I’m a winner!

Kleenex Sofa Snuggler -- looks like a sleeping bag with a front pocket.

Shortly before New Year I entered a competition and won. But this week discovered that in fact I hadn’t won. But that they’d make me a winner of my very own unique competition anyway.

Let me explain.

Kleenex have a competition advertised on selected boxes of tissues at the moment to win a Red Nose Day inflatable chair. All you have to do is text in the correct answer. So on a whim I did.

It’s not that I have a particular desire to win an inflatable Red Nose Day chair, or really anywhere that I want to put one should I win one. We’ve just decorated the public rooms and none of them are red. But it was a competition and I never win competitions so I thought I’d give it a go. I could always give it to someone who needed an inflatable chair to sit in their bright red room.

I sent the text and continued with my end-of-year festivities and general cheer-making. And about an hour later, to my surprise, I received a text back to say that I’d won and that someone representing Kleenex would be in touch within a week to arrange delivery of my new, just-won inflatable chair. Woo hoo!

But nobody did. I just assumed that they were on a long New Year holiday; probably testing out the inflatable chairs of winners just like me.

And then midway through this week someone called me on my mobile phone to say that while Kleenex had told me that I was a winner actually I wasn’t. The competition didn’t start until 1 January 2007 and I’d sent my entry in on 31 December 2006. D’oh! I’d been about six hours too early with my entry.

Me: But I got a reply to say that I’d won.

Kleenex representative: Yeah, sorry about that. We were testing our automated reply machine that day.

Me: So I’m not a winner after all?

Kleenex representative: Well, we were wondering if you would be happy if we sent you a Kleenex Sofa Snuggler instead of a giant, red inflatable chair?

How could I refuse the offer of a Kleenex Sofa Snuggler? A Kleenex Sofa Snuggler for goodness sake! Who in their right mind wouldn’t want one of those?! Anybody who is anybody has a Kleenex Sofa Snuggler! So I said “Yes! Of course!” and gave her my address and hung up.

And thought “What the heck is a Kleenex Sofa Snuggler?! … who cares? I’m a winner!”

A tale of two customer support experiences

Woman sitting at a PC wearing a telephone headset

Today I’ve had two experiences of customer support: one with a national car insurance firm, the other with a national telecommunications firm.

Customer support experience #1

The first left me feeling frustrated and undervalued as a customer, and the obviously scripted reply of “[name of national car insurance firm] apologise’s for any inconvenience caused”, funnily enough, didn’t help to make me feel any better about our conversation.

I’d contacted them in November 2006 after we’d moved to inform them of our change of address. It was obviously a complicated and unusual request as it cost us a £14.73 administration fee to do so. A few days later (on 8 December) I received a letter from them:

Thank you for asking us to change your address details. This change will take effect from 08/12/06… There is an additional premium due of £14.73.

And here was me foolishly thinking that moving both cars off-street onto our own driveway might even bring the premiums down. When I opened the letter I distinctly heard the sound of a cash register (ker-ching!) and the sound of money being slowly shovelled from our bank account into a safety deposit box somewhere in the south west of the British Isles.

This morning I received a letter from them dated 22 December 2006 addressed to our old address in Cellardyke. In other words, fourteen days after they had confirmed in writing, by letter, that our new address was in their system they sent me a letter to my old address; a letter that took twenty-two days to get here.

So I gave them a call to ask them what was going on, and was our new address actually on their system? And was told that yes of course our new address was on their system didn’t I know that they’d written to tell me that? The problem, of course, lay with me.

You see, what I hadn’t taken into account was that the claims department don’t check the central records for the most up-to-date details during a claim. Because that would a ludicrous idea. Once again, I’d completely forgotten that people plan their car accidents around their house moves.

Customer Service Advisor: I’ll just give you the phone number for the claims department and you can advise them of your change of address.

Me: What?!

Customer Service Advisor: I’ll just give you the phone number for the claims department and you can advise them of your change of address.

Me: Sorry?! Hang on, let me get this right. You want me to telephone your claims department to tell them information that I’ve already told your company and who have already written to confirm that they have it. Forgive me, I don’t understand. Have you got my new address on your system or not?

And it was at that point that he told me that during a particular claim the claims department don’t check the system to see if the contact details are correct, and “[name of national car insurance firm] apologise’s for any inconvenience caused”.

When I hung up I felt angry and frustrated; I felt brushed off and devalued as a customer. Jane and I have been with this company since 1999, since we bought our first car together, and on the whole they have been great: friendly, helpful, courteous and understanding.

In the last year, however, we’ve found their quality of customer service to have plummetted. They’ve been quite consistently rude and discourteous, particularly to Jane as she fought for three months to prove that they had over-charged us. “Oh no, Mrs Saunders, we can’t possibly have got it wrong,” said they to her.

So when our car insurance is next up for renewal we will be moving. Any personal recommendations?

Customer support experience #2

Fast forward to this afternoon when I telephone British Telecom to inquire about how to set up our Broadband Talk telephone line. This is a Voice over IP service that gives me a second, non-geographical telephone number and allows me to make free telephone calls (evenings and weekends) over our broadband internet connection.

I got through fairly quickly, having negotiated the automated options (which if you are interested I got to by dialling 0800 800 150 and then choosing options 1, 1, 1, 1, 2), and spoke with Sandra (names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Me: Hello, I wonder if you can help me. I have the BT Broadband option 4 with free Broadband Talk but we’ve never set up the talk option and I wonder if you can give me a Broadband Talk phone number and password please?

Customer Service Advisor: Certainly.

Me: Great!

