Thank You For Lousy Customer Service!

CuisinartKeurigWhen I moved into my condo I bought a refurbished Cuisinart coffee machine.  You know, the type that brews Keurig coffees.  It was my first purchase for the condo, and I was very proud of it.  Why?  Well for one thing it is a very nice machine, and for another… well, mornings are just better with coffee.

A few weeks later it started leaking.  I was busy with other things, but in December I looked into it and sure enough it had a 90 day warranty.  I called Conair Cuisinart Canada because by now it was probably Day 89, and they told me to ship it to them and they would honour the warranty, and I would have the machine back within 10 business days.

I shipped it out on January 2nd.

After a month I called and by chance reached the same rep I had originally spoken with, and he told me that they were replacing it, but they had been out of stock of the refurbished machines which explains the delay. ‘Don’t worry Mr. Garvis, the machines are now in, and we are sending it out to you today.  You will have it by Friday.

Friday came and went.  So did next Friday.

I called back and was told by another rep that the machine had definitely not been shipped, and that they were out of stock.  I asked to speak to the supervisor.  I was transferred to a voice mail box, and left a message.

The following day, fully twenty-seven hours after leaving the voice mail, I called back.  After nearly an hour on hold I reached a rep and I immediately asked for the supervisor, but not their voice mail.  I won’t bother to explain the ridiculous conversation that followed, but in the end I was at last speaking with the supervisor… the same man who had told me to ship them the machine and that I would get it back in 10 days; the same supervisor who told me two weeks prior that my machine was being shipped out that day.  The same supervisor who, in my eyes, had lied to me, and had no credibility.

‘I have great news for you Mr. Garvis!  We still don’t have the refurbished machines in stock, so a decision has been made to send you a new one.  You should be thankful that I was able to arrange this… we don’t do this often!’

I should be thankful.

Over the eight weeks that I was without my coffee maker I bought a cup of coffee nearly every day; assuming that I only bought the one cup (probably not true, but let’s average it), then at $2.36 per cup per day, I spent $132 on coffee… an operational expense that I originally bought the coffee machine (capital expense) to avoid.  And while a simple search of BestBuy.ca (and without doing any comparison shopping whatsoever) shows that the exact model I bought sells for $199.99… but another simple search of eBay shows I can get a new one for $79.00… not to mention that my refurbished one originally cost me $65.

All of this to say that with the $132 I spent at Starbucks since December, I could have bought myself another machine… and had plenty of money left over.

…and yet, I should feel thankful that they sent me the new one (which of course will only come with the warranty for a used model).

Had I had that conversation in December I would have just gritted my teeth and called it what it is… what we get in a day and age where customer service is not considered important, and companies are unwilling to spend the money to go the extra mile to retain their customers.  However two incidents in January showed me that there are some companies for whom customer service is extremely important, and customer retention is everything. They both happened on the same day in the same mall, from two very different companies.

Story 1:

iphone5When I came back from Japan in January, 2014 I needed a new cell phone, and rather than selling my soul to my cell phone provider, I bought a used iPhone 5 from eBay.  I don’t remember what I paid, but it was reasonable.  From what I could tell the phone was a little over a year old, and worked fine… for now. 

Over time though some issues arose, but I would just live with them.  The first was that the power button stopped working.  This is less of a game-stopper than you might think, because the only time my phone is off is when the battery dies, and when you plug it into a charger it immediately turns on again.

I noticed the battery life diminishing… so I went to speak to a ‘Genius’ at the Apple Store in Square One mall and he told me that I should be getting at least eight hours out of it… as long as I turned off vibrate mode.  As for the power button… well they could take it in and ship it out to be fixed at my expense, but I would be without a phone; I decided to use the phone until it was no longer useable, then get something else.

I woke up Monday morning in Bellevue, Washington the second week of January, and my colleague and I went to the Microsoft Store to look into an issue with my corporate laptop.  We had to wait a couple of hours for the appointment, so we were going to find somewhere to sit and talk when my phone died.  It was 10:15am, I had charged it overnight, I was not awake two hours, and the battery was dead.

I said ‘You know what, we have time to kill… let’s go into the Apple Store and see what they tell me.’  We did just that, and yes we had to wait in line for a ‘drop in’ appointment.

