Monday, 8 April 2013

Customer Satisfaction


This week's golden trowel is awarded to Avon Bulbs. Back in November some armchair travelling to the Crimean seaside followed a bulb planting session. The bulbs in question were crocus 'Yalta' described in the catalogue as 'a hybrid form resembling a large tommasinianus with silvery blue outer petals and darker purple inner petals. Gorgeous even in bud'. A long wait then ensued which this year seemed never ending but eventually signs of life were detected. Delight however rapidly morphed into disappointment when the flowers opened in March. Waving at me were the brightest yellow crocuses you could ever wish to meet - not quite the desired effect. The crocuses had been planted across two containers which were then pushed temporarily out of sight. However there was an upturn in the proceedings - as the yellow crocuses were croaking, slivers of purple shone out. They are in flower now, look most attractive and are presumably the genuine article. Unfortunately though only 3 out of some 25 bulbs were the variety that had been ordered.

A phone call was made to Avon Bulbs to inform them of this occurrence. As soon as I mentioned the word 'Yalta', the ever friendly and courteous lady who answers the phone at Avon Bulbs, immediately guessed what I was about to say. Apparently other customers have made the same observation with some having all yellow crocuses, others had a mixture whilst presumably some customers ended up with exactly what they ordered. It was suggested that the supplier had probably got confused when packing up the bulbs. An apology was offered and a replacement bag of 'Yalta' will wing their way to me this autumn.

Result : one satisfied customer.

This week's rusty trowel goes to Wilkos. Now Wilkos is great for us non drivers. It stocks a wide range of bulbs, seeds, pots, plants and gardening sundries. Here in the greenhouse vermiculite is used regularly both for seed sowing and cuttings so being able to buy it from a local store is great. A 10 litre bag of vermiculite travels quite happily on the bus so the services of himself are not required. However the design of the bag changed a couple of seasons ago. The new design has larger ventilation holes which result in a trail of fine vermiculite particles escaping all over the contents of shopping basket, conveyor belt and the assistants who have to pick up the bags to scan them. Once packed they still leak further so it seems you are paying for something that has diminished in volume, before you have even started to use it. After seeing two assistants sprayed with dust in the last month, which can't be good for their health, I decided that a phone call was in order. My comments were met with the response that so many thousands bags of the product had been sold and that I was the first ever customer to complain! My concerns were noted but it looks like either I have been incredibly unlucky and picked up bags with faulty ventilation holes, or that the holes in the bags are all the same but everyone else is not unhappy with the product. Perhaps I'm just getting too pernickity? I will continue to buy vermiculite at Wilkos in the immediate future but will now investigate online sources.

Result : one why did I bother customer?

Have you had any positive/negative experiences as a customer recently when purchasing horticultural items?


22 comments:

  1. It's odd they assume there isn't a problem on the grounds that only one person has complained. Either the bags are alright or they aren't. If they aren't alright, even if no-one complained, they still wouldn't be alright. Going to take a look at the bags might have been Wilko's best response - not counting complaints.

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    1. Yes Esther I think at least an offer to examine a bag and then get back to me would have been a more satisfactory response.

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  2. I'm glad Avon Bulbs did the right thing, having used them for years and never having a problem, it is good to know that they step up to the mark when needing to.
    I think Wilkos deserve your rusty trowel, at least they could have said that they would look into it, even if nothing happened. Some people need to go on a customer relations course!

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    1. I have bought from Avon for while too Pauline. Their response has been excellent both times that I've had issues. The other occasion was an item missing from an order. A definite thumbs up for them but alas not for Wilkos.

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  3. Sikes! This reminds me. One time I was at the grocery store doing my shopping. I got to the checkout and a store clerk walks up and says, "There you are!" I looked at him kind of funny, then followed his gaze down to my cart. Apparently my sack of sugar had a hole in it and left a trail of sugar all through the store, right up to the very place where I'd stopped. So, the lesson here, "Bag makers: Make them so they hold the intended contents!"

    Kudos to the bulb company. This is exactly how to keep customers coming back. Admit fault and find a way to make it up to the customer.

    Great post, Anna. I hope you're seeing spring.

