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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Good Riddance, Terry Tesco – 2

As I mentioned the other day, Tesco are not universally acclaimed for good customer service, and nothing throws this into sharper focus than an attempt to obtain refund or replacement for faulty electrical goods.

Many jokes have been made at the expense of catalogue store Argos (one of the best known being Jasper Carrott’s characterisation of the name as “the Greek God of queuing”). But when your electrical product breaks down, you’re entitled to take it back, and you take it back, they then tend to take it back. Not so Tesco.

The experience of retired teacher Peter Ward at the hands of Terry Leahy’s finest, following the breakdown of his television, is not unique. And the hoops he had to jump through in order to get the retailer just to comply with current legislation will be familiar to many. First of these is the helpline.

Why bother with “helplines”? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and better business, just to concede the point and make a refund? Ah well. That misses two crucial reasons for having the helpline in the first place. First, the helpline charges enough to bring in significant extra revenue, and second, punters are held in the queue long enough not only to make more money, but to put many of them off. You have to be determined to get your money back from Tesco.

Then, as Peter Ward found out, going to the store is not in itself enough. The minimum requirement for any progress is that the duty store manager must be summoned. Even then, there is bound to be a stand-off (I won’t go into my own experiences in any detail, save to say that I recognise Ward’s situation). Only when the customer has dug their heels in and refused to be moved will any kind of service be forthcoming.

This, too, puts punters off. The money generated from helplines that tend not to provide much in the way of help, and the difficulty in getting redress – your entitlement as a consumer – both contribute to the bottom line. This behaviour does not just happen, but is part of a corporate culture. It starts at the top.

Terry Tesco may receive rave reviews from the business correspondents. But the ordinary Joes and Joannes contribute to those headline numbers by getting fobbed off with appalling customer service.

That’s not good enough.

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