The Genius who helped me was a nice enough guy, and after I explained the situation he examined the phone and then he asked me something that surprised me:

“Your phone is registered in Canada with Rogers, so if I replace it for you it will not activate until you get back to Canada and it can connect to a Rogers tower.  Would you be okay with that?”

The phone was nearly 18 months out of warranty, purchased from a different company, in a different country.  And yet Apple was willing to replace the device for me.  I was shocked, and told him yes, I would be okay with that.

He was wrong by the way… the phone activated on my Rogers account as soon as it connected to the AT&T network, and I was not without my phone for any period of time.

They owed me nothing… I have in my lifetime bought a grand total of one thing from an Apple Store, and I sold it on Craig’s List three months later.  The Apple Store could very easily have said ‘Yeah… you’re not really our customer, but here are a bunch of devices you could buy from us to replace your device that has clearly been used into an early obsolescence.  Instead, he pulled out a refurbished iPhone 5 that was identical to my old one, and gave it to me.

That is Customer Service.  THAT is a company that wants to earn or retain my loyalty.

Story 2:

SP3Michael and I left the Apple Store in awe, thrilled by the customer service that I would never get in Canada, and he doubted he would get in Japan.  We went back to the Microsoft Store.

My corporate laptop is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, i7 model.  It is certainly a Microsoft product… but it was purchased from another company in Japan, re-imaged, and was not working the way it was supposed to.  We were hoping the technicians at the MS Store could tell us what was wrong with it, but we assumed it was going to have to go back to Japan.  Michael and I had even discussed how we would do that – he would give me his identical device, take mine back to Tokyo, and have it dealt with.  It would not be convenient, but that’s the price of doing business sometimes.

The technician spent thirty minutes trying to resolve the issue.  I confess, I sometimes find it tedious watching retain technicians work through all of the troubleshooting steps I have already followed, but this time I was glad for it because Michael and I actually had business to discuss.  He tried this and that and the other thing, and for love or money he just was not able to resolve the issue.

“Mr. Garvis, we know this device has your corporate image of Windows 8.1 on it, but I would like to replace it for you because I cannot resolve the issue.  Is that a problem, or do you need the corporate image?  If you do, I can send it in and they can fix it.”

Once again… the device was nearly a year old, bought from another company, in another country… and yet the Microsoft Store was willing to replace it for me with a brand new device.  Oh, the best part:

“Look, normally we would give you a refurbished machine, but in this case we don’t have any refurbs in stock so I’m going to give you a new one.”

In the event that the corporate image had been important, Michael had the ability to image it in his hotel room… but it wasn’t – I was able to install all of the necessary software on the Microsoft image… and it works great.

That is Customer Service.  THAT is a company that wants to earn or retain my loyalty.

I do not know if the customer service issue is a Canadian thing, or if it is just that I was dealing with a bad company or a bad department or a bad rep.  Whatever it is, Here is a lesson for Cuisinart Canada.  The next time I buy a smartphone it will probably be an iPhone; the next tablet I buy will absolutely be running Windows, and there is a very good chance that I will buy it from Microsoft.  And the next time I buy a kitchen appliance it will not be a Cuisinart. 

But how can I say that?  After all, they did send me a brand new coffee maker, even though I had sent them a refurbished one.

It’s not that the device was defective.  Welcome to Earth, sometimes consumer products don’t work and have to be fixed or replaced.  Hell, look at my Surface Pros and my iPhone.  The reason is not only that I was lied to repeatedly (but I was); it’s not that Cuisinart makes bad products (they don’t); it’s not even that I had to sit on hold for nearly an hour each of the five times I called regarding this issue (I did). 

It’s simple… After all that, Cuisinart wanted me to be grateful for what they were doing for me.  They felt they were doing me a favour, and I should be singing their praises.  That is not what customer service is supposed to feel like.  I shouldn’t have to genuflect because you helped me – you are customer service and that is what you are supposed to do.

Microsoft and Apple both demonstrated to me that they wanted me as a customer, and even though they are two of the biggest companies in the world, they need me as a customer.  Cuisinart thinks I need them more than they need me… and in this case, to fix or replace my coffee maker they were right.  However in the grand scheme of things, I do not have any need to be a Cuisinart customer.  I have two of their appliances, and I think that is just enough.

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