Why a policeman’s lot is not a happy one (aka personalised support 101)

When a package I received from Amazon was damaged, I called and complained. I offered to send photos but the CSR said one of the most powerful, loyalty-building statements a customer can hear: we believe our customers. Of course they can – most customers are honest.

I’ve spoken about this before but just to reiterate, people want relationships where they’re trusted and where they can trust. Telling a loyal customer who has been with you for some considerable time that you don’t trust them, without any evidence, is not just relationship destroying, it’s brand destroying.

That made the story featured in a recent issue of The Guardian a curious one. Tesco Mobile, who usually score highly on CX refused to believe a customer who said they hadn’t received a device in the post. Worse still, the customer highlighted deliberate fraud – someone had removed the phone and replaced it with a powerbank. But rather than blame a member of staff in the supply chain, it was easier to blame the customer despite there being no evidence he had done anything wrong, and plenty of data that made this conclusion unlikely.

The customer had been with Tesco for some considerable time. The handset was an upgrade and he had a good payment track record. Had they bothered to ask, they’d have discovered that the customer was an ex-detective who had passed extremely high levels of security-checking in his job at The Bank of England.

Had they taken a more sensible approach, they’d have bricked the phone using technology provided by vendors such as Trustonic, and investigated where the weak link was in their supply chain. They’d also have known that their customer was vulnerable – an elderly man. The phone belonged to his dead wife and the account was being repurposed for his grandson. Despite CSPs saying they have improved the way they deal with vulnerable customers, here’s clear evidence they’re still making blunders. (Ofcom still wants the industry to do better – see here)

Like me, the customer offered photographic proof. My proof was simply to back up my claim that my order had been broken in transit; his was a vital clue that a thief was at work somewhere in the supply chain. Tesco Mobile wasn’t interested. Meanwhile the customer was left with no recourse for complaint, because the ombudsman refused to get involved because it was a handset matter.

Sadly this isn’t atypical in telco-land. CSPs are still guilty of approaching customers will mass suspicion rather than a personalised risk assessment combined with a bit of commonsense. As The Guardian’s Miles Brignall commented: “[the] phone was most likely stolen at the processing stage…It is not an uncommon occurrence”.

We can’t help but think shame on Tesco Mobile for having slack processes that permit this, not having technology that bricks the phone if it does happen, and automatically assuming that long-standing customers are thieves. But, more importantly, contrast this behaviour with the way Amazon handles customers and you see something very concerning. Will customers really buy more from us if our first recourse is to accuse them of theft and not resolve their problems?