Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Customer service

Confronting the customer service of any business is a rarity for me, but it's happened twice in the past week.

On July 30, I ordered an ink cartridge for our printer. I decided to purchase the product on-line, which I thought would deliver the toner more quickly than I could pick one up. A few days later, we received the cartridge; however, it was missing a small piece and was thus unusable. We contacted the company, who mailed a replacement on August 13. When two weeks went by without receiving the item, I finally called to inquire about my order. Talk about getting the run-around. It was very frustrating, especially as the call was made on my own dime. I'll spare you additional details, but I had to make a second call on September 5--five weeks after my original request--and still nothing. Apparently, the package was lost in the mail, but the matter was handled in what I considered to be an unprofessional manner. I shared my frustration, thanked them for the effort that was made, and asked for a refund. I just hope the refund comes through!

I recently received a notice that one of the frequent flier programs I belong to adopted a new miles expiration policy. For those of us who are not travelers logging several flights a year, this strict enforcement (18 months with no activity) is a real discouragement. I e-mailed the customer service department, informing them of my disappointment in their decision. They sent a cordial reply, detailing several ways in which I might extend my miles through affiliate purchases, etc. I am thankful that some programs, such as Northwest's Worldperks, are much more user-friendly--Worldperks miles do not expire, and they are also transferable to family and friends.

Sometimes I hesitate to express my discontent with the service I've received. It can be difficult to temper one's, um, temper in a situation that has not been handled well. I try to be as diplomatic as possible, and when applicable, to offer thanks for some aspect of the service that has been appreciated.

I know my sister has bravely posted some of her own such correspondence. As with so many things in life, I find it difficult to find the right balance. In these cases, I want to be firm and direct, yet handle it with grace. I hope I've done so.

*I wrote a draft of this post a couple of days ago. Since then it has occurred to me that I took the time to address these minor personal "injustices," yet rarely have I been a voice for much more significant issues going on in the world. It's food for thought for me as I consider what that might look like. I did not receive any tangible benefit from speaking up in the above situations (neither company went above and beyond to remedy my discontent), but I hope I will make more of an effort to look outside of myself and speak on behalf of those who truly need it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carrie -

Thanks for the great perspective at the end of this post. You are very right.

As for the companies who offer poor customer service, I'm glad the blog world (which I'm not much a part of except for yours) can be a place to expose these organizations and also praise the efforts of others. So many businesses (like Bed Bath and Beyond) offer amazing customer service, so it makes sense to patronize these good ones and publicize the ones that don't respond well (like Target or OmniPro, the ink cartridge company). This keeps them accountable and may prevent others from having similar issues (so we can spend more time focusing on more important matters than returning things)!

Eric