It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

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Customer service fail – nice work, lovefilm.com

These days, the phrase “customer service” has become less a corporate philosophy and more a swear word uttered by consumers. From what I remember of management theory, making teams of complete idiots available to customers twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

Now, normally I wouldn’t bother detailing my occasional run-ins with various organisations’ customer services departments. They happen to everyone; it’s just life in the twenty-first century. But this one has turned… a little odd.

My problem was simple: I rent six DVDs a month from lovefilm.com. In January, they sent me two films from my rental list, and one completely random title I hadn’t chosen. (For the record, it was Saw 5, which I have absolutely no desire to see.) I returned the DVD of Saw 5 unwatched and reported it as a problem: “wrong disc dispatched”. Lovefilm promptly apologised, said they would send me the disc from my rental list they’d intended to send, and would give me an extra rental credit as a gesture of goodwill. This extra DVD they sent immediately – it was It’s A Wonderful Life, which I enjoyed very much.

No problem there. I get seven DVDs to watch in January instead of my usual six.

Also in January, I received an email telling me that Lovefilm were giving me an extra rental credit to celebrate my fifth year as a customer. Even better. Eight rentals in January.

Er, apparently not.

I had four discs at home. But the web site showed only two left for January. Four plus two. That’s six, not eight. I complained. They replied. The number of rentals I had left on the web site did not change. Emails flew back and forth. Lovefilm proved to have a real problem with simple maths. Eventually, I received the following email, which purports to explain why my eight rentals turned into six. I’ve read it several times, but I still can’t make sense of it.

“I can confirm that title that you were sent as the extra dispatch has became part of your allowance because it was out for more than 5 working days. An extra disc is considered part of your normal allocation, which means that if an extra disc is out then any two discs must be returned to get another rental dispatch. This does not mean you have to return the extra disc within 5 days, as the extra disc and any others can be out on loan for as long as you wish. However, when a bonus disc is out for the first 5 days that normal status is ignored and suspended so that during that period any one return will prompt one dispatch as if there were no extra rental. The only relevance of 5 days is that that is the initial period where a single return still prompts a dispatch to ensure you do get an extra rental.”

So, hats off to lovefilm.com, you may have failed with the maths, but you definitely succeeded in bamboozling the customer with your “explanation”.

Update: the day after I posted the above, Lovefilm apologised for the “inconvenience” and added extra credits to my account, bringing the total for the month back up to the eight rentals it should have been. Thank you.

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