Customer Service

Some get it. Some don’t. It’s not always who you expect.

Today I marched down to the FedEx store to send my ailing Powerbook 12″ laptop off to be fixed / upgraded (that’s another story — hopefully to be documented here upon successful completion). Anyway I get down there (114 Strand), stand in front of a desk that says “shipping” and am ignored by some people sitting at a desk and talking right behind the desk. Were they employees? Not sure. There were a lot of people in there but it wasn’t obvious who the customers were and who the employees were. Anyway, finally someone looks up from what they’re doing and runs over in a harried kind of way to ask how they can help me. Pulling out my bag, I say “I’d like to send something to the States.” “Oh. You’ll have to come back tomorrow because the last pickup has already left.”

Let’s go over this in detail.

1. The last pickup has left? This is a FedEx store for crissake! And it was like 4 pm.
2.  I have to come back tomorrow? What’s that about?

Why couldn’t the guy simply say “well- out last delivery has left but I can take it from you down and make sure it gets out first thing tomorrow.” That actually would have been acceptable (though I still think the last pickup from a FedEx store should be late evening) but the guy didn’t even give me that option. I stormed out of the store after telling the guy “this is crap.” Not necessarily his fault, I know, but honestly I was just incensed.

Well. I still had to send the package out, so I walked down the road to my local Post Office.  Ok – I had to wait in line for about 15 minutes in front of someone who quite likely suffered from Tourette syndrome, but at least it was quite evident who the customers were and who the employees were. While was waiting in line, I actually overheard one of the counter staff telling another about how, since waiting in this long line could be quite a frustrating experience, they needed to provide good customer service. When I got to the counter, I was given a number of options for delivery and insurance and walked through the process by someone who was knowledgeable and reasonably friendly and generally dealt with in an efficient manner. I chose a 48 hour delivery option. As indicated on my receipt, I had not missed the last pickup for the day.

Total Post Office cost: £64.35.

What I would have paid at FedEx (according to their Web site): £95.23.

I am not normally one to sing the praises of the Royal Mail. God knows, they’ve mis-delivered plenty of my mail and I actually had a new checkbook swiped while en route to me last year, but in this case the good old Post Office wins hands-down over FedEx.

Of course, the real proof of the pudding will be in the eating: receiving my upgraded laptop back safe and sound. Stay tuned.

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5 Comments on “Customer Service

  1. Hi Dan

    I realise this is your blog, not Voda, but honestly have you ever tried contacting Voda to ask them about anything more technical than the on/off switch? It’s hopeless and demoralising. I have still not been able to log into my online bill – 9 times out of 10 it says “this service temporarily screwed up and unavailable!” (OK, the “screwed” bit I made up!)

    Anyhow, whilst I’m here on your blog and noting that you’re an obvious Web-tech guy AND working for a major operator. I have a simple question: What has Voda ever done to make it easy for Joe Average to publish content to the mobile web? AND, do you think this is an important question?

  2. I hope you don’t mind Daniel, but I’ve added your views to my Delivery Hell forum which tries to communicate how appalling courier companies’ customer service is.

    If you wish for me to remove it, let me know.



  3. Paul — I can’t comment on your woes with Vodafone customer service but on your other question: absolutely this is an important question and a high priority for me personally. I’ve been working on this for almost three years now. During that time, we managed to launch the dotMobi joint venture, and the dotMobi company has gone on to build excellent online developer tools and resources (see We also launched the W3C Mobile Web Initiatie (see which has published mobile web best practices ( and a techniques wiki for mobile web developers ( All of this is aimed at Web developers, giving them the tools and techniques required to build great Web sites that work on mobile browsers. So I’d say we’re working pretty hard on helping average developers to publish content to the mobile Web.

    But let me turn the question around: what would you like to see Voda (or any other operator) do better to support mobile Web content creators?

  4. Thanks Dan, but this is all web-tech stuff. I asked about “Joe Average”, by which I mean the average Voda customer who might turn up in your shops or visit your website, not, which is probably alien voodoo to most of them.

    I understand the need for standards and wikis and other developer baggage. However, the fundamental promotion of the concept of having your own mobile site has not entered the radar screen of most operators.

    Something like (I am not related to that company) on your portal might be useful. When I visit Voda’s site, I see the message “mobile phone business”, or possibly “mobile web access business” in some areas. I don’t see “mobile self-expression business” or some other moniker that might lead to a mindset whereby the promotion of producing content for mobile web is made attractive, “hip” or otherwise appealing.

    I hear a lot about Web 2.0, mostly hype. What about 1.0? Most sites on the web are still not accessible on mobiles and there has never been a serious adoption of website mobilization, even by the developer community.

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