The London Assay Office (LAO) has confirmed to Professional Jeweller that it has made the permanent move to an “online-only customer service” system.

This means that the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Assay Office no longer accepts telephone calls from its customers or the wider public.

It instead asks them to get in touch by email if they have a request, complaint or other query.

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Will Evans, general manager of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, told PJ that the new policy has been in place for the last two months.

“We have over 5,000 customers at the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office,” he said. “The vast majority now register online, submit packets online and communicate with us by email.”

He went on: “Benefits to customers of an online-only service include simplicity and accuracy of online hallnotes and speed of response time to email enquiries – it takes 15-20 minutes, on average, to respond to a customer’s email query.”

Discussing the implementation of this system, Evans explained: “We moved permanently to online-only customer service in August 2021, having trialled it to great success at our Greville Street site pre-pandemic, and then across all sites during the pandemic.”

Will Evans, managing director of the London Assay Office

Some retailers, including Michael Taylor, owner of Berkshire jeweller Taylor & Co, said they would still prefer to contact the assay office through traditional channels rather than purely online.

Michael Taylor, owner of Berkshire jeweller Taylor & Co, first noticed he could no longer get in touch by telephone in June of last year.

“I queried the removal of telephone communications and was told that this was due to the pandemic and would hopefully be restored very soon.”

Later, when telephone communications were not restored, he said the LAO confirmed to him in an email that it is “unable to facilitate phone calls”.

Taylor, who lives in North Devon and cannot often make it into London to visit the LAO in person, believes that “human contact is more vital than ever” post-pandemic, and said: “Because of the nature of our industry and the high values involved I cannot deal with any company that I cannot contact via telephone to ask questions, seek advice and query deliveries.” He has now begun to use the Edinburgh Assay Office’s services.

Evans at LAO said it believed the overwhelming majority of its customers were content with the change.

“Many of our customers are very happy with the service they receive – we currently have a 4.6 rating on Google Reviews, for example, but we never take that for granted.”

The assay office is also willing to accommodate customers for whom it is difficult or inconvenient to use their email service.

“Many of our customers are very happy with the service they receive – we currently have a 4.6 rating on Google Reviews”

Evans continued: “We are responsive to our customers’ needs and have made adaptations for those who find it difficult to use a computer or email because of a disability or for other reasons. And we offer a call-back service if requested by customers when they email us.

“We always encourage our customers to tell us if they need adaptations to be made and we will make this clearer on our website. They can contact us by emailing or asking someone they know to do so on their behalf. There are currently no plans to bring back a telephone service for our customers.”

PJ VIEW: A trawl through the LAO’s Google Reviews mostly turns up opinions that counter Taylor’s, such as the following from one customer: “Great customer service and very prompt response time from Keisha to my email enquiry.”

There are some that echo his views, however. With an ever-growing list of customers that already tops 5,000, it is perhaps no surprise that the Goldsmiths’ Company has made the decision to streamline its customer service team in this way, and it must believe that the money saved paying for staff to man phones must outweigh that of one or two lost customers.

If the Google Reviews are to be believed its customer service is still reliable and prompt, but merely lacking in over-the-phone exchanges, which increasingly is not a problem as more of us become used to communicating via text and email.