Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm Sorry...Very Powerful Words in Customer Service

How many times have you returned an item to a store and the employee said, "I'm sorry." How many times have you returned an item and the store employee took care of your business and did not utter one word of regret? Today I was at Lowe's of Fernandina Beach Florida to pick up a set of custom order blinds that, before my discounts, cost $200. They were Levolor blinds. I've had a bit of a saga with these blinds - this was my second set of the same blinds.

I ordered my first set of blinds in early April for in-store delivery in late April. I took the blinds home and a couple of weeks later started installing them. I got all the hardware on the wall and then took the protective packaging off of the blinds and discovered that they were damaged and bent in the middle. I was shocked because it appeared that the packaging was quite good and should have prevented any damage. I thought, "No big deal. I'll just leave the hardware on the wall, return the blinds and when the new blinds are delivered, the rest of the installation will be quite easy."

That night, I went on Levolor's website and informed them of the problem. I never heard back from them.

I took the blinds back to the store on May 10, 2009 and endured an hour of four employees and a manager trying to figure out the right way for me to return my blinds and receive a new order. I started out at the return desk. The woman there was very empathetic and likely one of Lowe's best employees. She called back to find out if they should return my money and reorder the blinds or just have me go to the blind department to order the new blinds there. She called back to the blind department and was told to send me back with the blinds. Once I was there, the woman called another employee to ask what she should do. The two of them called a manager and he told them to send me back to Customer Service for a refund and the place a new order. Remember the game Pong? Twenty minutes of my life was not gone.

I went back to the customer service desk and my money was refunded by the nice woman who had helped me before. After that, I went back to the blind department. Once the order was placed, the two women and a manager spent the next 25 minutes trying to figure out how to adjust the price to match the 10% discount I received under an earlier promotion. Not one word was said to me, not even an I'm sorry this is taking so long. Little did they know, I planned to buy a leaf blower that evening. I'll be buying that leaf blower from Home Depot or Amazon. All it would have took to make that sale was for one person to say, "Feel free to look around the store for 10 minutes while we figure this out for you." After 25 minutes, everything was taken care of and I was sent back up to Customer Service to pay for my new order. No one said I'm sorry about your order or I'm sorry that took so long.

I paid for my new blinds and was told they would be here on May 29th. I got a call May 20th saying the blinds were in. I was excited. I thought, "That was fast, this makes up for all of the hassle I've had to endure at Lowe's."

Tonight, May 22 and my Wedding Anniversary, I went to Lowe's to pick up my blinds. I walked in the store and was treated with no special attention. The woman at Customer Service called to have my blinds brought up to the front of the store. My blinds were brought up to the front of the store by one of the ladies who helped with my return and reorder. The Customer Service woman wanted me to sign the paperwork to receive the blinds and I informed her that I wanted to inspect them first. The woman who brought the blinds quickly added that my blinds were damage last time. We opened the box and much to my dismay, the blinds were damaged again. I stood there for about a minute while three employees talked amongst themselves about what to do. I interrupted, with disgust in my voice, and told them to reorder the blinds, have every phase rushed, and call me on Tuesday after they speak to the manufacture to let me know when my order will be in. I walked out. No one said I'm sorry.

So how should have this situation have been handled.

There are three ways to deal with dissatisfied customers - two are wrong and one is right.

  1. Wrong - You anger the customer in some way or refuse to address the complaint. This is often the case with an inexperienced sales person or a experienced person who does not want you as a customer. It can be an effective strategy to remove barnacles (customers who cost you more than you make off of them), but there are better and more strategic means of getting rid of these customers.
  2. Wrong - You simply address the complaint or exchange the item to make the customer whole, usually apologizing. This is what most businesses do. The problem here is that you have satisfied the immediate need of the customer, but you've done nothing to entice the customer back to ensure you can wow the customer with your product or service again.
  3. RIGHT!!! - You address the complaint with an empathetic apology, but don't overdo it. Then you offer the customer an incentive to come back to your store again. You exceed the customer's expectations. For example, if you are a restaurant and a customer's food is not correct. Apologize and don’t' shift the blame to the kitchen. Fix the problem with a new dish and while the customer is waiting, give him something eat so his companions do not feel guilty about eating while someone is still waiting on his food. Offer a dessert on the house or a free drink. Then, to top things off, offer something for free with purchase on the next visit within a month. Get the customer back in your store quickly and don't let them linger about with ill feelings.
I've posted to Facebook and Twitter to see what others think about how to handle customer complaints. I'll post any thought provoking ideas.

How companies are using Twitter

I'm always interested in seeing how companies are using new product platforms. Today, more than ever, we can see first hand how they are using Web 2.0 platforms because the platforms are used to communicate with us, the consumer. Here is a link to how many banks are using Twitter.

Wells Fargo tops the list with the most followers and are using Twitter as a Q&A Platform. Here is what I got when I searched for Wells Fargo's name on Twitter. The Ask Wells Fargo Tweet helps customers with answers and tries to connect them with the right banker. The next two Wells Fargo accounts are just holding the names and not being used. The Team Wells Fargo Account (Wells Fargo Advisors) is an account for bicyclists.