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How Liz Galpin came to adopt an HSBC 'local' philosophy

Written by Liz Galpin Thursday, 01 September 2011 10:58
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I made the assumption recently that ''Europe is Europe'', and therefore what goes in England, must also hold good in France.

After all, if I buy something at a Homebase store in Birmingham, and it isn’t fit for purpose, or is missing some vital parts, then I could take it back to my nearest local Homebase, and they would endeavour to swap the item or refund me my money if I didn’t want to keep it. Certainly they wouldn’t act as though they were two completely independent stores, which just happened to have the same name.


So, it was with some surprise to find that in France, a (DIY) chain stores appear to operate autonomously.

Yesterday we bought a Karcher window cleaner from a store in Royan. We then went to spend an enjoyable afternoon on the beach, but sadly, upon opening the box up when we got back to our house near Cognac, found that it was sans charger – i.e. of no use to man or beast. We were due to fly back to England, so without giving it a second thought, we popped into the local store, en route to the airport. Assuming it would be a matter of them giving us a charger from one of their stock (they had plenty), we confidently handed over the receipt, and the box, and explained in our best French that it had been supplied to us without a charger, and we had bought it in the store at Royan. Immediately we realised that this wasn’t going to be a simple process, which didn’t come as too much of a surprise, and most things appear to be accompanied by forms that need to be completed in triplicate, often needing at least 3 people to supervise the process. Which is fine – seeing as how we enjoy the slower pace in France, we have to accept that this applies to everything, not just the things we want it to apply to. However, eventually after a good 20 minutes of waiting, while numerous phone calls were made and handwritten receipts were scribbled, we were essentially told that there was nothing that they could do for us. No charger could be supplied today, and no monies could be returned. Those of you that know me, know that (sadly) I am hot tempered, and wouldn’t have handled that well. I didn’t disappoint, and needless to say I assured them that I would not be buying anything from this store ever again, which, of course, I shan’t be.

Plenty of other decent building merchants and hardware stores from which to purchase said items in France……


Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME – that’s the golden rule...and one that I forgot.


Now – in the cold light of day, I can take away a lesson learnt. I was at fault for assuming that customer service in France was the same as in England and that the same rules applied. That was incredibly wrong and incredibly stupid.

It serves to reinforce how important our business partners are in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It reinforces how absolutely essential it is for us to rely on our business partners on the ground to be our eyes and ears. No point in us delivering functionality that isn’t needed, required, or that is alien to our target markets. No point in us second guessing what is needed out in Africa, seeing as how I cannot even get it right in neighbouring France. I should never forget that, or underestimate the importance of local knowledge. The customer or user is always right, simply because it if isn’t fit for purpose, they aren’t going to use it.


Hmmm – the customer is always right. Mind you – the store would do well to remember that too, and to give their staff a little bit of extra training on that score as well.

Liz is the founder of PAY-G Solutions and the author of the recently published Will there be another MPESA?

Last modified on Thursday, 01 September 2011 11:20

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