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Published July 18th 2012

Customer Service: The Good, The Bad & The Petty

Now, just for a change, I’m going to write this post in the first person, as it happened to me and not to Brandwatch as a company. That way, you can blame me for its terrible quality and not my nice employer.

This story is about how Boots’ customer service is bad in places, good in others and also explains how petty I am.

You may have noticed that yesterday Brandwatch released its annual Customer Service Index, which placed John Lewis at the top of a pile of 40 brands regarding customer service in social media.

It turns out that people flock to social media to complain more often than they praise when mentioning brands.

Now, I’m something of a complainer, but I also counteract this with a lavishing of praise where applicable. In a nutshell, I like to interact with companies.

Just the other day, I told a checkout employee’s manager at Sainsbury’s that he was doing a great job. Last week I informed SongPop/OMGPOP that their in-game grammar was wrong in a polite way. Not too long ago I emailed LEGO® to ask about the correct nomenclature of their brand. Before that, I wrote to Innocent Smoothies (the Social Brands 100 winner, as it happens) to ask about the economics of their drinks prices.

Basically, I’m forthcoming with my questions, praise and complaints. I’m weird like that. Therefore, when I had something of an altercation with a grumbly old jobsworth in Boots earlier this month, I felt inclined to get in touch with them.

Much to my chagrin, they unfortunately didn’t have a Twitter account I could find and their phone lines were busy, so I went to their corporate website and contacted them through their annoying 3-line contact form. Complaints and customer service aren’t even options, so I had to go with ‘any other query’.

I then took the care to prepare this angry and melodramatic beauty:

I am a frequent (at least weekly) visitor of Boots, almost entirely for the excellent Boots meal deal. This deal was sweetened even more so by the 30p discount offered upon repeat custom, prompting me and my colleagues to go almost every day.

Keeping the receipts seems bothersome and a labour when there are literally hundreds sitting to the side of each till. The security guard, who is no doubt familiar with us by now, just smirks when we take the discarded receipts from the small bin to get our 30p discount (possibly because he knows we always go).

Today, however, it was a lady monitoring the self-service machines. This was at approximately 1.15pm on Tuesday 10th at the North Street branch in Brighton.

She refused to let me use an old receipt and was very rude to me. Post-purchase, I presented my receipt for others to use and she was ruder still and made me either keep it for myself or throw it away.

This terrible customer service and unwillingness to use common sense has put me off the Boots brand and will make me think twice about returning, at least as often as I currently do.

This situation, even if it means the employee was technically in the right, demonstrates either a lack of autonomy granted to employees to make judgments and act independently, or it shows the poor customer service skills of some of the Boots staff.

I’m disappointed in both the strict nature of such a petty rule and the manner of enforcement of such systems.



Perhaps erring on the side of pettiness myself, the note at least made my dissatisfaction clear to the company. I wanted to see what Boots would do about the situation, and I would have been happy with just an acknowledgement or an apology; or even just a backing of their own staff and rules.

However, a week passed and I had received nothing. That annoyed me even more so. Left with nowhere else to turn, I took to their Facebook page to vent my grumbles.

“Sent a very polite complaint to Boots a week ago through the official ‘contact us’ channel on the website. Haven’t even had a courtesy response.”

In less than 24 hours a Boots employee had responded to me, asking if I could reiterate my query to him in a private message.

After I had done so, I got this message:

Hi Joel,

Thanks for the reply. I’m sorry about your experience in store. I can understand my store colleague being concerned about you using the receipts as you didn’t get them from making a purchase yourself, but I do agree with you that as it’s not a large amount, then my store colleague should of really allowed you to use it. I’m sorry about the confusion.

I’m guessing you have an Advantage Card as you’re a regular customer of ours. Would you be happy with me adding points so you can get your next meal deal for free?

If you’d like to reply with your card number, I’ll then add the points for you.

Many thanks


Good enough for me. Excusing the erroneous ‘should of’ – you should already have a grasp of my pedantry by now – this is exactly the kind of response rate, content and tone that companies should be striving for in their customer service: prompt, reasonable, tactful and supportive.

It’s a shame that it took so much effort to finally get a response, but I think this is indicative of the shift towards social media that companies are taking and how important it now is for businesses to make sure they’re equipped to handle customer service online.

Strange that Boots appear to be using Facebook so effectively and making such a hash of it elsewhere though. Their statement of “Boots Feel Good” just makes me think of a happy shoe-wearing caveman though.

If they’d been using a social media monitoring tool, they’d have seen this tweet before the whole thing unfolded (please excuse the language):

Boots would have clocked my angst-ridden tweet and would have been able to address the problem before I got my knickers in a twist.

You can find out more about how to use social media for customer service in this handy eBook, and Brandwatch will also be running a free webinar on the topic for Our Social Times TOMORROW! Perhaps now, the digital bods at Boots will be taking note and attending. See you tomorrow guys.


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