Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hello...? Is Anyone Listening...?

In the past several weeks, I have had occasion to experience customer service, both good and bad. Customer service is the front line of any business, and I believe in the adage that the customer is always right. There is just too much competition out there for my money, for any business not to treat me with the utmost respect. I have the power to keep folks in business, yes I do. If I'm happy, I'll return and I will recommend the business to my friends. Conversely, if I'm not happy with the service, I have the power to advise my friends not to use that business.

My first encounter with customer service was when I needed to buy a new bed.  I went to Sleep Country Canada, and from the moment I walked in the door until the bed was delivered, the customer service was the best.  The fellows who delivered my bed even vacuumed underneath the bed before they installed the new bed.  And then, a few days later, I received a coupon for $25.00 off any new purchase of $50.00 or more.  Sleep Country sells Daniadown sheets, and I need new sheets.  Guess where I'm going to buy them.  Just guess.

My second experience with customer service was with Home Depot. I wanted to buy new Adirondack chairs for my terrace, and Home Depot had just the chairs I wanted. However when I got them home, I realized ... some assembly was required. Me? Build an Adirondack chair? I don't think so. I called Home Depot, and they sent two representatives to pick up the chairs and assemble them for me. When I went back to Home Depot the next day, Home Depot even paid for a special van to deliver the assembled chairs to my home for me. Guess where I'm going the next time I need patio furniture, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures -- oh, heck, just about anything. Just guess.

And last but not least, my most recent experience with customer service was with a company called Denbigh Fine Art Services. Ah, yes... I received a mirror recently that required professional installation. I called around to various installation companies to get a quote as to how much it would cost to install the mirror. I received various quotes, and the best quote was from Denbigh Fine Art Services, who quoted me $95.00 an hour to install the mirror, with a minimum of one hour. Okay, that seemed reasonable. If it took less than an hour, I would pay $95.00, it it took more, well, I was prepared to pay that. The fellows showed up ten minutes late, took half an hour to install the mirror, and left. They did a fine job, but it was a very simple job. A few days later, I received an invoice from Denbigh Fine Art Services for $149.63. When I e-mailed the owner, and reminded him of his $95.00 quote, I received the following reply: "Including the installation and travel time we really have to charge that out at 1.5 hrs. A straight forward delivery would be $95.00 but we would never make any money if we did not include both the installation time and travel time. Best regards, Ken" Well, Ken, that's just dishonest. You should have told me that when I called you for the quote. I made a decision based on misinformation, and now I have to pay you.  And besides, your office is five minutes from where I live.  That's pretty expensive travel time.

Always remember, folks, without you, businesses would not be in business.  They are there to serve you, no matter what the nature of their business.  When you are holding out your hand with your money in it, you have the right to expect the very best customer service they have to offer.  Anything less than the best is not acceptable.  And you can let them know by using your feet -- and walking somewhere else to do business.  Denbigh Fine Art Services robbed over-charged me, and misquoted what it would cost for their services in exchange for my money.  In essence, they misrepresented themselves.  I would never do business with them again, and I would never recommend them to anyone else.  They obviously don't need my business, but who knows, maybe one day I -- or someone I know -- may be the difference between their business "making money" -- to quote Ken -- or going out of business.  We all have the power to keep these people in business -- or not...


Cloudia said...

yes! excellent points all.

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Belizegial said...

Jo, they should never try to pull one like that with a savvy buyer like yourself. Guess what, the world is now aware that Denbigh Fine Art Services is shady.

Happy Weekend!

P.S. I got interested in Lady Gaga's music after I read your recent post about her music. I'll blog about this soon.

Belizegial said...

I just scrolled further down and saw the new mirror. It's quite lovely by the way.


Your post is perfect - thanks for your commentary and insight.


Kathryn said...

I had a similar experience to your last example a few years back.

I was looking for an acupuncturist, & called a local one to find out what it would cost to see the doc. I wasn't looking for free, or to be given anything, i wanted to know what to budget.

I was told the "initial consultation" was free. Ok. I booked it.

And talked with the "doc" for about 10 minutes. Then he said in order to make recommendations, etc., he would need to do an exam that cost $95. What? "The initial consultation is free?"

"Yes, but i need to do an exam. That will cost $95."

