Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Common Sense
Matt Seinberg

How many times have we discussed customer service here? Too many times in my opinion, but it’s something that also never gets old. One of my Facebook friends posted a story this past week, and I just had to pass it on.

I’ve known Tracy for a few years, and have never heard him complain about anything, until now. He had a bad experience at his local Chili’s that mirrored the one I had in December 2010.

He entered the half-empty restaurant. The host said he and his two kids had to wait for table cleaning to complete. He was stunned to say the least. All the tables he saw were clean and unused.

He did the same thing I would do; he stared incredulously at the teenage host, a woman, and questioned her as to why they had to wait for a table when the restaurant was half-empty.

She gave some ridiculous answer, and since he was meeting other family members, he called them and told them to meet him at “On the Border,” (OTB) another casual dining restaurant. OTB treated them very well, and went out their way to serve them.

In a lousy economy we are going through, wouldn’t you think that any business would go out their way to make a customer happy? Don’t get me wrong, if a customer is wrong and they did something that does not comply with a policy or warranty, the business is certainly not obligated to do what the customer wants.

However, in the name of good customer relations, most companies will do whatever they can to make the customer happy, even though the customer may be 100% wrong.

In Tracy’s case, Chili’s was 100% wrong, and I’m sure even though he wrote a letter to the company, he won’t get any satisfaction. My feeling is this is company doesn’t care or doesn’t understand how to treat customers the right way.

My wife Marcy had a bad experience with Bath and Body Works. She had a coupon that was Buy One and Get One Free, with a minimum purchase of $1. The second item had to be at least $12 to be free. Sounds simple, am I right?

She certainly understood what the coupon said, since she uses coupons all the time. However, the store associate gave her a hard time about the coupon, and she had to pay for the $12 item and not the $10 item. The store reversed what the coupon said and charged her $2 more than they should have. They picked the wrong person to whom to do this.

She did what any person would do that felt that the store was wrong, and wrote an email to the company through their website. The next day, she got a reply from customer service apologizing for the confusion. They wrote she'd receive a $15 gift card in the mail. She was very happy, and she went to the store shortly after and spent it. Please note that she bought stuff for her and the girls, but nothing for me.

This week a problem with our front door locks came to a head. They won’t work! It seems that the locking mechanism isn’t pulling back all the way out of the frame. The top lock isn’t working at all. The bottom lock will work if you giggle the door a bit. The kids are having the worst time, so I just told them to use the back door.

Being the warranty oriented homeowner I am, I called Kwikset, and got a very nice customer service rep on the phone, Mr. Pitt. Kwikset products come with a lifetime warranty. I explained the above problems, and also told the CSR that the finish was pitting.

Mr. Pitt asked me to send him two photos, one each of the front and back, which I did with my handy iTouch. He said if he received them early in the day, I would have a resolution later that day. He was good to his word. I got an email indicating I would get a new set, which is an upgraded model. I just have to pay $8 shipping, and wait 2-8 weeks as it’s on backorder. I guess we’ll be using the back door a lot more in the coming weeks.

Many people out there will try to work a problem to more than their advantage. They not only want a new product, but a discount as well for whatever inconvenience they went through. Since many companies are sensitive to having bad things said about them, they will do what the customer wants.

My feeling is simple; if you have a problem, try to resolve it in a simple and civilized manner. Don’t yell or scream at the person on the other end of the phone, and make your letter or email sound as professional as you can. The nicer you are about the problem, the nicer the person on the other end will be and the problem will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

If all else fails, contact your local newspaper or TV station, and let them investigate. Do this only if you have a major complaint, such as a home repair gone wrong, or a car that doesn’t work.

That’s the end of our lesson for this week.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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