An Honourable Exit

People who know me and have been watching my Twitter Feed will have seen something or other about our car radio debâcle. About 6 months ago, we bought a nice new car. It’s a great car that you can feel safe in. As with any new car, you need a new car radio. We previously had a Blaupunkt Acapulco MP54 (bought from Ramsey), which had a great radio, great internal amp, CD player and – importantly – could play MP3 on CD-R. With over 7,000 tracks, having two wallets with indexed CD-Rs was getting a bit unwieldy so we decided to look for a hard disk based car radio, and stick the MP3s on that. After much deliberation, we decided to stay with the Blaupunkt name, after all the previous player had performed very well and it was a name associated with quality. We also decided to “shop local” again, this time buying the Blaupunkt Memphis MP66 from the Auto Electrical Centre on Old Castletown Road, Douglas.

Functionally, the player was ideal. It accepted SD-cards, CD-Rs, CD and the all important USB hard disk. Playback was excellent, responsiveness was okay and the screen was well designed and specified. Navigating thousands of tracks was also really easy, a difficult accomplishment in such a small form factor in a difficult operating environment (even though you SHOULD be concentrating on the road). A small disappointment that there was no Play/Pause button, surely a requirement in anything of this nature?

We did however start to see problems. Principally, it would crash the player when playing certain tracks. One of these was New Order, and any stereo that cannot play New Order is not worth anything! A few other tracks also caused the problem, so we wondered if maybe the track format (MP3, no DRM, 320Kbps, Fixed Bit Rate) was incompatible in some way for those tracks. We tested the MP3s on a Creative ZEN Vision:M, XBox 360, Windows Media Centre and Nokia N95-2 and they played fine. Therefore, the problem had to be in the player. Another thing we did notice was that the player was starting to put red crosses over folders, indicating it couldn’t play those files. Being an advanced player we had a look around to see if there was some way of updating the firmware, a common practice for complex consumer devices. None was to be found, so we went back to Auto Electrical and asked for them to have a look at it and attach a Bluetooth kit to it, too. (Despite paying for a handsfree kit for my wife, with the best intentions in the world, inevitably it never gets worn). I actually disagree with making any phone calls in the car, by the way, but I’d rather her accept calls in maximum safety if possible.

The car came back (we had to leave the car with them each time and my wife had to arrange lifts in/out of work), and the Bluetooth system barely worked and the original problems of the radio were not solved. Two further visits were made, each time, nothing was corrected. The second time they actually replaced the player with a Blaupunkt Casablanca MP56, a cheaper model by some £100 in an effort to try and narrow down the fault to a particular model. Nothing changed. So we returned the car again with more detail on how to reproduce the faults. Calls were made to Blaupunkt technical support, which were not returned. On following up the calls, Auto Electrical were told they could not correct the problem. That’s it, then, rip it all out.

That’s when this transaction could have taken a distinctly sour turn. Throughout this process, even though it was at significant disruption to my wife getting into work and myself making myself available for technical questions, we remained polite and resolute. On their part, Auto Electrical were working towards resolving the problems and were also polite throughout. When asked to remove the equipment, they were most fair and returned the cost of the radio and the installation, in full. No complaints, just a sincere apology.

So in the end, even though the transaction didn’t work out, we have both come out feeling as good as we could from the experience. While I would not recommend a Blaupunkt which may or may not work depending on the incompetence of their developers at the time, I would certainly recommend Auto Electrical for the Customer Service Experience. Meanwhile, we’re going to switch brands and buy a Kenwood, instead. Unfortunately, this time it will have to be online because the island’s Kenwood suppliers do not sell this particular model.

Isle of Man Cycle Hire wins key Tourism Award

It’s nice to see people do well. That’s why I was pleased when the owner of a
small business who I helped with their web site told me they’d recently won an
award by the Department of Tourism and Leisure on the island. Whereas I usually
end up writing about how poor Manx customer service is, this time it’s about
good customer service.

Isle of Man Cycle Hire, a small company
created by a former colleague, has been recognised for its customer service with
an award for Best Customer Service 2008. It’s the personal
touch that makes a good customer experience and I am in no doubt that this is
what contributed to this award. I have always been able to ask advice on my own
bike and I have also had very kind offers to help maintain it. (If it wasn’t for
my own laziness, this would have been taken up!)

