In a customer service world that just keeps getting worse, according to the UK CSI’s latest survey, it takes a stunningly incompetent organisations to screw up on multiple touch points or channels, in the matter of an hour. But those wonderful folks over at B&Q have managed that and more. Unfortunately for those of us in the UK, it’s a race to the bottom when it comes to big box hardware stores, with only the creatively named Screwfix, actually delivering reasonably good customer service. And guess what? They’re owned by the same people, Kingfisher plc, that own B&Q. Don’t these people ever talk to each other? But that’s a story for another day.

OK children are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

I paid (in more ways than one) a trip to my local B&Q store to purchase some decorative stones for the garden and as I’m a regular B&Q customer, and a Diamond Club member, that’s their misnamed loyalty scheme for elderly people.  I hoped to take advantage of the increasingly slim senior discounts and also use a £10 discount voucher for a £75 purchase from a previous large order at B&Q. On presenting those details at checkout I was told that because the Diamond Club offer effectively took the order under the £75 threshold, the £10 couldn’t be applied. I noted that the original gross value was over £75 and that this should be the determining factor. However, the manager disagreed, and in a fit of pique, no doubt brought on by the fact that I didn’t just roll over like most UK pensioners and say, “I’m sorry”, said that “if you’re going to be like that, then we don’t want to do business with you.” He obviously didn’t get the memo that said it’s unlikely that you’ll win an argument with a customer. But then B&Q management probably didn’t send it anyway. Upon which I left the store and the items behind.

As the specific stones are only available via B&Q, I reluctantly decided to order them online for delivery, but once again ran into a problem as despite being over the £100 threshold for bulk delivery, their website kept saying there was £30 delivery charge. I then even more reluctantly decided to call the contact centre with great trepidation knowing what a truly awful experience was ahead of me, and of course my worst nightmare was realised. I waited over 15 minutes on hold while listening to “Our teams are really busy right now and we’re working really hard to get to you” No they weren’t, like many other businesses cutting back on customer service resources, they simply showed their total disdain for people waiting on hold, who would have to temerity, or perhaps stupidity, to call them.

I finally did get through to a “representative” in what I assume is an outsourced, offshore contact centre and the background noise of yelling people suggested that noise cancelling head set technology had yet to reach that organization. I explained my problem and after putting me on hold again, he came back to say that he needed to transfer me to the bulk team (Really?), but he needed to speak to them first. Moments later the call ended with a message “I’m sorry the other party disconnected”, and I was left hanging. As I’m sure that the “representative” had my number on screen, I would have expected at minimum to get a call back, but clearly that’s above their pay grade and beyond their technology, and anyway I got the impression that this type of inquiry was the something that belonged in the “too hard “ drawer, and the last thing he wanted to deal with, and he must have “accidentally” disconnected me.

So, no stones unturned and much wasted time.  What a truly appalling experience at every level, from every person and via every channel.

My normal procedure when the customer experience gods rain on me is to send a strongly worded, but polite, email to six of B&Q’s senior executives to see if anyone at B&Q HQ cared. They didn’t, and the fact that nobody responded including their complaints team, suggested that these complaints are so common that there’s no point in even trying to fix the underlying issues, or engage with customers.

However, they were really quick to send me an NPS survey, which I delightedly filled out with many of the above comments and scores of zero, which at least should have some impact on the detractor scores. But like most of these surveys, it’s just a tick box exercise so that the CEO can say to the chairman, “See, we’re asking our customers what they think” And. “No, we don’t follow up on negative comments, that would be take too long”. So I certainly doubt that anyone will follow up.

As I spend quite a bit of time in Canada, my DIY experiences there are normally with the Home Depot, whose service culture, technology and people are exemplary. Interestingly B&Q stole their colour scheme, but unfortunately forgot to ask them for advice on how to treat customers.

I guess there’s no point in throwing any more stones as appalling service is just a way of life at B&Q and the only thing they can get right. But I understand that their new logo and signage at the entrance of the store will reflect that.

“Abandon hope all ye who enter.”