Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just Say No to Bad Customer Service

I had to fire someone today.

No, it wasn't an employee, but a vendor. We've had trouble dealing with this particular company; we've made five purchases from them, and four of those purchases required a return visit because the product was defective. Today, when we complained about screw-up #4, the representative argued with us. His argument was this: if we had been doing OUR jobs right, we would have seen their screw-up in advance. I replied by severing our business relationship with them.

Yesterday, I picked up my car from the mechanic. It was a job that should have taken a day to fix, but thanks to a screw-up on their end (the part they bought didn't work), they had my car for almost a week while they sorted everything out. When the bill came, it was full price. When I left the shop, which was out in the boondocks, I was told, "You're kind of low on should fill it up right away." I got a mile down the road--a country road--when the car ran out of gas. Stranded, I had to walk a mile to get some gas. I severed that business relationship as well.

Over the last few weeks, bad customer service seems to be a growing trend in my life. The problem is, these same people I've dealt with are complaining about how tough times are and that business is not good. Think there's a connection? I do.

Maybe it's because I worked in management for 18 years for companies that always stressed the importance of good customer service. If I didn't make the customer happy, my boss would. Then I'd spend the rest of the day in my boss's office being asked why I didn't take care of the customer. Funny thing was that NONE of these companies complained about business being slow or times being tough. That's because they knew how to deliver GREAT customer service.

My brother Mat, who has been successful in the computer sales/repair business for 14 years, said this to me: "I always insist on giving the best customer service to my clients. I only expect about half as much customer service in return. Everyone's standards are way too low." I've worked with companies who, in tough times, have replaced their "The customer is always right" mantra with sayings such as "Sometimes you have to fire some customers." While the customer may NOT be always right, the trick is never letting them know they aren't right. That's good business, plain and simple.

This idea, of course, translates with uncommon relevance to the high-end audio industry. I've always railed against high-end dealers who cultivate a snobbish attitude toward customers. My famous story is of one audio dealer who once told me not to breathe on one of their turntables. All I wanted to do was get a closer look to see what model it was. I severed that business relationship before it started.

There are plenty of high-end audio dealers who get it. I've always championed dealers such as Gene Rubin of Gene Rubin Audio, Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery, Brian DiFrank of Whetstone Audio and Peter Selesnick of Venice Audio. These gentlemen ALWAYS bend over backwards to treat their customers with respect, kindness and gratitude. Gene, for example, states on his website that he has been in business since 1979, and he has yet to have a customer service complaint. These are the people who have earned your business.

It comes down to this: just say no to bad customer service. Once you receive bad customer service, sever that business relationship at once. The hi-fi shop proprietor who told me not to breathe on his turntable is no longer in business. Good. He doesn't deserve customers.

In this crappy economy, everyone has low and competitive prices. So give your money to those who deserve it...those who distinguish themselves from their competitors by offering GREAT customer service.


  1. I agree with what you've been saying. Don't spend you're money with those who are not worth paying for. If they really want to earn something, they should learn to work hard for it by giving us the quality service that anyone is wanting for. Just like what David Haverford said that, "The customer is why you go to work. If they go away, you do, too."


    Order taking service

  2. I too was in customer service for years and I KNOW how to treat people. I once worked with a girl who got a complaint from a customer and her answer was "I don't have to be nice, just professional". Needless to say, I jumped all over her and told her (despite her college degree), that YES, she did have to be nice. There's nothing worse that calling to lodge a complaint and you are already irritated to talk to a horse's behind that only makes you madder. I knew how to not only unruffle the irritated customer, but to assure them the problem WOULD be taken care of promptly. Some people just don't get it.

  3. Hi Marc....see I do read your blog

  4. Grrrr... if there's one thing that's guaranteed to fire me up, it's bad customer service, and unfortunately, as you say, it's becoming more & more common, even from big companies that SHOULD know better!

    I don't employ staff at this stage, but if I do, customer service will be a deal breaking part of the job role. If you don't do a good job, you're fired! End of story.

    My biggest recent experience: Australian budget airline Jetstar (Jokestar as we call them) not sticking to their promise to refund an airline ticket. They don't actually have a customer complaints dept you can ring!!! Only a post office box, and even when you send them a written complaint, they never reply! Cheap airfares aren't worth the aggravation, and Jokestar have lost themselves a customer for life!

    Great article btw :-)

  5. I came across your blog because I just had a terrible customer service experience - the downward spiral in customer service attitudes is a plague that I'm afraid will never be stopped.

    I called my offset printer because I was having trouble logging in to my account. The customer service rep tried to log in and he said he was also unable to get it to work. His suggestion? "Go ahead and create a new account."

    REALLY!? No attempt to find out why, or, god forbid, FIX the problem? Just create a new account? "Yeah, sorry, it's the best I can suggest. Just give us a call back if you have any trouble."

    I asked him if he could hold on the line while I tried to login and he SIGHED LOUDLY. This stellar example of a customer service employee clearly couldn't be bothered with actually doing his job.

    I went off on him, asking him if he valued his job, or the money he got in his paycheck, because there were lots of others out there who would take his job in a heartbeat. He was very apologetic, but I just couldn't get over that anyone in their right mind would have the nerve to sigh loudly when a customer makes a reasonable request, especially if it falls within the scope of your job duties. Hell, you aren't supposed to sigh, even if they ask you something UNreasonable!

    Anyway, great post and I'll be reading some more of your work. Thanks for letting me rant, lol.

  6. I work in customer service and am excellent at what I do. I get calls transfered to me from reps that don't care to/won't handle a situation. My company allows it. Yes, I would fire my employer in a minute except some of us are really good at what we do and good people. I don't want to be penalized because of another person's bad attitude, ineptness, ignorance, or low apptitude. (Which is what many customer's have, by the way.) Please also understand how insane customer's can be. Getting yelled at all day because they have nothing better to do, sucks the life out of a rep and it's not that easy to re-charge before the next nightmare slams onto one's phone.