How to disappoint potential customers and increase waste – an everyday occurance!

Imagine you “buy” something for £200-300 for delivery on a specific date and you start to arrange other parts of your life around it, only to be told later “you can’t have it on that day, you’ll have to choose another” – how wasteful is that and how would you feel as the customer? 

Last week I booked my car in for its’ annual service. I booked it in with a national company and used their on-line booking service, I could have used the freephone number to contact the call centre, called the service workshop directly or even called at the garage in as I often pass by once a week.

Nonetheless I used the on-line service and I was curious when it didn’t give me a time for the service but asked me to bring the car at 8.30am and that I’d be told what time to pick it up then.

I feared I would be part of some large batch of customers all signing their cars in at 8.30 and early on this morning I wasn’t disappointed! I wasn’t surprised either when they couldn’t tell me when the car would be ready.

However when I booked on the Internet I specified what needed doing, the mileage, the registration etc and this was all on a nice neat form in the office. 

The guy booking in my car then had to transfer the details from the Internet booking systems on to a single sheet they use when carrying out the service, so I enquired why? he didn’t need anymore details than I had provided. 

Apparently the Internet system wouldn’t print out the sheets they needed, it never had done and so time was wasted transferring details to the sheets they actually use during the service.

I commented on how wasteful that must be every morning, at which point you may recognise the story; particularly if you’re a Lean practitioner, you start to get all the other problems. I was lucky! the Internet service and the call centre can’t see the diary for the garage so they have a set number of slots to book each day and give each one an 8.30am booking.

The branch staff however are busy servicing cars during the day, as well as booking in the direct phone-ins and the walk-in customers, only when they get a chance to go back to the office do they book in the Internet and the call centre customers for their slots in future days. Many times they find that the Internet and call centre have accepted customers for which there are no slots left and so the garage staff have to waste time ringing up customers who need to spend £200-300 gb pounds with them to move them to another date. You can imagine how that is met by some customers!

So to test this I was told in the garage their next available MOT (compulsory annual vehicle check in the UK) is next Thursday the 20th August. So I go online at midday today (12th August) and the internet will let me “book” an MOT on Monday the 17th August – why? there are no spaces left, the garage staff told me and how many potential customers will go on-line to make a booking for Monday to Wednesday next week and have to receive a phone call telling them they can’t have the date the internet part of the business said was free.

  • Why do companies let this happen?
  • Why do they let the waste of repeated form filling occur?
  • Why do they let the customers waste time booking appointments that they can’t keep?
  • Why do they let the first conversation between the service staff  and the customers, start off  “I’m sorry but……”

Maybe in this case, the car servicing companies feel that in this current recession, with car sales still depressed, many of us are electing to run cars for longer and therefore the need (not desire) for car servicing will grow.

They and their competitors will increase the volume of work and the revenues (the longer I keep my car the more expensive the servicing gets,  I find) they collect, they will prosper and they can just pass the costs of the hidden wastes on to the consumers. 

  • Was my original internet booking date changed? no but it could have been
  • Was I annoyed by the delay at 8.30? no  I expected a batching queue
  • Was I disappointed to find that they didn’t know what time my car would be ready? no I expected it

I’d planned my day around dropping the car off and being in my office sometime after 9 and that I should get my car back sometime after 5, I just lowered my expectations of the level of customer service.

Can I go anywhere and get better service? sadly experience means I’m not sure


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