Sunday, December 12, 2010

A 21st century tale of "customer service"

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes, the two things seem to happen in equal measure. Life's a bit odd like that. It's remarkable how often you win and lose at the same time with the business world.
Exactly one year ago, Squirrel and I ordered a security door from a windows-and-door company that has a high recognition factor here in Britain. I won't mention them in this space only because we have not gotten our deposit money back yet, although we've been told we will. However, if you're curious to know, dear reader, I'll be happy to name-drop via e-mail.
The door was one of those pre-framed, uPVC doors that are impossible to open without a key or an explosive. In January, a fitter came out to take measurements, and we awaited the big day when our new door would arrive.
That day came at the end of March. I had gotten everything out of the way and taken the decorations (apartment letter, fox door-knocker, etc.) off the current door. The fitter said he had "the wrong door," that the measurements taken were from a left-hinge position as opposed to our current right one. The fitter said he'd call back later that day; he never did.
Now, even that one incident, you'll agree, was enough to ask for an apology and perhaps even a discount off the price of the door. I talked with the manager and got the huffy attitude that I had no right to discuss such things until after the door was installed. I would have told him to go crap in his hat at that juncture, but Squirrel really wanted the door.
An installment was booked at the end of June. We insisted on the end of the month, because that's when we both get paid, and according to this company's contract, deductions come out from the day of installation. Once again, I had everything taken out of the way. I received a call from the main office informing us that the installer's van had broken down. Soon after, we received requests from the company that the installation take place sooner. We said "no, it'll be the end of the month or nothing." No hint of apology this second time around.
At the end of July, on a Friday, the installers arrived and took less than a minute to inform me that our doorway consisted of the wrong kind of timber. The company's main office said it was the right kind and that if it had not been, it would have been noted during the January visit. They offered to have it installed on the coming Monday, and as this was still the end of the month, we said OK.
The installer, yet another different one, started bombarding me with questions about parking. I lost count of how many times I told him, "I can't advise you. Neither of us drive. So we have never taken any notice of parking restrictions." Isn't that this guy's job to find out these things? I'd never been moaned at before about parking arrangements, so I figured the man must have obsessive-compulsive disorder or something. He offered to come back the following Sunday when parking wouldn't be an issue, and I was so frustrated by then, I said "ok, fine," forgetting that by then, it would be the beginning of a new month.
Again began the frustration of dealing with the company's main office to cancel that date and arrange another end-of-the-month appointment. That was slated for the end of September. Before then, however, we received a letter from the main office to the effect of: "We are pleased that you are happy with your new product, etc." It was obvious to us by now that the people of this company didn't communicate with the installers—or simply didn't know their asses from a hole in the ground.
One more chance. The day in September arrived and the installers started preparing. I was called out to have a look at the door. "Why?" I asked. "I've just taken off my boots. What are you telling me?" I was urged to have a look at the door. So I went out in the drizzle, my stockinged feet on the cold, wet pavement of the sidewalk to look at the door in the van's compartment bay. Damaged. A huge crack ran through it.
"Obviously, we can't install it like this," I was told. No duh!
We were desperate now to cancel and get out of this never-ending nightmare, but we'd signed the contract and paid a deposit. We had not heard anything at all from the company since that day in September. Yesterday, we finally managed a breakthrough and got the company to cancel the contract. Freedom!
In total, five incidents, more phone calls placed and e-mails written to the company than we care to remember, and perhaps just two weak-assed apologies.
We will give another security door company a chance, but we will tell them this sordid tale and if just one thing goes wrong, we will demand cancellation of that contract. I will lay it on the line to them, because I refuse to go through this again.
We might have won back our money, as well as the recognition that we've been screwed with for too long. But we lost time and faith in any company to deliver on their promises. We learned that this is what customer "service" and corporate responsibility amounts to as we head into the second decade of the 21st century.


My Sharp Tongue said...

A huge *sigh* - that's my immediate reaction to your story. I really hope you get your deposit back ASAP, and that the new company will be much better.

rocslinger said...

I think the first two decades of the 21st century will be tagged the decade of mediocrity 1&2.

Nightdragon said...

MST: Thank you. I think we're getting some compensation on top of the return of our deposit. It's just a relief to be done with this -- it's been a year-long headache.

Roc -- Mediocrity just about sums it up.