I thought to myself, "Well, i'm here. I might as well find out what he says."

So i did the exam & was given recommendations. But on paying i was so disgusted with myself for being "had."

If they had told me up front, i would have planned on the $$ & it wold have been honest. I might have continued to see these folks. Instead, i feel i got the "bait & switch." I never returned.

So, they got their initial fee, but certainly not a return, paying client. (I have done acupuncture with other folks on & off for about 5 years now.) As well as no referrals, either. If asked about them, i say i couldn't in good conscience recommend them.

It just made me angry & they shot themselves in the foot.

Ah, but isn't good customer service wonderful? Your first two examples/experiences were a joy to read. So nice when that happens. :)

Pauline said...

I don't know that I could say the customer is ALWAYS right, having been on both sides of the counter. Often they can be arrogant, nasty, and as devious as some company policies. I agree, however, that customer service reps should always err on the side of honesty (and kindness in the face of ill manners). It's what keeps customers coming back as you so clearly pointed out.

DJan said...

Wonderful post, and very very true. I myself will go out of my way to go back to a place that sees me as a customer rather than a cash cow!

CarlaHR said...

Jo, Denbigh Fine Art Services chose the wrong person to fool around with when they misinformed you about the cost of hanging the mirror. Good customer service is hard to come by so that when we do encounter it we are encouraged to return.
However, as Pauline said the customer is not "always" right - there are some "customers from hell" out there. Before my retirement I managed a call centre and could tell you stories about some pretty bizarre customer behaviour.

Teri said...

Well... I do not agree "the customer is always right" because I know some bottom-feeders who set up to defraud businesses.

That being said, I'm finding it harder and harder to find even decent customer service. It seems in recent years the business fancies itself doing you a favor. I thought the economy would change that bad attitude...but it hasn't.

Like you, I spend my money at establishments that value me as a customer. And I don't darken the door again of those who treat me as tho I am a pest.

kenju said...

I commend you for taking the time to write this out. Excellent points and you can be sure they will find out about your post.

The mirror hanger guy IS DISHONEST!! It should be stated clearly up-front that travel time is included. I always mentioned that to my clients and also put it in writing.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Some assembly required." I truly hate those words.

Jennifer D said...

I have spent too much time behind the counter to still think the customer is always right. I once had a man insist that I had stolen his credit card when I rang up his purchase. I hadn't of course, but where it went to... I didn't know! He yelled at me called me names and made me turn my pockets inside out. I cried. He left in a huff. The customer in line behind him asked if he could help... we thought maybe it slipped behind the register or something. He calmly helped lift the counter up and there it was, squeezed between two counter spaces. I understand that the original customer didn't know, but his attitude was not helping! We called the credit card co. and had the card reported. They told us to cut up the card... we did. The next morning the customer called my manager(she had been informed of the incident already by me and my superior)and told her that I stole his card and was extremely rude to him, he then demanded that he get his money back for the purchases he made. That's right he wanted his purchase and his money.He was furious that we had cut up the card as well. My manager explained what happened after he had left the store and so he demanded to talk to the district manager. We were told later that the DM didn't give him anything either. It was a horrible experience... I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, nothing made sense.

But... I do believe that every dollar you spend is a vote for what you want!

So we do not want our votes going to those Denbigh folks. That is terrible. Sleep Co. Canada and Home Depot know how to run a business and keep their customers coming back.
Great post, Jo. Really got me goin' ;-)

Russell said...

Perhaps you should consider sending the three named companies the link to your post.

And remind them that you have close to 800 people who have signed up as subscribed visitors. That does not include all the people who visit your blog each day, week, month who are not signed up as subscribed visitors.

I do know that many service companies charge a flat fee to just show up at your door. However, it appears the company that hung your mirror did not make that clear to you and, accordingly, should not have charged you as they did.

A human kind of human said...

I agree with you 100% on this one Jo. I could not help wondering what you would think of customer service in South Africa at present. The worst is that is not through ignorance but deliberate.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, one of the areas I lived in growing up was exceptionally affluent. A friend of mine was the next-in-line to a very substantial business. Essentially an heir to an enormous fortune, but his father made all of his kids wait table in college because, "Everyone should have to serve the public, and find out what it is like."

