’ll certainly be looking at my own company’s processes with fresh eyes.  Perhaps Currys should do the same.  Thank you for reading.

(A copy of this article has been sent to the CEO office at Currys for their comment.  I will update you when and if I hear something)

A Huge thank you to Kirsty for sharing the story. If you would be interested in doing the same, please contact me at ijgolding@hotmail.com