Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Power of the press, part one

This is the first of three little stories that show how big corporations and organisations can suddenly react to customer complaints when faced with the prospect of bad publicity. Sadly, I have found that even a suggestion that there might be a story about bad service in even a small local paper can produce immediate resolution of problems.

Some of my widow and widower friends will identify with this first story as I know of similar experiences.

The scenario: My partner died, we shared the Broadband account at our house. It was in his name. I phoned the helpline about taking over the account. They wanted the password, I didn’t know it. So they cut me off that day. But they wouldn’t give me the code that I need to set up a new account with a new supplier. I hit the brick wall, in more ways than one.

He had only died a week or two before and I had an enormous load of sorting out to do of utilities/accounts/all kinds of business, most of it done online.  This happened over three years ago, but I heard recently of a friend who had a similar experience, so wanted to write this up.

At the time I felt like I lived in a Kafka novel. It would be bad enough if I hadn’t been dealing with the trauma of just having lost my partner of 20 years.

I spoke to a friend at work, I was in tears. She said: ‘Call the press office.’  Well I am a journalist after all. So, I called the broadband firm’s press office, told them about a widow in our area who was going through all kinds of grief because they had cut her Broadband and I asked them for a comment on this scenario, since I intended to name them and shame them and write a story about it for the local paper.

About ten minutes later I got a call from the Helpline offering to set me up with a new account, completely free for three months and very cheap thereafter, with a promise to reconnect within 24 hours.

It was a great result for me. But this sort of thing makes me so very cross. I know many people who have been in similar situations with suppliers, banks and others and they are not able to use the method that I did to get a positive result.

Companies and other powerful organisations should provide the best possible service at all times for all of us – not just those of us who can threaten to publicly expose their poor practices.

I have more examples of this sort to come, watch out for more on the power of the press.