A big complaint and a big response

A poor service record can cost you customers. Jon Brownsey, who runs Fordingbridge Service Station in Hampshire, sent me a subject that he said was beyond a joke for him: pump maintenance, or lack of it. He writes: "For some time now, the service offered by Gilbarco has been getting steadily worse. The time taken to respond to breakdowns has been getting longer, and when the engineer turns up they invariably don’t carry the part and it has to be ordered from Germany, resulting in further delay.

"The last time I reported a split hose, their guy came to have a look and then had to drive 20 miles to meet a colleague coming from the opposite direction, who actually had one, then come back and fit it. Last time I reported a leaking handle they didn’t have one of those either."

When Jon contacted me he had been waiting for a split hose replacement to one of his diesel pumps for 10 days and on the same day a motor had failed on another pump, knocking out another two diesel pumps.

"I placed another call with Gilbarco but they were unable to link the two jobs," he says. "I have now arranged for a local firm to come and attend to both jobs (at my own cost) as I cannot lose this much business any longer. I pay for my pump maintenance through my supply contract with Harvest, but will now be cancelling this and will start a ’pay as you go’ arrangement with this local firm, who incidentally are coming out on a Sunday to sort both problems."

Jon had heard on the grapevine that Gilbarco had had several engineers in his area retire/leave and had not been replaced.

He sent me a challenge as well: to get an answer on their helpline number. And Jon couldn’t resist signing off with the following: "I look forward to hearing from Bianca in PR reassuring us that they take customer service very seriously and signposting me to their 14-point vision statement on their cloud-based interweb portal. In the meantime, I’ll spend my money with someone who can actually fix a pump."

Well, I contacted Gilbarco Veeder-Root and I didn’t get ’Bianca’. In fact I got a very apologetic reply from David Cope, UK operations director, thanking me for bringing the matter to their attention and assuring me he would contact Jon directly, although he sounded resigned to losing him as a customer.

He said: "The observation about our engineer losses are factual in fairness and we did lose three highly experienced engineers on the South coast last year to retirement. Rather than it be a case of cost cutting we have had difficulty sourcing the appropriately skilled candidates for our industry to replace the retirees."

Looking into Jon’s case he agreed there had been room for improvement. "We regularly review our van stocks and amend to required needs for our customer base as it is in neither parties interest to have a wasted visit because a part is required."

As for the phone system, that is being upgraded. And he added that the company had recently appointed a dealer service account manager and vowed to learn from the feedback.

Crunch... oops, sorry, my fault

Jagdish Radia got in touch late last year to say that his canopy at Central Service Station at Nuneaton had been damaged by a lorry driver who misjudged the distance. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the logistics company, we got an agreement that their insurance would cover the repairs.

Last month he got in touch again to say that in June another lorry driver had hit his canopy, damaging it along with a light, this time at his Leaway Service Station in Birmingham. The driver apparently had been desperately trying to find a station that would accept his card (Jagdish thinks it was a Key fuel card) as he was quite low on fuel. He admitted that it was his fault. Then again, he couldn’t argue with the photographic proof, which clearly shows his lorry jammed into the canopy.

Again the logistics company, in this case Ceva Logistics, was dragging its feet. As I was preparing to tackle this, Jagdish got a sudden response from the company accepting liability and asking for a breakdown of the cost of repairs. Apparently Jagdish had threatened to go to the press and that was all it took.

Interestingly though, Jagdish has had four canopy damages in the last five years despite clear signage. Can’t these guys read?