Brickbats contributed by friends
There has been much interest in the new 'brickbats' we've given out because of poor service we have received (seen via the link immediately above). Many people found them funny, and some of our friends have sent us their similar experiences - we think it has been cathartic for them, as well as just highlighting what service should NOT be like! We will share some of these stories as well. As usual the final decision on inclusion rests with us, and we will not be naming the organisations concerned.
Government website error - from Andrew Davies (June 2008)
We were delighted when our accountant, Andrew Davies of Creasey Son & Wickenden, gave us a contribution to our brickbats section.
He had been trying to submit, on behalf of a client, some information to one of the UK government websites. Having already navigated a number of sections, he arrived at the final page where he had to enter a user name and password to submit the data. After entering the required information he was faced with a message that the user id and password were incorrect and that he should key in the correct versions.
Checking that he had the right details, he re-entered them, but nothing would allow him to proceed and he eventually had to contact the helpline. He was less than impressed to find out that the fault was - despite the web page telling him he was using the wrong user name or password - an error on an earlier page. He had mistakenly used an old reference code for the client. He paged back through the form, entered the correct reference and was then able to submit the data.
A few weeks later when we saw him, he explained that it would have been useful [to say the least - D&D] if the error message had been correct! There was nothing wrong with either the user name or password, the error was with a piece of data entered a number of pages earlier. Why couldn't the error message say something like "client reference not recognised" - the actual problem?
He felt so strongly that he decided to add to our stories - thanks Andrew!
(Lack of) empathy and professionalism - another example from Lway Nackasha (April 2004)
When he was a PhD student, he called some well-know quality consultants in London to seek some help, and the lady asked him to speak faster as he was wasting their time! He reminded her they were a quality consultancy and this was no way to speak to anyone. She then called his professor to say they didn't want students bothering them. Many years later Lway was a General Manager at a large computer firm, and attended the TQM show in Birmingham. The same consultants had a big stand, and were giving presentations. The presenter picked on Lway in front of about 25-30 people, assumed that all the negative examples he was portraying were present at Lway's company. Lway didn't know why he had been chosen as an example, but the presenter kept on trying to make the audience smile. Finally Lway stood up and said, "No Sir, we are a company that doubles its profit every year. Now I am a PhD in quality management and I know a lot about the stuff you are talking about, but when I was a student and I needed help from your company, the answer was to call my head of department to complain about students wasting your time." It seems to us that if one is going to take the risk of picking negatively on unknown listeners in a presentation, you really should know that your organisation's values will stand up to scrutiny when the 'victim' decides to speak back! Lway tells us that the consultancy no longer exists - why does that not totally surprise us?
Hotel problems told by Elaine Jones - why are there so many examples of bad practices in this sector?! (April 2004)
She had been staying in the same Edinburgh hotel on a number of occasions while working in the city, and had often been given the same room. On one visit the built-in hairdrier did not work, which she did not discover until needing to use it in the morning. She was quite unable to get an urgent replacement from them, and ended up having to leave with wet hair - on her way to an important presentation. On her way out she told the staff again about the broken drier, and they said that of course they would have it mended. Coincidentally one week later she was booked into the same room - and by now you will not be surprised to know that the drier was still broken! Raising the matter once again, she was told by staff that they could not get a spare right then, as the housekeeping department had all gone home for the night (this was about 7 pm), but that they would organise one for her the next morning. They did not check with her what time she would be leaving, and so what time the drier would be needed - and could not even seem to understand that this might be an issue! She did actually get a call from the duty manager, and the drier did arrive the next morning so they did salvage something - but have probably lost a formerly frequent customer.
Queuing - from Lway Nackasha (April 2004)
"a major European museum had a label stuck on the cashier window indicating to wear a big smile as you approach the ticket box. The irony is that customers were queuing for as long as half an hour to get to the box. I honestly thought that someone stuck the label the other way round. On my way back to the railway station I needed to ask at the information desk and while I was waiting, I saw a hand-written note at the info desk window saying: Smile as you approach the desk we too are human. These guys have got it the other way round. They can't get a D&D." Many thanks to Lway Nackasha for that one. It sounds to us as if management hadn't got the staffing and/or access methods sorted out, leading to visitors complaining to the staff, who tried to defend themselves. A great example of dealing with the symptom, not the underlying cause - wonder if things would have improved if people had complained to management rather than just the frontline staff?