So, like others, and having waited tables in college also, I don't agree with the "customer is always right". Plainly put, the customer is sometimes quite the wrong-footed jackass, and you deal with those people the best that you can.

But you don't make reasonable, fair-minded people pay for the jackasses you encounter. Having worked in the service industry long ago, I am almost absurdly polite to c.s. reps. Like you, I've had the odd encounter with a company I simply won't use again.

A company that treats me well, and like me business is valuable to them? Heck, I frequently stick with those, while paying more than I need to for a service.

Comcast is like that for me. I could definitely get a very similar service for my TV and have it cost less. But I like having cable television, and whereas it is entirely true that Comcast is over-priced for the service...the value generally lies in how willing they are to provide good customer service.

My husband and I talk about that frequently -- we end up paying more for a service, knowingly, because they've got good customer service whenever there is a problem.

My mother-in-law has cancer, and the treatment (as you know) is harsh stuff. During the Olympics the thing dearest to her heart was watching the figure skating. She had Dish Network and the signal kept cutting out. The C.S. rep she called told her that she needed to climb out onto her roof, with a broom to brush off the dish. She pointed that she was undergoing chemo and was far too physically ill to do that. They wished her luck with her problem, and apologized that they were unable to help her.

She had cable installed the next afternoon, by very nice technicians. One of whom went and detached the satellite dish from her roof for her, because they could see she was ill.

Way to win a customer for life, and I'm not talking about my MIL. I mean I will pay out of the nose until the end of time, for as long as I can afford to do so, because when my MIL had only one thing that was making her feel better -- the figure skating at the Olympics -- Comcast freaking made it possible.

TomCat said...

Josie, I also bought my bed at Sleep Country, a Tempur-pedic. I love the bed and the CS was first rate.

Mia said...

You say that the customer is in charge and has the power to keep companies in business, so what are you going to do about the company that overcharged you? A blog post is a good way to vent but I doubt it will affect the company at all. Most of the people who read it are probably nowhere near that company.

Unless you tell them about your blog and how you're complaining about their terrible service to anyone who listens, they'll never know.

Sometimes taking your complaint to the internet can be beneficial but the company has to know about it.

KrippledWarrior said...

Why not have the guys from HOME DEPOT install the mirror?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Good post and the comments are interesting, too! Seems like everyone identifies with your experiences. I like that your 'success' stories were with companies that I like to support! Makes me proud to be shoppers there.

Sam Liu said...

Oh I cannot tolerate poor customer service. You're so right, too often we forget that a company is working for us, I think we all need to remember that. Unfortunately, the majority of my experience with business has not been entirely pleasant, I do hope this will change in the future :)

PhilipH said...

If the 'travel charge' was never mentioned then I think you'd have every reason to refuse to pay it! I certainly would have taken them to task and just offered them the one hour's fee (which lasted half that time!) and told 'em to sue me for the rest.

Stitch-up merchants like these people should go to the wall, and not just to hang a mirror Jo.

Essie said...

so sorry Jo...I don't know how the redundant comment happened!

A.M. said...

I hope you reported them to the BBB. That's garbage and how dare they take advantage of you. They probably see that you live in this beautiful home and that aaaaaaaaaa who cares she can afford it. Shame on them!

The Bug said...

Ooh - I HATE being railroaded into paying something I know is wrong. I remember going to a farmer's market & paying EIGHT dollars for one tomato! I was so shocked that I didn't say anything. We haven't gone back there since.

@ly said...

My biggest pet peeve is customer service and I am with you...when someone hits it right or goes out of their way for you..I am coming back. But when you stick it to better believe I will be letting everyone know!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

An excellent reminder! All too often, companies deal in Customer Disservice. I feel the same way. If I am not treated honestly and with respect and courtesy plus an interest in solving any problems that arise during our transaction, I won't return. No business should grow so overconfident that they forget they are not alone in the field.

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

Ken's ego would probably be severely dented if he had to read this, but to hell with that. He ripped you off, well and truly.

Country Girl said...

Bravo for posting about the disservice in the last instance.

Paula Slade said...

I have a very low tolerance for poor customer service. Getting the word out about your negative experience will help many others avoid a similar situation.

Daphne Rose said...

Great article. Good leadership is a key factor in knowing how to make the customer happy but also keep the integrity of the worker in tact. I have great experience with
Matelas Bonheur :)