Home » Opinion » “From the Bee in my Bonnet column” – Customer service – what’s that?

“From the Bee in my Bonnet column” – Customer service – what’s that?

SOME days are good, others not so much but after spending hours seeking ‘customer service’ and coming up with nuts, it’s time to call out a couple of multi-nationals who get zero on the customer service scale.

As it happens, and I hope it’s coincidental, that both companies are Dutch, although it could be argued that one is French controlled.

a.  I refer to KLM the national carrier of The Netherlands, although owned these days by Air France.

I have two stories to tell about KLM, although the only common denominator is me, which cements in my mind at least, the company’s complete indifference towards customers, after it receives the money for an air ticket.

The first story concerns the company’s refusal to grant a refund on R60 000 plus air tickets purchased through Fight Centre, on flights which I had to abort due to my wife’s ill health. Even though we produced supporting documentation from her specialist, KLM refused a refund, but did issue a voucher, valid for a year, which is due to expire next month.

The voucher isn’t much help as her condition is incurable. Despite numerous face to face meetings with the Flight Centre rep, no contact has been forthcoming with KLM.

The second story involves lost luggage on a KLM flight undertaken by family members from Cape Town International and Los Angeles recently. The two bags in question didn’t arrive at LAX and I volunteered to check whether the bags were actually loaded at CTIA at all.

Try finding contact numbers on the KLM website. They don’t exist. A call to Airports Company provided three numbers for the KLM ops manager. One was out of service, one just rang with no answer and the last one offered a recorded message – ‘leave a message and well get back to you’. That was nearly a month ago and no response.

I had copies of the baggage tags and further scouring of the KLM website revealed a link to a lost luggage app, operated by an outsourced organisation. Thinking that I was getting somewhere, I entered the relevant tag information and all I got was an error message – incorrect details. I gave up after three or four attempts.

This story does however have a happy ending. The bags did show up after two weeks. The non-arrival was caused by an industrial dispute involving baggage handlers at Schiphol airport. Surely someone from KLM should have advised customers as I’m sure that we were not the only ones…

b.  The second beauty is Philips, the enormous conglomerate that makes everything from car headlight globes to hairdryers. My technical enquiry referred to the former as the installation of their product while working perfectly, caused an irritating glitch on the car’s on board computer.

As with KLM – is it a Dutch thing? – there is no technical backup for these products, certainly not in South Africa. It appears that Philips business model uses multiple distributers to market their products here and I was sent from pillar to post trying to get an answer to a technical question. The number I was given when calling their supposed head office in Midrand was to a lighting company that handles domestic luminaries. From the quality of the call to Midrand, I’m suspicious that the call actually went to a call centre somewhere in the East…

So there you have it, once they have your money, you’re on your own. Perhaps it’s time to call Wendy Knowler…


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