Ways to further infuriate an upset customer

by Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC on October 1, 2014

I’m remodeling my kitchen and selected the granite fabricators based on my neighbors’ reports on their great customer service. I found that to be true all along the way until the end.

When the granite was installed, we discovered they’d made the sink cutout template wrong so the overhang over the sink was right on three sides but not on the front. My contractor had several discussions with the rep beforehand ensuring the overhang was to be the same on all 4 sides, and reiterating it with the guy sent out to ensure the job template was right before cutting the stone.

It may not seem like a big deal, but 3/8″ can make the difference between brushed crumbs landing in the sink vs. on the sink edge, which would be a pain to clean.

When the granite was being installed, my contractor pointed out the problem immediately to the installers. The three installers wanted to scrap the $800 piece of granite.

I called the fabrication rep immediately and left him a message.

My contractor and I explored my options. If we made the fabricator tear out the granite, it would cost them $800 for the granite, 3 guys 2-3 hours at $50/hr to tear it out and install the new piece, an hour of fabrication time, plus repairing any damage to the cabinets. All in all, we figured the company would be out close to $1500 to make it right.

A week later, no word from the rep. However, I did get a bill, minus a 3.2% discount for the wrong template.

What????

This was not acceptable, nor was not hearing from the rep about my unhappiness. I’d expected he would call within a day or two to explore the options. If he had to check with the owner, I would have appreciated an email or call telling me this.

Nothing.

When I got the invoice a week after the install, I emailed him immediately expressing my disappointment that I hadn’t heard from him in a week and the $105 wasn’t sufficient. I asked him to call me immediately. He did.

He seemed nonchalant when I asked him how he came up with the 3.2% discount. He said, “The countertop is functional. There’s nothing really wrong with it.”

Wrong thing to say to a customer who will have to live with the mistake for decades. There *was* something wrong with it — it was cut wrong! He was discounting my desire to have it done to the specs we’d all agreed upon.

He continued to tell me how much time he’d spent on this, how it was a tight fit (which I knew, and really had nothing to do with the wrong cut). He said he’d spent way more time making sure it would all fit than he normally does. This was all really irrelevant to addressing the problem at hand.

I thanked him for all his efforts and told him I appreciated it. I told him i’d chosen them because of my neighbors’ stellar reviews of their service. However, I didn’t think waiting a week to get back to me and then only after I prompted him was stellar service.

“I’ve been really busy” was his response. Really? So busy you can’t connect with an upset customer to explore resolution options?

He offered to have the guys come tear out the counter, but the backsplash was now being installed. Had he suggested that a week ago, I would have considered it. But now it was too late.

Finally, after more discussion, he offered to “split the difference” with me. When I asked what that looked like, he said a number that was 23% of the total. Since I didn’t want to have the counter torn out, it seemed like a fair resolution for my having to live with their mistake.

So the lessons for you on dealing with an upset customer:

* Contact the customer immediately once you know there is a problem. Even if you don’t have a resolution, tell them what you’re going to do and when you’ll get back to them. By waiting, you not only irritate them more, options disappear.

* When you do talk to them, don’t trivialize their issue. It’s important to them, even if it seems small to you.

* Don’t insult them with tiny dispensation for your mistake.

* Dont harp on irrelevant details. Stick to finding a resolution to the problem at hand.

* Don’t make excuses. Being “really busy” is not something to tell a customer. It says the customer isn’t as important as what else has kept you “really busy.”

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