Friday, February 27, 2009

Where has all the customer service gone?

As I write this, my poor wife, Lynn, has experienced something most of have in this day and age of repairs- the 4 hour window that wasn't met. We had an oven that wouldn't heat up and most modern ovens aren't very easy to fix if you don't know what you're doing. Instead of a pilot light there's some sort of electronic heating ignition device and damn if I know how to replace it without blowing up the house. It's the sort of modern convenience that isn't very convenient to the end user. The GE oven is barely 5-6 years old, so we decided to call a GE repairman.

Since appliances are so cheap these days, we have to pay some guy about 1/4th of what we spent on the actual unit itself to just come out and take a look. The money meter starts ticking as soon as he arrives. I'd be willing to bet that if he had to rebuild the unit with parts that you'd spend 25 times the value of the unit on parts alone. As much as it seems a waste of money the more worrisome part is the waste of your time. Whether it's the cable guy, a delivery of a mattress, or a GE oven repairman, you always get a 4 hour window of when that person will grace you with his presence. Half the time, they don't even do that.

Anyways, Lynn makes her appointment of 8am til 12pm thinking that she could get her sleep in shortly after the repairman leaves as she needs to get about 3-4 hours of sleep in order to work her night shift at the hospital before the kids get home at 4pm. She actually gets an automated call at 10pm telling her that she's the next one to be serviced and to get any dogs out of the way. A nice feature except for the fact that no one shows up. She waits til 12:30pm and no one has shown up. Frustrated she calls the service center.

Now here is where the good companies get separated from the bad companies. Anyone can run a business and have most things go right. Make a good product or service, have that product or service do its intended job and have a satisfied customer, it's the end of story for 95% or more of transactions. But as I've learned so aptly from a beach T-shirt I saw in 1987, "Shit Happens". It's when that shit happens and how that company reacts and takes care of the shit is what makes invaluable service or products.

They could make a great customer out of us by doing the right thing and solve the problem or make Lynn happier by offering some sort of concession. But instead, just like most large corporations, the customer service fought with her. If the word sorry was used it was in regards to how Lynn felt (ie. "I'm sorry you feel this way") and not that they are sorry for making her wait all morning and not have the repairman show up on time or even call to say that he's running late. The rep couldn't even tell her when he could come or if it would be anytime soon. No concessions or discounts were offered until Lynn actually cancelled the order.

It's like when you get a new credit card and cancel the old one the old company suddenly starts offering you a much better rate than before. Well, if you could have given such a great rate before I wouldn't be looking for a new card, would I? So once the words, cancel and stop the order were used the rep changed her tune. But by that time it was too late. I can only guess that they are actually trained to stand pat with the goodies until the customer threatens to fly the coop. How awful is that?

I run a small business and when I get a customer upset that my product broke or didn't show up in time or whatever else that could go wrong, I do something to correct it right away. I don't wait until I hear the customer get so upset that they threaten to cancel their order or go to another place. While it's true that there are some irrational customers who you can never satisfy, most people want someone to listen, correct the problem and do a little something for having their time wasted or go through a bit of a pickle.

Instead most companies would rather do what they can to hold onto their nickles until the very last moment before conceding and some don't even concede at all. We as consumers seem to have less and less power when it comes to the big corporations. Customer service has reached an all time low in my opinion. I guess I sound like a cranky old man, but Ebay, GE and all of the other virtual monopolies can go fuck themselves. We need more competition and we need people to start speaking up to getting treated right.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Well they did fuck themselves because we fixed it without them getting a penny. We even bought a Whirlpool part!