Every couple years I visit the Left Coast for a parental visit. These visits have evolved over time into a somewhat predictable pattern.
- Home Cooking
- Favorite Restaurants – Tito’s Tacos, The Burnt Tortilla, Mei Lung Village (Shanghai Cuisine), Dim Sum, Sushi, various breakfast places
- Shopping – REI, Costco (the Marina del Rey store has to be seen to be believed), Fry’s Electronics, The Shiseido store (wife likes nail polish)
- Attractions – Disneyland, Long Beach Aquarium, Beach, the Russian Submarine
- Computer Repair and Maintenance – 3 computers – clean (in and out), update, spyware and viruses, new games, etc.
- Troubleshooting – a variety of home repair items, customer service issues
Customer service? Let me expand on that.
My dad bought a Thermador Gas Grill Cooktop back in May of 2005. My first look at the thing immediately brought to my attention the warped grill cover – an obvious manufacturing defect. Of course, at $1600 a pop, you’d expect that this sort of defect would have been caught long before it reached the customer, but apparently this was not the case. I urged my father to seek redress. He dutifully did so and documented his experience. Imagine my surprise to see the same warped cover almost 2 years later. Seems the dealer he purchased it from refused to address the problem and told him to contact the manufacturer. In return, the manufacturer told him to contact the dealer.
Here’s where I come in. This sort of treatment of the customer was never tolerable, but now businesses face a much different sort of operating environment. Customers in the Web 2.0 era now are easily united and can share their experiences like never before. That very power has changed the relationship, now the power is in the hand of the people. No longer can businesses “divide and conquer”. One of my favorite consumer blogs – The Consumerist – has given inspiration to all those that seek satisfaction. My favorite post is entitled “Results Driven Complaining”. Satisfaction was never easier.
Imagine this: a website/blog dedicated to the warped grill cover. Everyday we could post a new picture of the warped cover. Everyday we could summarize the number of people we gave negative referrals to. Every family gathering, every friend and acquaintance entering our home could have a picture taken and posted scoffing at the warped cover. This site would of course be SEO/SMO optimized, with numerous links to every existing related complaint. Backlinks to the manufacturer and dealer would be plentiful. Links to competitors would be highlighted. What a nightmare. Fortunately the nuclear option was not necessary. Three phone calls, culminating with the Thermador customer service department, was all it took. A new grill cover is on the way. (Tim was responsive and came through with flying colors)
Let me add to the fine roadmap presented by The Consumerist:
- Always ask for the full name of the CSR immediately upon contact
- Document everything – start a file, record names, time of call, length of call, time on hold, etc.
- State very clearly the problem and desired solution.
- Be polite, don’t make threats
- Use the power of silence – try to separate the wheat from the chaff – focus on what you want, never back down, and never speak unnecessarily. This is a negotiation.
Good Luck to my fellow consumers! Anyone who wants to set-up a complaint blog is welcome to contact me anytime.