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21 September 2011For your convenience

Martin Ledigo

by Martin Ledigo

On holiday we were in a restaurant in a place called Huntsville in Ontario, about 3 hours north of Toronto and I noticed on the menu the phrase "For your convenience a 15% service charge will be added to your bill". We speculated why this was for our convenience. One friend suggested that it was to save us the trouble of working out a difficult percentage of the bill to add as a tip (as it happens the service was appalling and had I been paying it would not have been difficult to work out 0% of the total). After this incident, the expression "For your convenience" has become part of the family lexicon. So when one of the kids ate the last chocolate their confession was prefixed by, you guessed it, FYC...

I encountered the same expression this last week when I contacted one of the major providers of security software. My software licence was due to finish late September and the company had renewed it and debited my credit card for the sum of £65.99 for a one year subscription. When it came through on my statement I thought that was a lot of money for one year and so I went to the company's website and checked that for £29.99 I could get not just one but three one year licences. So I called them up, negotiated successfully about 4 levels of the dreaded IVR as I think it is called (the wretched press 1 for xxx, press 2 for yyy) and spoke to a real person. I explained what had happened and she checked the website and confirmed I was correct. Her explanation was that for my convenience the company had renewed the subscription to avoid the problem of my laptop being unprotected. To be fair I probably ticked the box (or maybe failed to untick it) to say that I was happy to renew automatically. Why was paying a lot more for less, "for my convenience" especially when these companies always send out reminders (I know this because on our various machines I think we have the full set of security providers).

Generalising from this... most companies state customer service at the heart of their values and I am sure they mean it but it seems to me that many businesses fall at the first hurdle. How about the bank that gives great interest rates to new customers but as an existing customer they forget to contact you to suggest you transfer your deposits from the low interest account to this new higher one. Or the telecomms business that again seems more interested in acquiring new customers with attractive tariffs than genuinely keeping existing ones satisfied. I long for the day when my bank sends me a letter to say that "we have automatically transferred your money to this better account". Now that would be FMC.

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