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    1. Hi Grace, the thought of your sugar trail made me smile. Spring is very late here but is about to arrive on the doorstep at long last.

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  4. I can imagine your disappointment when the yellow crocus came up, but thanks to Avon you will have some extra Yalta to look forward to next year! I do find that the main seed companies that send out special offers like the ones from Gardeners World are always very good at replacing without question items that fail to thrive. I am still wading through a huge bag of vermiculite left over from when we had our Aga installed 15 years ago so haven't needed to buy any but will take note of your comments about Wilkos when I do ;)

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    1. I was most disappointed Cathy especially as I'm not the greatest fan of yellow :) However at least I got a taste of what I had been waiting for and can look forward to more next year. That big bag of vermiculite sounds as if it may be bottomless.

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  5. Glad Avon Bulbs were helpful. Read an interesting article by David Wheeler in Hortus, he is into species tulips and minature bulbs in pots etc and was commenting that some of the bulbs he got from well known suppliers werent as reliable as those from the small specialist bulb suppliers! I have ordered some bulbs from Minature Bulbs already for September to grow in pots as I am toying with having a go at showing them. I also discovered Pitcairn Alpines which look good - might be interesting for you

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations Helen :) Good luck with showing if you proceed down that path.

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  6. Isn't it great to get good customer service, I'll always shop somewhere again if they've been especially helpful. What a shame about the vermiculite from Wilko's. I use them quite a bit for gardening bits and bods, but don't think I've ever bought a bag from there. Maybe they'll pass your query on and review the bags.

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    1. It makes a big difference as you say Paula if you get good customer service. Wilkos is most handy but I will probably avoid their vermiculite in the future.

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  7. Frustrating, but nice to get good customer service occasionally! Bavaria just isn't geared up to real gardening, and I struggle to find anything other than "compost"... The seed compost they sell everywhere is full of large fibrous bits and chunks of wood, and that's from the top brand!(They HAVE started selling it in handy little sacks with handles - but no holes - though!) :D

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    1. We have composts with the same problem Cathy :( I like the idea of sacks with handles - wonder if it could catch on over here. I feel some letters coming on :)

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  8. Strange that you met that response re. the perlite. Surely it must pee off the checkout people plus others who clear it up off the floor.

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    1. You would think so Rob as well as grumpy customers like me :)

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  9. A big thumbs up to Avon Bulbs, I like to hear about companies who give good customer service as, all too often these days, companies fail to deliver. I'm really disappointed in Wilkos as I like to shop there, they have good deals and it's convenient, but it does make you look at them in a different light when you hear of such experiences. I was actually expecting you to say that they'd put the size of the holes in the bag down to health and safety, it seems to get the blame for most things these days.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Jo and as you say a big thumbs up to Avon. I imagine that 'Elf and Safety is behind those holes but trouble is that they causing problems :(

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  10. It's good to hear Avon bulbs understand good customer service. I've never understood the response 'well nobody else has complained'. Generally that's because people don't have the time or think it isn't worth bothering with because they'll just get the same response that you got. I've just sent off a sample to a compost supplier because I found bits of plastic, wood, paint and glass in the mixture. It'll be interesting to see what the response will be. I've had problems with bulbs too in the past. A large online retailer gave me dreadful service when some bulbs didn't turn up. I had to phone up 3 times before they delivered them and then the following spring they weren't even the right ones but by then I couldn't be bothered complaining again. I've never bought anything from them since. I can highly recommend Peter Nyssen for bulbs.

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    1. You've hit the nail on the head WW. Also 'complaints' are usually regarded as negative by the recipients whilst they can sometimes be an ideal opportunity to turns things around. The quality of that compost sounds rather poor and in fact dangerous. Hope that the issue is soon resolved to your satisfaction. Thanks for the Peter Nyssen recommendation. Have placed one order with them to date and was most impressed.

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  11. It's easy to forgive when the response is so immediate and helpful. I had something similar from chiltern seeds. Wilkos needs to learn this!

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  12. Avon forgive and forgotten Janet :) Let's hope Wilkos deals with the bulk of any complaints more positively and that my experience was not typical.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.