Last week, my friend Julie bought a cover for her new phone.

She bought it in Carphone Warehouse.

Unfortunately the cover didn’t actually work.

It cost £40 and offered “some functionality of your phone through the touch sensitive front cover”.

The cover didn’t stay shut, so it was useless as a product.

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The offending Samsung cover

She returned it to the shop where she bought it only to be told “we don’t do refunds”.

She pointed out that the cover wasn’t actually able to do the job it was sold for and that she thought that meant she was entitled to a refund.

The shop told her she was wrong and that all they had to offer was an exchange.

So she told me what had happened.

She thought I might be able to help.

So we sat down together and called Carphone Warehouse on their customer service number (0370 111 6565).

Our first call was answered by a man called Khanyo.

I explained that the phone cover didn’t work and explained that we’d like a refund.

He told us they only do exchanges.

I pointed out that UK consumer law, under the Consumer Rights Act, states that faulty goods are eligible for a refund for 30 days.

He repeated that they only do exchanges.

So I asked to speak to his manager.

He told me that his manager would just tell me the same thing.

I pointed out that I’d asked to speak to his manager, not asked him to guess what his manager would say.

I had to ask five times before he finally relented and went to get his manger.

We spent six minutes on hold.

Then Khanyo comes back and tells me that his manager had told him to tell me that they don’t do refunds.

I bit my tongue and asked him to please get his manger to come to the phone.

If nothing else, I thought he might be interested that their interpretation of company policy broke UK law.

So he went away again.

This time only for two minutes.

Then Khanyo’s manager came on the line.

He was called Fabian.

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Trying to use humour to create a connection

I then patiently explained to Fabian that the cover wasn’t fit for purpose and that the Consumer Rights Act states that Julie should be given a refund.

He then asks if I’m an attorney.

I replied “I’m sorry, we’re not in America.”

He then asked if I was a barrister.

I told him I didn’t make coffees.

He didn’t get it.

I then spent eight minutes basically arguing with Fabian.

I kept asking him to ask someone in the company who knew the law if we should get a refund.

He continually refused.

So I asked if I could speak to his manager.

He refused.

Then he told me his manger was on holiday.

But he did give me her name.

She was called Shereen.

But he spoiled it slightly by telling me that even if she was in he wouldn’t let me speak to her.

I asked him if he was serious.

Then the line went dead.

I swore a wee bit.

Then I called back.

This time Glenville answered the call.

I asked to speak to Fabian.

Fabian told Glenville to tell me that he wouldn’t come to the phone.

I asked Glenville to ask Fabian to have the common decency to come back to the phone.

He went off to ask again.

He returned to tell me that Fabian had gone for lunch (with, apparently, impeccable timing).

Glenville refused to put me through to a manager.

So I hung up and called Carphone Warehouse head office.

And remarkably I got through to the same office as the previous calls.

This time, however, we get to speak to Aneesa.

She was a star.

I explained the story about the cover, the previous phone calls and the fact that the law states Julie is entitled to a refund.

And she agrees.

We are entitled to a refund.

She’s very apologetic (and also pretty disappointed with her colleagues’ behaviour).

She takes a few details and asks if we would mind taking the cover back to the shop Julie bought it in.

I asked if she would mind if we called her when we got to the shop, as I was pretty sure the manager of the shop would still refuse to give a refund.

Aneesa agreed. (That’s what customer service should be about – making sure the customer’s expectations are met.)

So Julie took the phone back to the shop.

When she got there she called Aneesa. (The person who answered refused to put Julie through for almost three minutes!)

Aneesa came on the phone and asked Julie to hand the phone to the shop manager.

So she handed the phone to the shop manager with the words: “It’s for you.”

She only heard his side of the conversation.

But his opening line, after establishing who was on the phone, was: “We don’t do refunds.”

Aneesa put him right.

So Julie got her refund. Eventually.

There’s a really simple lesson for companies here.

If you empower staff to make decisions on your behalf, make sure they know enough to not be actively breaching UK consumer law while they’re doing it.

Or at least have an escalations system that ensures your customers’ fate isn’t down to the randomness of where a call to a call centre ends up.

With social media allowing people to share bad experiences to a wider audience than ever before, it’s increasingly important to get things right.

Come on people – it’s not that difficult. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and you’ll find the answers present themselves.

The flip side is when people go that wee bit further to keep their customers happy. Like this example from Chester Zoo. Imagine how you’d feel about the zoo if you returned to your car and found this.

Excellent customer service

Great customer service can really make people love your brand

Hats off to Chester Zoo’s car park team. Customer service really isn’t that difficult. As long as you don’t put people in charge who don’t actually want to help customers.

And thanks to Aneesa at Carphone Warehouse. She’s what all your staff should aspire to be. And if her manager happens to read this, give her a raise and promote her. She’ll do more for your brand than you can imagine.