Trying to #fail better

Often private sector companies are held up as the bastions of customer service – think Amazon, think Apple, think Dell. According to the marketing experts your level of customer service is your organisation’s unique selling point. Now, thanks to globalisation we have homogonised products and the only way to stand out from the crowd is to provide excellent aftercare.

Last week I had the misfortune of being involved in a road traffic accident on the M8 during rush hour. We were all fine except my dented pride and even more dented car. We’d been on our way to the King’s Theatre to see Grease and passers-by must have thought they were travelling backwards in time when they passed my mum, daughter and me standing on the hard shoulder, dirndl skirts and voluminous petticoats billowing in the bitter wind.

Pretty soon Strathclyde police were with us, closely followed by the Amey Highways tow truck to remove my bashed car from motorway. The tow truck driver made us laugh, and the constables couldn’t have been nicer. They let us sit in their car till my dad came to rescue us, they took us to the nearest police station to use their toilets, they even offered to take us to the theatre to catch the show. We considered accepting for a second or two then thought better of it.

The next day I thanked PC Meikle and PC Brown via Strathclyde Police on Twitter (@KeepPeopleSafe) and a few hours later Strathclyde Police thanked me for my comments. Brilliant.

At the time I knew I’d hurt my leg on the dashboard but I hadn’t realised how badly. Two days later my zombie leg was swollen and making me limp so HimIndoors insisted on taking me to A&E. I was checked out and X-rayed by lovely people so again I thanked them on Twitter via @NHSLanarkshire. Again a few hours later they thanked me for my comments and wished me a speedy recovery. Again, brilliant.

The morning after the accident I phoned ATG Tickets to explain what had happened and to ask if they could change my tickets for a later show. “No”, came the answer. “If you’d phoned at the time we could have done something for you but not now.” But I was in a car crash, freezing on the hard shoulder before the show and in the back of a police car when it started. “I appreciate your mind was on other things but I can’t help you.”

I complained on Twitter (@GlasgowKings). Some people retweeted and pointed out the shoddy customer service. No reaction. Nothing. Nada.

I tried the production company on Twitter (@greasemusical). Again, no reaction. Nothing. Nada

So overall I dealt with three public sector agencies. All gave brilliant service, all with a smile and great aftercare. 10 out of 10, give yourselves a gold star.

I tried to deal with two private sector companies. Massive #fail and I can’t even find your official complaint form on your websites.

So after my ad hoc secret shopping exercise I’ve come to the conclusion that the private sector could learn a thing or two from us civil servants and local government officers. Aside from our customer service and our effective use of social media, how about learning some common sense and common courtesy.


  1. Pingback: Trying to #fail better | weeklyblogclub
  2. Kelly Quigley-Hicks · January 26, 2012

    Totally agree, commonsense and a degree of flexibility goes a long way. The culture of some organisations doesn’t foster this enough. Hope your leg is on the mend!

  3. Pingback: A crown, bowling and camping | weeklyblogclub

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s