Good PR starts with good customer service


A while ago we bought some smart chairs for our new boardroom from IKEA in Nottingham. When we assembled them we found that one of the chairs was missing some parts, and we’ve never got round to ordering them.

So when I had a spare moment this morning I decided to call IKEA and ask them to send the parts. I went to their website, found their national customer service number and dialled. After negotiating my way through the usual voice-activated options I joined a queue for the person in IKEA in Nottingham who could help with an after-sales issue.

Twenty minutes of anodyne hold music later I became frustrated. I hung up, dialled again, selected some subtly different options and waited. Ten minutes after that, still no sign of a response – just the same muzak and an occasional “Thank you for holding”.

With my phone jammed ever more tightly against my ear I opened up a second front and tried the online chat option on the IKEA website. Sure enough, I was put into a queue as all their available operators were busy.

Social media is the answer, I thought. What self-respecting global retailer doesn’t do Twitter nowadays? So I complained to @IKEA_Nottingham, but only after I’d hit send did I notice that they hadn’t tweeted since November 2011. A search through other IKEA accounts failed to yield one that might handle a customer service issue in the UK.

I had one last avenue open to me: I was invited to fill in the online customer service form. I soon had a familiar sinking feeling, however: without the card details of the person who had made the original purchase – and a thousand other boxes to fill in – I was unable to proceed.

I gave up, utterly defeated, about an hour after I started. It was officially impossible to talk to IKEA without getting in the car and driving over to Nottingham from Lincoln. The overwhelming sense of helplessness is with me still.

My IKEA experience was in stark contrast to the customer service I receive every time I call our green electricity supplier Ecotricity. On their website they promise that a real person will answer your call, and it’s true. There are no options, no menus, no voice-activated responses. A person sitting in the UK picks up the phone after about three rings, tells you their name and puts you through to another person who can help. It’s wonderful.

The result of all this is that Ecotricity got some positive tweets from me yesterday, while IKEA got some rotten ones. Sadly, IKEA will never read my tweets, so they will never feel my pain.

The point is that, as we often tell our clients, good PR begins with good customer service. If you’re rude, unresponsive, disinterested or unavailable your customers will form a poor opinion of you. And then they will stop being your customers and start being someone else’s. JA