Monday, 1 October 2012

I was shocked to receive good service!

We’ve all felt moments of utter hopelessness when dealing with those who dare to describe themselves as ‘service providers’. Just the other side of desperation and rage, you refuse to feel insignificant because you’re human, while you know you’re not worthless because you’re their customer, goddammit.

Yet you’re beaten up by menus, holding patterns and reiterating the same information to humans and machines, rendered indistinguishable.

Being simple in some ways, I have hope in my heart each time I enter any first round of telephone menus. If it all goes well then shufti shufti, I move on. But when I am lied to, misled in any significant way, treated with disdain or negligence, then I tell them I’m thinking of writing about it.

Not a champion of consumer affairs, I’m nobody’s Esther Rantzen. As you long-suffering colyoomistas know, it’s just that I write about any insignificant morsel that might drop into my wormhole.

Unashamedly, I do it for myself, but also for us, all of us who are habitually treated like scum by those at the receiving ends of bills and direct debits.

It’s not a case of pompously roaring ‘Do you know who I aaaaaaaam?’  because they have no idea. But big corporations loathe bad PR, sending bots crawling over our blogs looking for keywords, so when this scribbler stamps his foot, ooh look, a higher level of service appears, where all of a sudden I’m called by their PROs, lovely to deal with, because that’s their job.

Oh and the computer voices have gone. Pure human it is, up on this new level.
Don’t we all deserve that service?

Out of the blue I get a call from a bloke called Ciaran Maddison, from our internet provider Airwire. Apparently they’d been upgrading the network in my area and it looked like I wasn’t getting as good a connection as I should have. Could he come round with his engineer and try to improve our set-up?

On the other end of the phone I was waiting for the punchline, but it never came: no call-out charge; no service charge; no upgrade charge. They just wanted to help.

A couple of days later they arrived at the house with a cherry picker, changed the globular thingy on top of the wireless mast on the roof with a concave thingy (blinding you with nerdy tech-speak here!) and then they fiddled about a bit here in my office.

I asked Ciaran if he worked in sales or support, and was truly shocked when he explained that he was in fact the co-founder and co-owner of the company, alongside his colleague Martin List-Petersen.

So the owner of the company had called me, offering to improve my service and then made the house call himself. Even though I’m well aware that staff wages are the single biggest drain on a small company’s resources, I told him I was very impressed by his and the company's attitude.
He seemed quite surprised I was so grateful, so I explained to him that for us punters on the ground, the word ‘service’ has become synonymous with ‘bad service’. I truly cannot remember the last time a utility company offered me spontaneous good service free of charge, driven by no other motive than to offer a better service to their customers.
As we talked I started to remember what service used to mean. In days of old when the sun shone at night and salmon swam out of the tele and onto the grill, people behaved like Ciaran Maddison
This is not an advert for Airwire. I signed up with them because they offer unlimited data upload and download, but their speeds are nothing to write home about. If you live in the country and want fast speeds, you have to sign up with a satellite provider, but then you’re saddled with monthly data limits, and I cannot afford to run out of internet connection.
So I suffer Airwire’s relatively slow speeds and those times on a wet Sunday afternoon or most evenings, when everyone around us is online, at which point the connection goes so slowly that I inevitably just give up. But on a day such as this, midweek and early, the connection does what I need it to do as a low-end user.
Anyway, this colyoom is not concerned with whether Airwire are the best provider or not, but simply that it was a joy to be treated as if my custom really did matter to a company. It is admirable that Airwire appear to take a professional interest and not a little pride in the service they offer.
A few weeks ago this colyoom churned out knocking copy against Ryanair. Everything I said was heartfelt, but it’s really easy to write Ryanair knocking copy. If there is no service to praise, criticism quickly becomes pointless, so it is with great and undiluted pleasure that I now write thanks and well done to a small business who appears to really care.
I remember when the Tiger spluttered its last asthmatic breaths that certain folk on the streets of Galway muttered about how now we could be human again. Uncomfortable in the madness of a malevolent obsession with money, they longed for the return of that way of being we in the West of Ireland have enjoyed in the past: of looking after each other.
While multinational corporations impose their products upon us, we will cling to our humanity and care for our neighbours, grateful that there are still people out there intent on making sure that we are getting what we’ve paid for, and delivering it with a smile.

Airwire reminded me what service used to be: not merely a matter of how quickly a provider responds to problems, but being proud of what you’re offering and making sure that your customers are getting what they pay for.
How refreshing.

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