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Olympian incompetence

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If bad customer service was an Olympic sport, the London 2012 online shop would win gold, says Sean Hargrave

It may be a year to go until the main event but the Olympic organisers have proven that they are world beating in at least one class – driving internet users to distraction.

Try to give the London 2012 organisers your hard-earned cash for the words “London 2012” written on the side of a toy, key ring or mug, and you will soon be Googling for baldness remedies to replace the hair you’ve just pulled out.

The very first thing worth noticing is that despite the site offering three delivery options (standard, next day and Saturday), these options are mysteriously dropped when it comes to paying for goods.

Calling the helpline (a very loose and, ultimately, incorrect term) would seem a good idea. But rather than an answer, you get a screeching noise which sounds like you are inside a jet engine

This was bad news for this column writer for an order being placed on a Thursday, which needed to be delivered as soon as possible so visiting friends from France could join in the excitement of the Games.

Calling the helpline (a very loose and, ultimately, incorrect term) would seem a good idea. But rather than an answer, you get a screeching noise which sounds like you are inside a jet engine (maybe belonging to sponsor BA?).

When the screeching stops, there is just silence – other than the echo of the caller repeating: “Hello… Hello…”

But nobody you can actually talk to.

As the gift in question was ultimately destined for France, you may be forgiven for thinking just putting in the French address would suffice. Why not leave it to a combination of London 2012 and La Poste to ensure the parcel arrives in time for the closing ceremony?

Unfortunately, there is another bugbear. Type in a house name or number, as offered by the delivery address page, and this will, surreptitiously, be dropped. It leaves visions of a Parisian postman searching an entire avenue for someone matching the name on a package of overpriced toys and branded trinkets.

What is even more clever is that the shop organisers do not take the house number off the version their staff see. So it’s there for them, just not for you. That leaves shoppers the option of calling in to cancel the order. If only!

Gold medals in shocking service and disastrous web sites do not get earned through keeping consumers informed and having workable customer services practices

Once the screeching sounds on the line have been replaced by someone actually answering a call – the first four calls were met with silence – customers are told orders cannot be cancelled until the next day, so best to email.

The next step, you guessed it, is to complete the order by repeating the house number in two or more fields, to be safe, and then emailing to cancel the original errant order.

Then, though, it will come as little surprise to hear, an email comes to thank you for a second order, coinciding with another email that says the first order has already gone through so too late to cancel.

Apparently, you do have to cancel on the day or the order, even though it is physically impossible to do so.

Confused? Well, yes, you should be. Gold medals in shocking service and disastrous web sites do not get earned through keeping consumers informed and having workable customer services practices.

Ultimately, though, it eventually proved possible, after several calls, to get an order cancelled and the correct address, that has been repeated in two address fields, used.

So, five days to complete a transaction involving several dropped delivery fields on forms, and many calls to a terrible helpline and my parcel was shipped.

I know this because they emailed me in the name of the recipient to thank her for placing an order with them. This would be news to the Madame in question, as they’re a surprise gift.




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