Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Customer Service Horror Stories, Continued

Note: This entry appeared in my original blog, "Home|Work"

As I mentioned last time, I've had a few bad customer service incidents, but one stood out, head and shoulders, above them all. This one involved Sears and the popular Wieder Crossbow exercise machine.

About two years ago I had started an exercise program to try to keep myself in a little better shape. Apparently moving the mouse on the computer doesn't count as aerobic exercise and we computer programmers rarely get much more exercise than that. My program involved three days a week of aerobic exercise and three of resistance training (i.e. weight-lifting). It was to meet this need that my wife and I purchased the Wieder Crossbow 800, a marvel of engineering which used an electronically controlled tension bar and a series of pulleys to provide the resistance to do a variety of exercises. I loved this machine ... when it worked.

The problem was that this piece of ... equipment ... had some pretty shoddy wiring in it. When the wiring broke, the motor which increased and decreased the tension would stop working. With a ten-year warranty, the first time this happened, it didn't bother me too much. These things happen. It took Sears a month to fix the machine (they had to order a part), but it got fixed and I got back on track with my workout schedule.

The fourth time it broke, however, I was becoming a bit less sanguine about the whole situation. This is when Mr. Greg's Wild Ride began. Please keep your arms and hands inside the car at all times.

I made the usual call to Sears. They scheduled a repair visit the following Tuesday "sometime between 8 and 12". I'm sure you could all join in on the chorus on this one, but, wait. It gets better. I stayed home from work that day waiting for my savior, who, I knew, would show up, take one look at the piece of ... equipment ... and tell me it needed the new part, again. Oh, but that clever lad never showed. At 12:30, after waiting all morning, I decided to give Sears a call. Cue the scary organ music.

Call 1: The Sears repair line is busy. Not a problem. I'll call back.
Call 2: I wend my way through the voice mail maze. I finally get to the choice "Are you checking on the status of your appointment?" Why, yes, I am. "You have an appointment today between 8 and 12. Would you like me to repeat that information?" No, I knew that. "Thank you for calling Sears ." D'oh!
Call 3: Back into the voice mail abyss. "Do you want to check on that appointment again?" Nope, fool me once, shame on you... "Would you like to talk to a Customer Service Representative?" A-ha! A human! Yes, I would like that very much. "Thank you, I will now transfer you. <click><bzzzz>". Glrk.
Call 4: Busy again.
Call 5: Needless to say, I was feeling mildly cranky when finally I got hold of the poor yotz at the end of another interminable voice mail trail. Oh, but it isn't over yet.

"Sears, this is Bob speaking, how may I help you?"
"Yes, Bob, I'd like to know where the repair person is who was supposed to be here this morning."
"One moment, sir, let me look that up. Ah, yes. Apparently, the technician assigned to your case had to leave due to illness. Another technician has been assigned and should be there before 5."
"Bob, when were you going to tell me?"

Well, needless to say, the conversation went downhill a little after that.

Now, to give Sears their due, when I went in the next day to tell them they could come and haul away the piece of ... equipment ... they were more than accommodating. The young man I dealt with in the sporting goods department was efficient and sympathetic. On top of that, Sears has such a detailed sales history system, that I didn't even have to produce the receipt. It's funny how two people working for the same company can engender such a completely different response. After dealing with the collective idocy of the Sears repair department, I was this close to never buying from Sears again. Then I dealt with that helpful guy in sporting goods and he saved a customer for Sears.

Well, enough of my cathartic venting for this evening. Tomorrow I'll share a tale of good customer service. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your scary stories.

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