John Lewis: our relationship is over (open letter)

Dear John

I have always loved and respected your John Lewis brand. In the past its commitment to customer service has always magnetised me. We had our wedding list at yours. We decked all our halls with John Lewis bought regalia when our children were born. You always gave me the benefit of the doubt when something wasn’t right for me or when it didn’t work. No quibble- the customer was always right. That approach bought my loyalty and our relationship was a mutually happy and fruitful one. Then it all changed.

When we renovated our kitchen last year we bought a new cooker, and Miele larder fridge. If I recall we spent close to £4000 with you including a few other bits for the kitchen.

I tried to delay the delivery of the cooker because our kitchen wasn’t ready. Your call centre staff told me to phone Britannia cookers. I was confused. The cooker I bought was a John Lewis Brand- its pictured with John Lewis emblazoned on its frontage. I asked who Britannia was and you told me I had bought a Britannia cooker. This was news to me. I then was given a number to call at Britannia and they couldn’t help me delay the delivery presumably because they weren’t as committed to their customer as you, John, used to be.

The cooker arrived and remained boxed-up for a couple of weeks and when we opened it up and had it installed it didn’t work. It was dead on arrival. Again I called you up and you told me you couldn’t help me and that I should phone Britannia. I had to shout at Britannia to get them to help me and even after shouting at them they could only send an engineer 10 days later just before having to cook Christmas dinner.

Now it’s a repeat of that experience. There is a fault with our Miele fridge. Its only 10 months old. I thought Miele was a premier brand. When I phoned you, John, you told me you couldn’t help me and that I should contact Miele directly. You didn’t even give me a number to call. You were open that Sunday afternoon to take my call but Miele wasn’t. So I logged a ticket on Miele’s website on Sunday afternoon and on Tuesday I still hadn’t heard from Miele so I called them. They had no record of the web tickets I had logged on Sunday. All they could do is promise to send someone around in two weeks time. Two weeks time? For a 10 month old premier brand that wasn’t working?

What has happened to you John? Why do you think I bought the fridge from you? I could have bought it from anyone for a very similar price but I chose you because i thought you cared. You used to take ownership of me as a customer; you use to nurture and protect our special relationship. I complained to you John, and was told that it was better for me to contact Miele as it removed the intermediary and when it comes to diary scheduling it was more efficient. That part I may agree with but why didn’t you get Miele to call me? Why did you leave it to me to end up fighting with Miele who after all that fuss, managed to improve their service time by a full week at the expense of my blood pressure.

I gave you my money John not Britannia or Miele. You convinced me to buy that fridge with all your classy marketing and with the brand promise that I had encountered in the past. Why have you suddenly entrusted the service delivery to people you don’t manage or control? Why have you passed the buck to people who don’t care about the things I used to value in our relationship?

Miele has let you down, John, because they don’t care the way I think you still do. They have caused you to lose me as a customer. I am writing to you hoping to hear about the steps you are now going to take to change this

You have to own and control the entire customer experience otherwise don’t fool yourself about your ability to retain your customers

Let’s just be friends.


UPDATE: Response from John Lewis that came in same day, before close of business. I mark them 10/10 – text book answer and felt sincere. This means they do still care but I shall remain skeptical until proven otherwise. There is still no case (no matter what the logistics) for letting someone else deal with your customer. The *only* reason people continue to deal with John Lewis is that they make a difference on a customer service level. They should never forget this.

I have remove the writer’s name and email address to ensure that readers channel their complaints through the correct Customer Complaint procedure (detailed on their website). My experience is that its a process that works.


Dear Mr Melrose,

I was sorry to receive your e-mail in relation to the manner in which we have managed things for you recently. It was concerning and disappointing to read about the service you received when you called to report an issue with your cooker and Miele larder fridge.

First of all please allow me to convey my sincere apologies for any inconvenience we have caused you. Here at John Lewis Direct we endeavour to provide a first class service to all our customers and I apologise this was not the service you have received.

At John Lewis, we are reliant on some of our stock coming directly from our manufacturers and being delivered by their couriers. This allows us to achieve our aim of offering a wide range of products to customers all over the United Kingdom, as efficiently as possible.

Whenever we require one of our suppliers to deliver or organise a repair on our behalf we expect them to provide the same high level of care and service our customers expect when they order from John Lewis. That being said however, I completely agree that John Lewis is fully responsible for your order and any aftersales issue.

As you have been advised, we do feel that it can be more beneficial and quicker, for our customer if they deal with the manufacturer directly as a convenient date for delivery/repair can be agreed between both parties. When a query is raised with our online customer services team (as you did in this instance) this is passed on to our customer support team, for them to contact the manufacturer on our customers behalf and arrange a date for delivery/repair.

I do wish to stress here however, that I am in no way trying to justify or make an excuse for the service you received. I find it completely unacceptable for our apparent refusal and unwillingness to help when you called, first to report the fault with the larder fridge and especially when Miele were quoting you a time of two weeks before they could send round an engineer.

Please be assured that I will be speaking with the agents you have spoken to and will express my disappointment at their handling of your order. I will also be highlighting the issues you have raised with the manager of these agents to prevent this situation from happening again and where necessary, additional training will be provided.

Our staff should be aware that customers are within their rights to refuse to deal with the manufacturer directly and in these cases,  if there is any issue with the service being provided by the manufacturer, then John Lewis will offer our full support in an attempt to get the issue resolved swiftly. I am genuinely sorry and embarrassed that this was not your experience when you called.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to write to us, to highlight your concerns, and I trust that I can at least reassure you that your comments will be instrumental in allowing us to improve the service we provide to other customers and, I hope, to you in the future.
Should you have any further issues then please do not hesitate to contact me on 01236 634 681 or alternatively by replying to this e-mail.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Relations Manager
John Lewis Direct

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