Service Please

Since I started working, aged 16, I’ve had several jobs which involve customer service on some level, and a combination of that and my heritage have turned me into a complainer. The former because if I see a job done badly when I know I could do better, I complain, and the latter because my mother is a complainer, so I’ve been trained by a master.

As a general rule, I think it’s fair to say that customer service in the UK is not bad. It’s not on the standards of actually getting what you want, but it’s also not at the standards of Spain where even this would not get a waiter’s attention (note the excessive exclamation points – not even that).

Service Please!


Ok so fine, the UK is adequate in terms of customer service, and that’s acceptable most of the time, but sometimes it gets too much, and a little bit of complain comes out in me. Such is what happened yesterday when I did a Sainsburys’ online shop.

Now, let’s be clear. The actual shopping experience was the worst of my life. Never again am I doing my shopping online. It was horrendous. So you can imagine my frustration on getting to the checkout, to discover that the website wouldn’t accept my voucher (which is the only reason I’d done the online shopping anyway). The date on the voucher was 17/08/14, the date of yesterday was 17/08/14, but for some reason (ie, someone in IT had put in the wrong parameters) the checkout said my voucher was out of date.


I emailed the support address, hoping (but not too hopefully) that I’d get a response saying that I could have my nectar points. I actually had another valid voucher, so we used that at purchased the shopping, in part so that I could use the acknowledgement to prove I had tried to use the voucher on my shopping of 17/08/14.

So this morning comes, and there is a message – so sorry for your trouble, but I see you used another voucher, and we don’t allow two in one transaction, that must be the issue. Oh no no no, I reply, I would have preferred to use my nectar points voucher, but I wasn’t allowed. This is no double-voucher mix-up, this is an error with your system, and that’s a problem. I can’t have faith in a job I could do better, and I’ve set up voucher code parameters before.

To be honest, on sending the reply, I didn’t expect anything back. The date has passed, the error is probably a one-off mistake by a faceless IT person somewhere, and I shall resolve myself to the fact that at least one voucher was accepted (and probably the better one, as it was a discount voucher).

But wonder of wonders. I got an email reply. Along with a voucher for me to use (shopping online, clever, clever Sainsburys, reeling me in) I was given some of the best service I’ve ever had from a bigger corporation. I’ll paste the paragraph which pleased me most.

"I would like to assure you that we are aware how much people rely on the online service. We do try to ensure our systems are fully working but sometimes problems can be experienced. I have contacted our IT department who will investigate this further and ensure website is functioning correctly.

We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us as your feedback helps us improve our services."

To which I say, well done.  Which incidentally I did say, because if you’re going to be a complainer it’s important to have the decency to be grateful when you actually get good service. Despite my thoroughly negative experience online shopping, I’ll be happy to continue to patronise Sainsburys, knowing that at least one person in their customer services department cares enough to do a good job.

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