I’ve been with Virgin Mobile for donkey’s years. Not because of the quality of their airtime, but because their customer service has always been exemplary. That’s not to say that it’s ever been in the rarified First Direct class – but more of them later.
Last week, my love for Virgin Mobile died. After two days (and a total of over four hours) lost in their automated telephone system, on hold whilst an electronic voice told me how important my call was and sometimes talking to a “Computer says No” stranger, in desperation I chose the “Press 3 if you’re thinking of leaving us” option. Only then did I speak to someone who vaguely sounded like they were interested in solving my issue – although by then my expectations were so low that even a Basil Fawlty level of competence and politeness would have been a breath of fresh air. What used to make Virgin different – ‘being different’ – subsumed into something worse than mediocrity.
As a result, I won’t renew with Virgin Mobile when my contract expires. And I’ll actively discourage people from signing up with Virgin Mobile, given half a chance. A relationship built over many years, killed in just two days.
So, back to First Direct. I once saw a poster of theirs which simply said “Machines Don’t Care” – three words which sum up the ethos of their brand. People care – and you’ll find them at First Direct. No automated phone systems, awash with ‘options’. People based on these shores who answer the phone in a nano-second. Consistent, professional service which always leaves you completely satisfied. The perfect recipe for a long term relationship.
So I got to thinking about our Client list. Most have been with us for many years (Diageo have been with us since Day One, some 22 years ago). So what is it we’re doing right?
Well, the parallels with First Direct are uncanny. We don’t have an automated phone system – in fact, we don’t even have voicemail, so every call is answered by a human being. Unlike some of our competitors, we don’t outsource large, important chunks of our Clients’ business to far-flung corners of the globe (even if this means that, on paper at least, we can’t offer our Clients ‘state-of-the-art automated processes’ which ‘improve workflows’ thereby ‘saving money’).
And as I look around the office I see people – who care.
It’s not inconceivable that our Clients really do see us as the First Direct of the advertising production & implementation industry. And hasn’t that got a nice ring to it?