Learning from Others’ Mistakes

Examples of bad customer service are so easy to find that we could have a separate blog just to tell horror stories.  But a regular diet of that kind of stuff would get boring.  That’s why I hardly ever do that kind of post.  But there’s an exception to every rule and this one’s bad enough that it’s worth repeating.

My wife and I recently decided we needed a new mattress.  We headed over to our neighborhood furniture store to check them out.  The salesman, Greg, was obviously well-trained.  He knew his merchandise and knew how to close.  He wasn’t pushy, but we still ended up buying one of the more expensive models.  It was a very good shopping experience and I made up my mind that when the promised customer survey arrived that I would give him very good marks. 

One of the things that influenced our decision was that this particular mattress/box springs set was in stock so we could have it "early next week" (We bought it on a Friday evening.)  We paid extra for delivery and removal of the old bedding.  Greg promised us that someone from the delivery department would call us Monday to set up a delivery time.  Guess what?  Didn’t happen.

On Tuesday my wife called them.  The earliest they could make the delivery was the following Tuesday, a full week later.  So much for buying the more expensive model because it was in stock.  The delivery person promised that they would call "at least three days in advance" to let us know what time they would be there.  The promised delivery day was today.  The call came last night at 6:00.  It was a recorded message left on our answering machine, with the time garbled, making it impossible to understand.  All that came through was "PM".

Again, my wife called them and was told the delivery would be between noon and 2:00 PM.  They came at 1:45.  Once the mattress and box springs were in place, my very patient bride reminded the driver that he was supposed to take the old ones with him.  "Oh no,"  he said.  "I don’t have room for them on my truck.  Someone else will have to pick them up."

Now, I’m no expert in the area of delivery, but it you remove a new mattress and box springs from a truck, doesn’t that leave a mattress and box spring sized space unless the rest of the truck is full of sand or gravel?  Sadly, my less-patient-by-the-minute wife didn’t think to ask that particular question.

The driver promised that someone from the warehouse would call within the next half hour to arrange the pick-up.  Do I have to tell you that the call didn’t come?  I didn’t think so.  Anyway, my now seriously-impatient wife, who’s been sitting at home all day, called the delivery number.  Of course they knew nothing about our problem.  The driver hadn’t called.  But, good news!  They can have someone pick up the old stuff sometime on Friday!

By now, the wife has lost any little bit of patience she ever had.   Not only are we supposed to live with an extra set of bedding sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor for three days but she can’t give an expected delivery time.  Another day of sitting around waiting for them to show up?  They don’t know my wife very well.

Obviously, there will be more to the story.  What you’ve just read is current as of a few minutes ago.  After venting to me, my bride was going to call the store manager. 

But the real issue here is how something can be going so well and then completely break down.  From the time we walked in to the store, until we left with our paid receipt, the shopping experience was excellent.  The store was neat and clean.  The selection was good.  The salesman and everyone else in the store was well-trained and professional. 

But the total failure of the delivery process and the nagging doubt that the salesman may have lied to us about the company’s delivery policies has left an extremely bad impression with both of us.  Even a mediocre delivery process would still have ensured that we would return to the store for future purchases and recommend them to others.  Now I’m not sure if there’s anything that they can do that will salvage the situation.

The lesson is obvious.  Every person involved in a sales transaction, from the person who washes the windows and sweeps the floors to the person who drives the delivery truck has the potential to damage your reputation.  No matter how hard everyone else works to ensure the customer a positive experience, just one slip-up can cause the whole effort to be wasted.  In this case, apparently it’s the entire delivery process that needs work.

You can’t be personally involved in every facet of every transaction, you just don’t have time.  But it’s critical that you have people that you trust to treat each customer as if they’re the only customer you have.  There’s just too much competition out there for any of us to do any less.

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