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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One of my passions

I know we all have passions...things that really get to us if they are done poorly or things we notice more than others. Keeping house obviously isn't mine, LOL, but after 10 years working for the Mouse, customer service is.
SO let me tell you a little about good, and bad, customer service.
Companies with good customer service generally make good products and stand behind them. Companies with bad customer service are out to make a buck, and once you've given them your money, your happiness is not their concern. Companies with good customer service recognize the value of human to human contact. Companies with bad customer service have endless phone trees with no hope of ever reaching a real person.Companies with good customer service believe the customer is always right and empower their employees to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. Companies with bad customer service teach their employees to apologize endlessly for your situation, but leave them incapable to do anything for you other than offering sympathy.
I could go on, but I'll give you an example.
Today, I was on the phone for close to 2 HOURS with Sears. Yep, 2 HOURS. I got hot flashes from the heat of the receiver being held up to my head that long.
Why the long call? I realized today that we purchased our Fridge around a year ago, and that our warranty was, or would be, up soon. We've had to have the ice maker/dispenser fixed FOUR times this year, on our new, $1200 Fridge, so I was a bit concerned that things might get costly now that we had no warranty, and I wanted to know what Sears was willing to do about it. (I refuse to buy the extended warranty to have coverage-I shouldn't have to PAY extra for a warranty for a product with a proven track record of breaking.)
Turns out my warranty ran out 4 days ago. And since I was neither a) currently under my 1 year warranty or b) under the extended warranty, the general song and dance was that they could do nothing for me. Never mind that with 4 service calls in one year, the repair tech was meant to recommend they replace my Fridge, but since he didn't we are out of luck on that front. Seriously. I first called the repair department and explained that I wasn't currently having a problem, but I anticipated I would when the weather turned warmer and I wanted to know what they were willing to do. I suggested that I'd happily swap this fridge for a different one, and probably pick something more expensive, and be more than willing to pay the difference. I also said in lieu of that, I'd happily take a FREE extended warranty so Sears could demonstrate to me that they had faith in my product even though I did not.
My conversations went something like this:
Call Sears repair. Talk to phone tree (I HATE TALKING to the phone tree-some child always walks up right then and confuses the computer and I'm back at square one). Wait on hold for 10 minutes. Talk to the Hispanic lady in the service dept. who probably arrived on the boat yesterday. It was that bad. After explaining my above situation, she apologized immensely, said she couldn't help me, and transferred me to the warranty dept. Wait on hold 15 minutes. Speak to an Asian gentleman who also had a... language challenge. Explain the whole situation. Have him put me on hold for 3 minutes 3 different times, only to have him come back with, "I'm showing you purchased your refrigerator in 1993..." (Yep, I did, but not THIS one...this one was purchased last year, hence my complaint...THAT one worked FINE until it died 14 1/2 years later...I'd happily take it back now though.) Tell him he's looking at the wrong fridge. Wait for him to put me on hold twice more for 3 minutes each, only to come back and try to SELL me the extended warranty. When I said I'd love one, but I want it for FREE, he said he couldn't help me and transferred me to National Customer Relations. Wait on hold there for 15 minutes. Speak to someone who seems to have a decent command of the language, but horribly lacking a grasp on my problem. He listens to my whole story, and then tells me I need to call a department called "One Source". He patches me to them. I again wait 10 minutes for someone to answer. They listen to the whole story, apologize over and over, sympathize, but say they are unable to do anything for me. They do call the "Lemon Law" dept. who informs me that had the warranty not expired FOUR days ago, AND had I purchased the extended warranty, they could help me, but I'm out of luck without that extended warranty, lemon or no. They transfer me back to, are you ready for this? The National Customer Relations. I wait over 15 minutes, someone picks up, and must have hit the disconnect button on accident, and the line goes dead. ARGGGGGGG!!!!!
I call the home repair number again. I wait 15 minutes again. The guy answers and gives me the national customer relations number, but can't transfer me there. I want to cry. I hang up and call the NCR. Over 15 minutes later, a wonderful girl named Emily FINALLY gets my problem and gets me to the right place. She puts me through to the Blue Ribbon Department at the Executive Office where I speak to Sandra. Sandra totally feels bad about the whole thing and offers me.....

a FREE extended warranty

for 6 months

Are you KIDDING ME?????? Two hours on the phone. A $1200 year old fridge with 4 service calls already. And the best they can do is 6 months of free warranty. I am SO not buying any appliances from Sears again. Very disappointing, but at least it was something. I figure if it breaks in that time I will pursue them doing more for me. If not, we'll cross that bridge in June. At least now I know what department to ask for.

Here's an example of good customer service. TJ had a Rescue Hero whose hand fell off. I called the company, and they sent us a new one, no questions asked.
Also, we received as a gift a Little People farm. One of the chicken figures didn't get molded correctly and only had one foot, although it still worked fine. I called just to let them know there might be a problem. They sent me a $15 coupon to buy a whole new set. For a wonky looking but totally functional figurine. The company in both situations? Fisher Price. I am a customer for life. THEY stand behind their products 100%. They know what customer service looks like and then they take it to the next level.

So there you have it. Two big brands. Two good old American companies. Two different approaches to customer service. Time will tell, but Sears hasn't been doing well in recent years, and I'm sure their pathetic customer service is a large part of that. It's disappointing, but it's their choice where they place their priorities, and customer service clearly isn't one of them.

So if you own a company, take this to heart. Treat your customers like you'd want your favorite grandmother to be treated. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Positive experiences will spread via word-of-mouth like wild fire. But so will negative ones. And you don't get a second chance, especially not in the internet age. Do what is right the first time, and your business will prosper. Don't treat your customers right and you will reap what you sow.
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6 comments:

Julie said...

New refrigerators stink! granted ours is older than yours (it is almost 4 years old), but we've had to have people come out to fix it four times too! It is GE though and we've gotten better customer service than Sears gave you. I think my mother-in-law's refrigerator is 40 years old and I don't think anyone has ever had to come fix it! They don't make 'em like they used to!

Luke said...

I agree: Customer support is huge!

~Luke

crispy said...

OH...MY...WORD....I have had almost that SAME conversation with Sears. To the point of me feeling like I was loosing my mind. I FEEL YOUR PAIN. I will NEVER buy appliances from Sears again. In fact, I have stopped shopping there all together because of their customer service.

I never got the warranty. All I got was a $100 gift card. And that was after I had spent about $3000 on appliances. I spent hours on many days talking with them. It drove me NUTS.

Compared to great customer service I got from Rainbow (our playset) at about the same time. They worked so hard to give us great service.

What you had with Sears is NOT an isolated situation. That is how they are.

So sorry you had that bummer situation.

Lisa said...

uggghhh...
Stuff like that makes me CRAZY. After phone tree conversations like that, I want to send the offending company a bill for my time.

cindy said...

That is so true about customer service! It makes me CRAZY not to be able to talk to a real person. My favorite is when I get the people from INDIA trying to help me fix my computer and they're telling to put in all these codes and I cannot understand a single bit!

Randi Sue said...

My flip video camera stopped working and the company is going to fix it or send me a new one. I just have to send it in with a number that they issued me.