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Fortnum and Mason: The best of British, what a load of old cobblers!

fortnum-and-mason-jubilee-hamperI want to share with you a personal story, a tale involving the outsourcing of a core service and system failure.  My father-in-law’s birthday is on December 30th and this year, my father-in-law being proudly British, we decided to get him a Birthday Hamper from the best of British, Fortnum & Mason.

My story starts on their website on December 15th.  The website was showing the hamper we wanted for him as in stock, but not available for delivery until February.  Hmmm, didn’t sound correct and so my wife we called their outsourced call centre.  No problem, it was in stock and was available for delivery on December 29th, perfect!  And off we go without a care in the world, safe in the hands of a best of British luxury brand.

Santa came and went, turkey was eaten, Christmas cake demolished and wine guzzled.  Then we realised that we hadn’t received a confirmation email, slight concern.  So, we check the bank statement and were relieved to see that the money for the order had left the account – phew, close call.  Me being the worrier that I am, decided that it might be a good idea to check to make sure everything was alright.  Best give them a call…

55 minutes later, on an 0845 number, which we were being charged for the privilege of using, and my wife gets through to an agent.  Order number… yes, Delivery address… yes.  Oh that order was cancelled as it is out of stock.  Aaaarrrggghhhhh! Visions of embarrassment flash before my eyes.  But the money was taken out of our account.  we hadn’t received any notification of any problems.  My wife asked to speak to a manager.  No, that couldn’t happen as there was nobody available.  But hold on, this agent was going to help.  They spoke to the warehouse and Lo and behold, the hamper would now be delivered on December 31st.  Apologies for inconvenience followed, but at least it was resolved.  Would we get a confirmation?

“No, this will be taken care of behind the scenes to ensure it will arrive on time”

Weird, but okay.

The birthday came and went… mild suspicion that we had perhaps left it late and hence the absence of a present….Thank you, Fortnum & Mason.  No problem though, it was to be with us for New year’s Eve.

Fast forward, New Year’s Eve, 4pm – no delivery, call Fortnum & Mason.  A curt response to our concerns, telling us that “I can see you have spoken with [agent] and he has worked to get it to you for today”, it had been shipped and that we had to wait until 5:30 before they could speak to us, as it might still arrive.  Ninety foot-tapping minutes later, no delivery.  Call Fortnum & Mason… their lines closed at 5pm!  Aaaarrgghhhhh!

Okay, now to January 2nd…

My wife called and was on hold for 20 minutes.  When she got through she was told that our order was not to be shipped until January 29th!  Hold on!  January 29th, but we were told it shipped for delivery on December 31st!  More time on hold.  Right, they would have to call us back in a couple of hours after she had worked out what happened.  My wife again asked to speak to a manager.  You’ve guessed it, no manager available.  So we are left waiting for a call back…

I had enough by this point and called back.  “I would like to speak to a manager”.  “No, you can’t have my order number, I just want to speak to a manager”.  “No, I am not putting my concerns in writing, I want to speak to a manager”.  “No, I don’t want a call back, I want to speak to a manager”.  I was told there wasn’t one available.  “Okay, I’ll stay on hold and I have the persistence to wait hours if I need to”.  I was then put on hold for 5 minutes before being told that she would need my number, as the managers work on a different system.  At this point I got more than a little frustrated and informed the agent that I had worked as a consultant in a call centre operation and knew that not to be true.  Put on hold again.  She then came back and told me, yet again, that there now wasn’t a manager available.  When I pointed out that she was at best being misleading and, in my eyes, possibly lying she put me on hold for a third time.  This time, you will not believe it, but I actually spoke to a manager!  Success!!

It transpires that there was an error, but they couldn’t see the notes in the system to tell me what had happened…Hang on, the notes were in the system on the 31st.  The manager couldn’t tell me why we were told the order had shipped.  In fact, aside from listen, he couldn’t actually tell me anything.  He would have to call me back.  Two and a half hours later the call came.  He had spoken to two people in the shop and the warehouse, and the order would definitely be with us by Jan 4th; along with a gift, he didn’t know what it would be (I didn’t ask), but it would definitely be in our hands by Friday!

I worked from home on Friday, cancelling a meeting (sorry John) to ensure someone was at home to receive it.  Six-O’Clock… Nothing!  Call to Fortnum & Mason.  Called the number on my phone, from the inbound call I received from the manager on the Wednesday..message “you received a call from our marketing team, they represent a number of companies…” – oh the joys of an outsourced call centre! Anyway, back to the 0845 number (still costing me to solve their problem)…Transferred to the manager who had helped me on the Wednesday, to be told that this would be escalated and that another, more senior, manager would call me back that evening or the next morning.  I said that I wanted the call that evening, that enough was enough.  He agreed that this was getting a bit silly and that someone would call me back forthwith.

Guess what… No call.  And here we are the morning after…still nothing…

A great (the quality of product is unquestionable) British brand being eroded because they outsource a core element of their service!  Luxury brand…What a load of old cobblers!

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5 comments on “Fortnum and Mason: The best of British, what a load of old cobblers!

  1. Ted Zaleski
    January 5, 2013

    I think that we all have similar stories, the true message here is that if it is not your business you don’t care as much. Our job is to install that in our employees so that they do care as much and follow through.

    • David Griffiths
      January 5, 2013

      Hi Ted – agreed, but I would also say that the key is to make sure that core elements of your business are delivered by ‘your’ employees – as opposed to out sourced solutions that will never care about your business the way your employees would, there just isn’t the emotional attachment.

      Cheers, David

  2. Ros Smart
    January 7, 2013

    This is a very sad, bad story. If it had happened to me, I’d be foaming at the mouth by now. I would like to suggest that, if your hamper hasn’t arrived, you post the story on their Facebook page – With over 10,000 people liking the Fortnum & Mason site, hopefully they will be anxious to see the story put right.
    (PS: Ted, it would be great if we could “install” good customer service in our employees. Unfortunately we have often have to resort to the more labour-intensive approach of “instilling” good practice. )

    • David Griffiths
      January 7, 2013

      Hi Ros,

      In the end I called corporate HQ before I flew to the US on Sat. I spoke to a customer relations person there, who explained that several of the items in the hamper I ordered were not in stock and would not be in stock for a while. So, I had been lied to, no other word for it. They were going to ship an alternate hamper (of exactly the same value, but without the birthday cake etc.). She also offered a box of chocolates and a letter explaining that it wasn’t our fault. We just want the present sorted and so agreed, but, if I am honest, it is still just not good enough.

      I have found out that the CEO has read this blog, he emailed my wife, and is now looking into it himself, with promises to get back to us; apparently this Christmas was the first time they outsourced their call centre – lesson learned there, perhaps?

      Anyway, I’ll let you know the final outcome…and whether the substitute hamper finally arrives today — the tension is killing me 🙂

  3. David Griffiths
    January 7, 2013

    Also… every company experiences shortfalls in service at some point, what defines you is the way you deal with it…

    We had a letter today from customer relations… Wasn’t addressed to anyone in particular (no, Dear…), they misspelled our surname (but corrected it later in the letter – attention to detail?) and, can I be clear that I am not a pedant (although this has made me grumpy and it probably shows!), but, when you are trying to apologise, show that you really care and make a little effort to ensure you get everything right and note that it is Dr and not Mr — all this just shows, in my mind, that you don’t really care – sorry!

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