A few weeks ago I published a complaint letter I'd sent to DIY chain store company, B&Q. And I thought that was it. Until they sent a response that told me they had missed the point somewhat.
In fact, it would appear that they couldn't even find the point with SatNav, a map, co-ordinates and a sherpa guide. But, Good News! It means I get to write to them all over again, and share it all with you. Aren't you lucky people? Anyway:
Dear Ms W
Thank you for your letter of 8 September in response to mine of 18 August.
I was intrigued to learn, from the first sentence of your letter, that my original complaint had apparently been about your self-service tills. I was very interested by your subsequent paragraph that told me how B&Q decided to install such checkouts to give customers additional choice, how customers had told you in surveys that they were the third most important service factor, and about how you had rolled them out over 220 of your stores.
All fascinating stuff indeed. There’s just one problem.
I wasn’t complaining about your self-service tills.
Allow me to remind you. One of your members of staff had been surly, incompetent, inflexible and laughably indifferent to the whole concept of customer service. (Incidentally, where did “Employing pleasant staff” feature in your customer survey?) The fact that this comedy of errors was performed adjacent to one of your self-service tills is somewhat irrelevant, wouldn’t you agree? Were I to have an argument with a B&Q employee by the paint-mixing machine, would my subsequent complaint be classed by you as “Didn’t like the paint-mixing machine?”
I actually went to some trouble – three pages worth – to set out what had happened, why I was upset and what I thought B&Q should do in response. Not only did you take three weeks to respond to my letter, you took three weeks to not actually read it before responding.
The irony is that a week or so earlier I’d had a good long chat with the local B&Q manager. And he got it. He completely understood. He recognised what had gone wrong, apologised genuinely and assured me that steps would be taken to prevent it happening again. I believed him. You may be interested to know that we didn’t discuss self-service tills at all.
So for a while I was thinking nice things about B&Q. Then your letter arrived to bring me a much-needed dose of reality. I suspect that wasn’t your intention, but it was the unfortunate outcome.
You state in your letter, in a suspiciously copied-and-pasted section, that “B&Q constantly strive to provide our customers with an excellent level of service”. What does this mean in practice? Does B&Q constantly misread complaint letters directed to your CEO? Does B&Q strive to miss the point when someone takes the trouble to raise an issue?
When I write a complaint letter (and I really don’t write many, despite appearances to the contrary) I have relatively simple expectations. I expect that someone suitably empowered to do so will look at my complaint and come back to me in good time with some form of explanation and, where necessary, an apology.
However, while I would dearly love to accept the apparently sincere apologies expressed in your letter, I’m struggling to do so. I have read it closely – I think at least one of us should take this radical approach to correspondence – but I just can’t see any evidence that you have understood what I was complaining about in the first place.
I remain open to surprises and therefore look forward to hearing from you.