How hard can companies make it to tell them about stuff?

To reply to my own post title, they can make it quite hard.

Wired

I’ve posted previously about Wired UK having pages with infinite scroll, but also a footer with links in. So you’re about poised to click a link, and it disappears for more content. I’ve tried a number of different methods to let them know, and never had a response. It still happens. I don’t even know if they know, or care.

Linkedin

On Linkedin, I might do a job search where I’ll put in a job title, leave the location blank, and hit enter, just to see what comes up. This is what.

Linkedin job search bar

It defaults to ‘United States’. What’s that all about? It’s not hard to spot that my profile says I’m in the UK. What usually happens, is that I’ll miss this, start scanning the results, and quickly realise that I don’t know these place names, and remember that they are all in the US. It’s bonkers.

I posted a question on the Linkedin forum, and got a reply from a Linkedin person (I assume), suggesting I use the Linkedin feedback mechanism to ask for a change. Firstly, it’s not something I should have to ask. Someone else pointed out the same thing on the forum months ago, so it’s not new. Secondly, why do I have to tell Linkedin twice? It’s making the customer work to compensate for lack of internal process.

In any case, I previously gave feedback about spam in their discussion Groups, and received no response whatsoever. I don’t even know if it arrived, which hardly encourages me to try again.

There is no sense of engagement with Linkedin as a company on their own social site.

National savings

I have some premium bonds. For those who don’t know, they are effectively a lottery ticket that you keep until you sell them back at face value, run by the government. I don’t have many, but I reckon I’m due a win.

I was looking at my registration card, and noticed that the address is slightly wrong. Instead of e.g. ‘5 Smiths Place, AB1 2BC’, it has ‘5 Smith Place, AB1 2BD’. I tried to fix this online, but can’t log in as my details are wrong! I phoned up. Now, all you have to do is Google the address to find the postcode, and Google the postcode to see it’s not that address. But I was told that I have to write a physical letter before they will change it. Even though they know it’s wrong!

Amazon

Amazon used to have an email ‘contact us’ button, where you could contact them about anything (in the UK, at least). They now have a locked-down series of question that constrain what you can talk to them about (online) to the topics that they define.

Jeff Bezos, I understand, likes to describe Amazon as ‘the most customer centric company in the world’. Yeah right. He says that ‘helping customers to find the right product for them’ is key to their success. I think that the search on Amazon UK is pretty poor.

Anyway, the relevant point here is that a while ago I gave a one star review to a product, and recommended an alternative. Within a couple of days I had received about 20 ‘not helpful’ votes. I could live with a couple, but this was plainly an attempt to give my review less prominence, gaming the voting system. My reviewer ranking dropped from around 40,000, to 3 million.

If you are going to help customers to find products they are happy with, you don’t want your review system to be gamed. But there was no way online I could contact Amazon about this. I spoke to a colleague who used to work at Amazon, who contacted people there, and the response seemed to be that they couldn’t tell who downvoted anyway, and weren’t really interested.

British Gas

We have a HomeCare contract with BG, which means that we can call them out to fix plumbing problems. We had a constant drip from our cold water cistern, so a guy came round to fix it. The following morning, I went to the airing cupboard to get fresh sheets, and everything was soaking. I tracked it down to a leak from the isolation valve feeding the cistern, in the loft above.

I was due to leave for meetings quite soon, so I was in a mad rush to get in touch with BG to get them to come round and fix it. I couldn’t find a phone number. On the website, you can book an appointment, and there’s a section for ’emergencies’, but that’s only for gas or electrical problems, not plumbing. In the ‘book an appointment’ section, there wasn’t anything that would get someone to me soon.

I tried harder to find a phone number, but couldn’t. So I Googled ‘British Gas phone’, and lo, there was the customer service phone number.

I well understand that companies encourage people to sort out their issues online first, and it makes sense to do so. But there is a but. British Airways went through this cycle of hiding the phone number, which then drove a lot of dissatisfaction. Eventually they realised that you provide the best service and get loyal customers if you make it easy for people to contact you using their preferred method. And yes, work hard at making online easy to use, and a better channel.

With British Gas, I can find their number way easier on Google than on their own site. That doesn’t make sense, and it’s really frustrating.

Eventually, I got through, and eventually, the same guy came round and fixed the leak. I got to my meeting on time.

The lesson

We live in a world of mistrustful millenials and fake news. Whilst companies can’t put unlimited resources on having cosy chats with customers, there does need to be an effort to open communication channels, and to give authentic replies. I’ll maybe post one day about the ludicrous chain conversations you can have with eBay drones.

Companies that want to learn, do better, establish trust, can’t just turn their backs on their customers.

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