Friday 9 January 2009

In recession trust matters

Could it be that during a recession shoppers want more than just somewhere that sells things and then feels that's enough effort?
Interestingly financial results from John Lewis and Sainsbury this week show that some retailers are doing better than others during the downturn.
The reason might be that the public are turning to shops that they feel they can trust, where they don't feel ripped off, or where there is some kind of service back-up.
The last thing you want when times are hard is to feel that having just spent some money on new furniture or a new TV that when it breaks down you have nowhere to go, and will be stuck in some kind of service-less phone hell.
Hopefully, the recession will also pile pressure on the over-enthusiastic and needless use of 0870 numbers too. Yesterday's announcement by BT that its customers will no longer have to pay extra to use 0870 or 0844 numbers is definitely a step in the right direction.
As Dave Anderson argues in the latest Fabian Review, people resent having to pay for a high rate call to phone a GP's surgery, and when money is tight, I resent having to pay for a high rate call to make a purchase.
The culture of high-rate phone numbers seems to have run rampant in the UK, way above the enthusiasm for such a move in other countries. Airlines, which run 0800 sales numbers in many other countries, have long used premium rate call lines in the UK, but phone companies and then even shops followed suit.
Public pressure has obviously not been enough to ring in the changes, but my gut feeling is in recession those that fail to reform rip-off measures will have a slimmer chance of surviving.
So it's time to bid goodbye to 0870 numbers; and to shops that believe that their responsibility to the customer ends the moment they click in their credit card details, I say time is running out.
The public demands fairness from the shopping experience..NOW.

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