Tiscali’s flexible business ethics

Ok, so I am annoyed I admit it.

I’ve had a bad customer experience, and I am pissed off about it.

For the last two and half years I have had problems with my internet and TV provider.

They are called Homechoice, and they just got bought by Tiscali.

For the third time in less than three years, their expensive (per month) TV/Internet kit broke on me recently.

Eventually I got it fixed. This clunky, always-breaking service was fixed again.

So I have had no internet and TV (blessing if you ask me in hindsight) for almost a month, until I could be in the country and around (my wife works in the city, she can’t take half a day off for engineeers right now) so I could get it fixed.

So its fixed again as of last week. Great.

So I call up Tiscali/Homechoice. I say, politely, “hello there, my service was broken (again) recently. But I still paid you seventy pounds for it. Can I have my money back for the time when I had no service becuase your kit failed, again?”.

Seemed like a reasonable request to make to me.

“No” I am told (no apology, noted) “we will refund you your service costs with us, but your Sky Sports service is contracted via them, and they dont give us a refund, so you can’t have one”.

Call me a bluff old traditionalist, but I objected.

“Why” I said, “should I care about this?” (politely mind you).

“your company provides the service and the kit, I paid you, you owe me the money”.

“Oh no” they said. “we refer you to the terms and conditions”.

So I made a fuss. I kicked up a stink. I asked for the manager. I stayed on hold.

Then the poor customer services representative came back (poor since she had no power to make decisions, so had to be in the middle). “well” she said.

“I have talked to the manager, and he said to give it to you, so we’ll do it this once”.

Thanking her (its not her fault) I hung up. But should I be happy about this?

I think its deeply unethical of Tiscali/Homechoice to behave this way. They didn’t act like this in the past, while they were still a smaller, (dare I say more flexible company?). In the past, when this had happened (this kind of thing) they refunded without a qualm.

So am I entitled to be annoyed about this? I think so. They refer to one set of “rules”, then switch to another (principles anyone?) when I make a fuss.

What about all the customers who DON’T make a fuss when this kind of thing happens?

Presumably they are being ripped off. As one marketer put it to me recently “if you make a fuss, or look for the best deal, we don’t make money from you. We make it from the lazy customers”.

Am I naive, (I’ve been called much worse, so go ahead) or is this kind of behaviour eventually counter productive? I know it makes Tiscali and others short term cash (which the market likes, lest we forget), but is it a long term loyalty strategy when everyone is the same price for the same service?

Answers on a blog please. To me it looks like dumb short termism.

Toby Webb, Editor.

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