Customer experience – Apple, HSBC, Links of London & Mont Blanc

Two weeks ago in Hong Kong, I had cause to have a customer experience with four different companies in one day. In alphabetical order they were:- Apple, HSBC, Links of London & Mont Blanc.

Three of them were positive and one negative. I noticed this comparison because I had a customer experience with each of them within a two hour period. Your task now is to guess which was the negative experience. Done it? Good, we can now proceed with the story.

I had a problem with my Apple id. I went into the Hong Kong Apple Store and spoke to one of “the geniuses”. Assuming you can ignore this self-congratulatory name for what we used to call repairmen, they were rather good. For a start, there are rather a lot of them. I counted 3 Gigamillion of them on the floor ready to help. Their primary purpose appears to be to solve your problem. They don’t appear to want to sell you other kit or screw you on a warranty issue. They merely want to understand your problem so that they can help you. Perhaps there is a link between this behaviour and Apple’s market value? Incidentally, a friend of mine told me a story about how he took a very old Apple external drive into an Apple Store because it wasn’t working. They just gave him a new one and apologised that the previous one had stopped working.

You are probably wondering why I was visiting both Mont Blanc and Links of London. You are correct in thinking that neither are really my type of store. The connection is that I have pens from both establishments. Now, you would probably guess that my favourite writing implement is a hotel pen. Some are good, some are poor. But the best thing about hotel pens is that they are free. I have no objection to being a brand ambassador for those hotels with good pens.

I was however given a posh pen from Links of London and another from Mont Blanc as a reward for some exceptional work. I don’t recall what the work was now, but it won’t surprise many of you that I work with to know that they were both some time ago.

Unfortunately, both posh pens had become damaged over the years. I wasn’t expecting a lot from either company. However, Mont Blanc were able to provide me with the spare part for my pen. They charged me for it (which makes their service only OK). They did make me feel good however and I left the store feeling positive about Mont Blanc.

Two minutes later I went into the Links of London store. They were dubious about whether they could help, giving the eminently sensible reason that the pen had been discontinued 5 years ago. I put my point that this was their issue and not mine. They promised to look to see if they had this 5 year old spare part. You can imagine that I was surprised to receive a call from them a week later to say that they had located the relevant spare part. I was even more delighted to learn that there was no charge.

Yes, of course, you were all correct. It was the bank that, in my view, provided the poor customer service.

I won’t go into all of the details, but I saw this bank fall short in:
– providing me with someone who I could understand
– simplifying their processes
– showing that they cared about solving my problem. I felt that they believed the problem was nothing to do with them. At worst, it was with another area of their company or just my problem to navigate.

Why did we all know that the bank would be the company that offered the poor service?

It’s probably because we know that banks believe they are the Masters of the Universe and don’t see themselves as in a service industry at all. In our hearts, we know that the thing first most in their mind is not customer satisfaction but the short term maximisation of their company’s profits and the corresponding increase in the size of their bonus. There can be very few people outside the banking industry who believe the exceptionally large bonuses for bankers are justified.

What can we do? The obvious thing is to be more ready to change our financial service provider in the hope that this will encourage them to improve customer service both to reduce churn and attract transferers.

Why don’t we do this more? I guess because we know the process to make this change will be horrible and we have a lingering feeling that you may already have found the best provider in that sector.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Melville on July 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

    The problem with the banks is two-fold; the market traders who make the big bonuses taint the retail part, and the retail part have ceased to be bankers.
    The retail sector is manned by second-rate sales people who when faced with a need to become customer friendly turn into petty bureaucrats. The adage that I was taught that a banker knows his customer no longer applies. Some time ago I closed an account yet I still get a statement showing a nil balance on the associated savings account which I never used.
    I tend to have two accounts at all times. A faily static one and one that I change regularly, albeit with hassle every time..


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