Marks and Spencer and the Inverse of Service


I’ve mentioned the book The Thank You Economy before. If you are in the business of providing things for other people you should read it. One of the central tenets of the text is that you should regard a failure on your part as a chance to show just how good you are in “failure mode”. The idea is that if you shine in this aspect of the business then you can create your own evangelists. At the very least you will prevent people from moaning about you in blog posts.

Marks and Spencer have not read this book. Or at least the lady serving us today hadn’t. We were returning something that had broken. And we were told that “Because it is part of a two part set we have both parts so that it can go back to the suppliers”. Now, from a Marks and Spencer business process point of view this probably makes sense. But from a “Customer with a broken thing point of view” it sucks. It meant that we had to go home, find the other bit, and come back again.

I hate it when people try to make their problems my problems. It is not my problem if someone sells me something that subsequently breaks. It up to them to fix it. If they immediately try to bat the issue back to me I reckon this is wrong. In the end of course, being British, we meekly went away to find the other part, but if I’d been on my own, without the civilising influence of number one wife, and there hadn’t been a queue of people waiting behind us, I think I would have had a go at getting a happier outcome there and then.

The item in question was not expensive and there are much worse things that can happen to you than having a dodgy customer service experience. However, the thing that most upset me was the sense of an opportunity being missed. Rather than making happy customers (who they presumably want to come back some time in the future) they have made us a bit less inclined to shop there and look somewhere else next time.