The ripple effect of poor customer service
Like most of us who have renovated a kitchen, the Wilsons couldn’t wait to enjoy it.
So imagine their dismay when, after using their stove for the first time, the South Australian couple noticed a distortion on their brand-new splashback.
Leigh Wilson went back to the supplier to complain. He was told polymer splashbacks were not recommended for use with gas stoves.
“We were certainly not told about the warning when we purchased the product – or we simply wouldn’t have bought it,” Leigh says.
But rather than apologise for giving an incorrect advice and offering to replace the splashback with one suitable for use with gas stoves. The store manager only offered a glass filler panel to replace the section behind the stove. He did not offer to pay for a tradesman to do the work.
Instead, the store tried to lay blame elsewhere. They say that the product packaging contained a warning about installation behind a gas stove.
The customer service run-around
“They tried to say the guy who did the installation for us had ignored the warning or removed it,” Leigh said. “But he was adamant there wasn’t one there.”
When Leigh took his complaint up with the state manager, he was offered tiles to attach after the splashback was removed — at his own expense.
Leigh argued that the company must have insurance to cover such mistakes. He was told to put in a submission for consideration. After hearing nothing, Leigh learned the first letter of complaint he’d delivered to the store had been lost. So he had to write a second explaining the situation, which took another few weeks to get to the customer service department in Melbourne.
“They’re not endearing themselves to anyone, and of course, people are asking us how we’re getting on – they lost a lot of money, and credibility,” he says.
Ripple effect proves very costly
As the saga dragged on, with the couple still unable to use their stove three months after the splashback was installed, the business’s reputation continued to suffer.
It’s this ripple effect that can cost companies big time, says Jo Ucukalo, CEO of Handle My Complaint.
“When something has clearly gone wrong at the point of sale, with a customer receiving poor advice or none at all, it should be a simple case of ‘we made a mistake and we’ll fix it as quickly as possible’,” she says.
“While of course, it costs a business money to fix the problem. It costs a lot more in goodwill and future sales if they argue and drag it out.
“Customers will always talk more about negative experiences and warn others not to buy their products from somewhere that hasn’t done the right thing.”
Jo maintains anyone buying a product from a salesperson, particularly in a specialist area, would expect to be given appropriate advice.
“We might do a bit of research before we buy something. But as customers we rely on the expertise of those who are selling the products to us,” she says.
“At the very least, the Wilsons should have been asked what type of stove they were using with the splashback.”
By the time Leigh contacted Handle My Complaint for assistance in resolving the complaint, his wife was so stressed she had sought medical attention.
Having a strong advocate
With HMC, Leigh says he finally felt like someone was in his corner. “Jo immediately got back to us and followed up,” he says. “And she checks in every few days to see how we are going. I feel like we have an advocate, someone who is making sure something is done about the problem.”
So much so, he asked HMC to help resolve a separate issue with his insurer. He is disputing a claim for storm damage because of a problem with his roof. A problem he had no idea about because, well, who climbs on their roof?
As with the splashback saga, Leigh has been given the run-around. “Initially they said they would get back to us within 10 days with a progress report. Then on the 11th day I got an email to say they would need more time,” he says. “Eventually I connected with them after a number of attempts. And the story was there were other complaints ahead of mine.”
It was hardly a satisfactory answer. Specially for someone who has a tarpaulin over their roof. It is their temporary measure to keep any further bad weather out.
But Leigh says while incredibly frustrating and disappointing, particularly as both are large companies. These experiences have made him more determined to dig his heels in and get the issues sorted with HMC’s assistance.
“Part of it is about not giving up simply because they are making it hard. And so they realise that they are there to serve the public,” he says. “We want to push for our right to be served in a responsible manner.”
So if an organisation is giving you a hard time with poor customer service, we’re here to help you handle it.