Customer Service Advisor: Now, would you like the “Evenings and Weekends” package or the “Anytime” package?

Me: Erm … I’m not sure. We’ve got Option 4 which says it comes with free Broadband Talk.

Customer Service Advisor: That’s the “Evenings and Weekends” package.

Me: Great! Well, we’ll have that one please. That’s perfect for me.

She read out a legal disclaimer (something about not relying on calling the emergency services on that line as the internet connection might go down during a crisis) and then tapped a few things on her computer keyboard and promised me that I’d receive an e-mail within the next two days giving me my new telephone number, password and instructions on how to activate the phone line myself online.

Within two days?! Nonsense.

The confirmation e-mail was in my inbox within an hour and another giving me my new number within two and half hours of that. And the instructions could not have been easier. While I was thinking that I’d have to log in to my router and fiddle about with various settings, all I had to do was log in to my account on their website (they even provided the correct URL) and click on a link which sent an instruction to my router and activated the account. Which worked from within Mozilla Firefox.

Now that is quality customer service and one of the reasons that we’ve stuck with British Telecom.

Powerpoint Edinburgh

Screenshot of a Powerpoint Edinburgh blog

Each month, as many readers will know, I’m involved in a Christian youth event called Powerpoint Edinburgh at St Thomas’s, Glasgow Road. The event is great and each month appears to grow bigger and bigger, attracting more than 250 young people a month; I seem to recall that last month there were around 400 crammed into St Thomas’s church building.

What has frustrated me, however, is that there isn’t a Powerpoint Edinburgh website. Not even a single page that tells folks when and where the event is.

Well, when I say that there isn’t a Powerpoint Edinburgh website what I really mean is that there isn’t an official Powerpoint Edinburgh website. They do have a domain (www.powerpointedinburgh.co.uk) which is printed on all the flyers. But, well click it, there’s no site there yet.

So, deciding that enough was enough my friend Mike (who plays bass guitar in the worship band) and I today set up a new WordPress.com blog and created our own little (and unofficial) Powerpoint Edinburgh (http://powerpointedinburgh.wordpress.com) blog site — a fan site, if you will — to post some basic information, links and a few pics to.

Which is one of the beauties of the internet: if you spot a gap in the information available on the Web you can plug that hole yourself, very quickly. It took us about 2 minutes to set up the account, about 30 minutes to customize it, and a further 30 minutes to write the content. Which makes me wonder: if it was so quick to do why is there still not an official site? We simply hope that this wee site can plug a currently present gap until the real site launches.

Do you have our copy of Memento on DVD?

Poster for the movie Memento shows a photo within a photo within a photo ... you get the idea. It is surrounded with press clippings.

Back in the olden days, back when we were living in Edinburgh, we had a fine collection of films on DVD, including arguably the finest movie of 2000, Memento.

Then we loaned it to someone. But we now can’t remember who.

Presumably because we didn’t take the precaution of immediately writing that information on our bodies and at a more convenient time having it tattooed as a permanent reminder.

So, if you do have our copy of Memento (or indeed Team America: World Police) could we please have it back please?

A Mermaid I Should Turn To Be

Mermaid statue

Another tag from Mike, and this one’s quite good.

The instructions

  1. Load your whole music collection, and place your music player on shuffle.
  2. Press forward for each question.
  3. Use the song title as the answer to the question.

The questions

  • What does next year have in store for me?
  • What’s my love life like?
  • What do I say when life gets hard?
  • What song will I dance to (should I have danced to) at my wedding?
  • What do you want as a career?
  • Famous last words?
  • Your favourite saying?
  • Favourite place?
  • What do you think of your parents?
  • Where would you go on a first date?
  • Describe yourself.
  • What is the thing I like doing most?
  • What is my state of mind like at the moment?
  • How will I die?

My answers

Now, since I have a subset of my MP3 collection at work I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions in both locations. So the first answer is from work, and the second (italicized) answer is from home.

What does next year have in store for me?
“Heal Me” – Freak Kitchen
“A Different Drum” — Peter Gabriel

What’s my love life like?
“Turn out the light” – The Music
“Hold Your Head Up” — Fish

What do I say when life gets hard?
“Prison Song” – System Of A Down
“Two” — King’s X

What song will I dance to (should I have danced to) at my wedding?
“Dream On (Dave Clarke Acoustic Version)” – Depeche Mode
“One Fine Day” — Marillion

What do you want as a career?
“Would?” – Alice In Chains
“Wherever I May Roam” — Metallica

Famous last words?
“Once in a Lifetime” — Thunder
“Dead Eyes” — Jesu

Your favourite saying?
“A New Day Yesterday” — Jethro Tull
“You Don’t Fool Me” — Queen

Favourite place?
“The Heretic Anthem” — Slipknot
“Ashes Of The Wake” — Lamb of God

What do you think of your parents?
“Have you ever?” — Incubus
“The Imploding Voice” — The Smashing Pumpkins

Where would you go on a first date?
“A Legacy” — Marillion
“Pass the Clock, Part 3” — Mostly Autumn

Describe yourself.
“30/30-150” — StoneSour
“1983 (A Mermaid I Should Turn To Be)” — Jimi Hendrix

What is the thing I like doing most?
“Animal” — Pearl Jam
“Love Is A Dog From Hell” — Godflesh

What is my state of mind like at the moment?
“Bicycle Race” — Queen
“She Blows Hot and Cold” — Freddie Mercury

How will I die?
“Minstrel in the Gallery” — Jethro Tull
“Holy Moment (Featuring SONICFlood)” — Matt Redman