Regus are the first of two entries today in the Hall of Shame. A few months ago, we took out a virtual office package with them for our new London base. All we needed initially was mail forwarding. Although they are not the cheapest in the market, Regus had premises in the right part of London and we were looking to expand the virtual presence in due course to a staffed outpost, so it made sense to go with them. We also assumed a certain level of confidence given that they are a global firm specialising in this kind of thing.
However, after some time, we had received no forwarded mail, which didn’t seem right. So, we sent some test items by first class post. Weeks later, none of these had been forwarded to us. When we wrote to complain, no explanation was offered for this baffling failure (although the two test items did magically turn up some days subsequently). They also just didn’t seem to get or acknowledge that failing to forward mail was a pretty fundamental breach of contract for a mail-forwarding service. Our frustration in resolving the problem has been compounded by their aparent inability to reply until you have prodded them twice every time.
This seeming disorganisation and lack of care is bad enough. But Regus have made sure of their place in the Hall of Shame by also abusing the continuous credt card payment authority – an increasingly common trait nowadays. Despite our having emailed them several times stating that we held them in breach of contract and considered the contract dead, they have continued to take payment through the credit card mandate in flagrant contravention of our instruction and their authority. They then came out with that other old chestnut used by companies providing poor services and products reliant on inertia and bureaucratic obstructionism to trap unhappy customers – “all you need to do is give us three months written notice of cancellation”. As if the 5 emails we had sent them over previous month stating that we considered the contact breached and terminated somehow didn’t qualify as notice of cancellation!
So, a great big raspberry to Regus for failing to provide the contracted service, failing to acknowledge or explain, atrocious service recovery procedures, shabby attempts to hide behind bureaucracy, and abuse of continuous payment authority. On top of that I have to say that on visiting the premises, I found them to be in my opinion in surprisingly poor condition – broken wifi, shabby decor etc. That may be symptomatic of the same casual approach to customer service that we have been experiencing. But in any case, it is a further reason to sever our relationship as we would not consider those premises suitable to host clients when we eventually establish a staffed office in London.
Regus’ recalcitrance is likely to end up costing them money as well as reputational damage. We initially told them we would be prepared to consider the contract terminated so both parties could walk away. As they have refused that option, we find ourselves obliged to launch county court action to recover the full £500 that we have paid them to date plus court fees. Perhaps the business lesson here is that if you screw up the best approach is to acknowledge that and to find a mutually acceptable means of service recovery or at least damage limitation rather than trying to enforce discredited contractual clauses.
So, unfortunately, our verdict is that Regus suck.
UPDATE: 13 Sept 2010
All hail the power of the Internet. It seems the best way to get through to the people who care about a large company’s reputation is through blogging. My many emails to managers in Regus had got me nowhere. Even issuing a county court claim generated indifference. But I received a call last week from Suzanne, a very helpful customer service director who had been alerted to this blog article and had consequently investigated the case.
Suzanne carried out some prompt and exemplary service recovery: statement of regret at service lapses; explanation of actions taken to prevent recurrence; all charges to date and court fees refunded immediately; offer of several months’ free service in compensation (which I didn’t take up). The only element missing was a box of chocolates (well, a boy can hint). Here’s a selection from Suzanne’s email – a demonstration of how to do it right …
“Thank you for your time today, naturally I was disappointed to hear of your experiences as a new Regus customer, especially as we strive to provide the very highest level of customer service and professionalism, which unfortunately in your experience has not been the case. I feel it would be pointless at this stage to try and justify what has happened, but to assure you a very valuable lesson has been learnt with the following actions implemented as matter of priority:
1) Management within the centre has been changed with immediate effect
2) Centre team to be re-trained locally and to shadow other locations where exceptional service is delivered on a daily basis
3) Postal sorting and storage system to be restructured, ensuring all post once received is date stamped, sorted and then either stored or forwarded to customers as per their specific requirements.
Furthermore I have with immediate effect fully cancelled your contract and raised the following credit notes, which fully offset all previous invoices …
I have also pushed an immediate refund back to your card for all payments collected including the court costs, full refund amount totals £576.83 (transaction confirmation provided for your reference – please allow 5 working days for the funds to show back on your card).
Following on from the actions completed above, we agreed that any previous claims made against Regus will be stopped with no further claim or action taken. Again I am disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to demonstrate we can get this right, however I fully appreciate your decision. I hope I have addressed all of your concerns, however should there be anything further I can assist with please do not hesitate to contact me, and should your situation change in the future we certainly would like to hear from you again.
Finally I would like to wish you and your colleagues at Kent House Consulting every success for the future.”
It was too late to get us back as customers, but the issue no longer festers, everyone can move on amicably, and bad publicity is now mitigated. I have to say that it’s not an unusual experience nowadays to come up against a brick wall when dealing with a corporation and either never to reach someone sensible or for that only to happen late in the process after neeedless frustration, time wasting, and increased cost. How much better would daily life be if companies learnt how to escalate issues quickly and routinely to someone trained and authorised to resolve problems? Of course, it would be nice if front-line staff and line management did things right in the first place to avoid disputes, but I guess you can’t have everything.
Working on right now: Online marketing for a client selling Sadolin