Looking forward to the summer of 2009, we’re hoping that we can build on this
customer relationship by adding a Facebook Page that allows customers to post
photos, anecdotes about their experiences and become “Fans” of the company. This
is great for small companies because it not only creates the impression of an
open and accessible company, but it also helps introduce interactivity to a web
site at little or no cost. No major site redesign, redevelopment was required to
encourage users to share their experiences, instead we just joined one of the
world’s most successful social networks.

Waltons: Bad Manx Customer Service – Again

There’s few things that upset me more than arrogant sales people. Unfortunately, on an island where there are few options and a distinct lack of viable competition, arrogance is rife. There seems to be an underlying feeling that if you don’t like it, tough, because there are no more options.

Like Nick, I have also come away short following a recent Customer Experience. For me, it was while trying to buy a TV/Video/Remote sender and then a Blu-Ray player.

I don’t like shopping at electornic goods retailers. The staff are basically out to pay their commission and whether you get the product you actually want and require is not always a priority. I can deal with pushy sales people, so I’m fine with that. What I can’t stand is them giving out incorrect information. Unfortunately, though, thinking about it today I realised that if they knew what they were doing then they’d probably be in another job.

So, experience #1. Buying a video/remote sender. I have bought these previously, and I know that despite the marketing on the pack you cannot watch the source in the two rooms at the same time, that bit of information is strategically “ommitted”. You need to split the signal off and then send it to the second room. Despite arguing this with the salesman at Waltons last week, they were quite insistent. Got it home, tested it, oh what a surprise. So I bought the necassary kit from Maplin instead. No biggie.

Today took the biscuit, however. I am after a Blu-Ray player, a very specific
model of Blu-Ray player. I’m after the Panasonic DMPDB55 Blue-Ray player,
because having done my research I find it is the most affordable player on the
market and has oustanding reviews. It’s also one of a very few players that have
Blu-Ray Profile 2.0. Unlike the DMPBD3x models, which everyone seems to want to sell to me. So having done my research, printed off my bit of paper, I
reluctantly decided to give a local firm a chance to bag £400 from me. I stood
around at the counter for about 5 minutes while 3 staff argued about the maximum length of a USB cable for another customer and a fourth stood around in the office at the back. Someone finally came to see me and I said I was looking for “that” player, handing over my sheet. I was brusquely told “no, we don’t have that one”. I had to ask about when they were going to get it in stock, “not before Christmas”. I didn’t actually need it for Christmas, but a date would have been nice. Then, he
tossed the piece of paper back at me. Such contempt for me as a
customer is misplaced.

In these uncertain times, if someone came in to my shop and said “I have £400
burning a hole in my pocket, and I want to buy this player”, I would be all over
that sale. No knowledge of the product is needed, no effort is needed, the sale
is already made! All that needs to happen is for the stock to come in. An “I’m
sorry Sir, that player isn’t currently in stock. Could I put one on back order
for you? Would you like to secure it with a deposit?” would have been much more
useful. (As it happens, I was more worried about the length of queue in HMV when
getting the Blu-Ray discs than when I would get the player!)

So, I’ve decided to buy it from Superfi, a company I bought my amplifier from when I was back in Manchester. These guys were VERY good. They talked to me, helped me identify the best speakers to use, and even stayed open later so I could pick it up after work. THAT is customer service. So instead of investing £400 in a player and giving a local business a hefty commission/return, I am going to spend £350 on a UK company’s web site – and wait for delivery anyway. Now who’s the idiot?

After the Waltons experience, I did go to Colebourns for an almost as useless
response. No “can we order it in?”. Just “No, we don’t stock that”. All I got
when I tried to engage in conversation was a grunt. Then I went to M&S and
the quality of service was markedly different. The salesman behind the counter
knew what he was talking about and when he asked his colleague about whether the player was in stock, his colleague actually said “No, but we have these models.
Can I ask why you want this model?” I was then able to say I needed the Profile
2.0 feature, he was told by myself and his colleague why I needed this and we
both came out of that experience positively. They didn’t have it in stock, but
my was it an improvement on Waltons!