Gone Missing: Bowers & Wilkins Customer Service

This is a tale of two British companies that supply Hi-Fi equipment, and my contrasting experiences of their after-sales service.

The first is the Acoustical Manufacturing Company Limited (now called QUAD Electroacoustics), which was set up by Peter Walker in 1936. It began by manufacturing public address systems, but in the 1950s entered the emerging domestic Hi-Fi market. The second is Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) established in 1966 by John Bowers as a company manufacturing Hi-Fi loudspeakers.

Back in the late 1960s, I became a Hi-Fi enthusiast, and my first system included a QUAD 33 pre-amp and QUAD 303 power amplifier paired with KEF loudspeakers – the cost of B&W or QUAD loudspeakers was beyond my budget at the time. Eventually, in 1976, I replaced the KEF speakers with a pair of QUAD ESL-57 electrostatic loudspeakers, which I still have and enjoy to this day. I upgraded the QUAD 33/303 combo to a QUAD 44/405 system in 1982, and once again, I still have and use them. Along the way, I also added a QUAD FM Radio tuner.

In 2008, I branched out into setting up my first Home Cinema system. This time, for the loudspeakers, I went for the B&W M-1 series, which had got good reviews in the Hi-Fi and Home Cinema press.

In the course of the years, I’ve had to use the after-sales service of QUAD just once. My FM tuner developed a fault in 2005. I emailed QUAD in the UK, and my service request was forwarded to their distributor in the Netherlands, who contacted me the very next day. They subsequently repaired my tuner; result – one happy customer.

My experience with B&W has, so far, not been so satisfactory.

Last month, on the night of the 15th November to be precise, a shelf collapsed in our living room. Unfortunately, one of the B&W M-1 speakers was sitting on it at the time. It fell to the floor, but the fall was broken by the speaker cable. However, these little speakers are surprisingly heavy, and the result was that a small circuit board in the table stand that connects the external cable connections to the speaker itself got ripped in two; one half remained attached to the cable, the other half remained in the stand:

20111116-1415-00

So, on the 16th November I contacted B&W, via their web site, to ask them if it would be possible to obtain a replacement. On submitting the request, the web site promised that I would have a reply from B&W within three working days, and an automated response, copying my request, was sent to my email address.

Three working days went by, and nothing further was heard.

On the 28th November, I submitted the request again. Once again, the web site promised a response within three working days, and once again an acknowledgement of the request arrived in my email inbox. That’s the only thing that arrived. Once again, I’ve heard nothing further from B&W. Er, hello? Is this supposed to be customer service? I think not.

Bowers & Wilkins Customer Service – gone missing. Result: one very unhappy customer.

I should have stuck to Quad.

Update 7 December 2011

Well, it seems as though blogging about my experience with B&W customer service has produced a result. I was contacted this morning, first by the Director of Export Sales, and subsequently by the Group Service Manager.

It would appear that their web contact form misdirected my messages, so no action was taken. I just wonder how many other customers this may have affected, leaving a trail of bad feelings in its wake.

However, in my case, the issue has been resolved, and I’ll be able to repair my speaker. B&W’s customer service has been found.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
This entry was posted in Consumer Electronics, Hobbies, Organizations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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