Do What You Say and Say What You Mean

Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Customer Service. Don’t Be the Component That Breaks the Machine Builder’s Back

Jeremy PollardBy Jeremy Pollard, CET

Customer service is my pet peeve.

We all complain about myriad things, regardless of the source, every day. We aren’t born to complain, but when things aren’t right, we should take the source to task.

For example, a best friend of mine is getting married this summer. I am in the wedding party so I hear a lot about the wedding and reception plans.

After many meetings and much research, my very “thrifty” friend decided to sign on the dotted line for the arrangements. There were a few things that still needed to be finalized however, one of which was the liquor, but the proprietor promised that the wine markup would be no more than 50%.

My friend received the final agreement, and the wine markup is more than 300%. In common Canadian vernacular, I said, “Pardon!” How can this be? It seems there is to be no trust for a wedding negotiation.

Two weeks ago, my bride and I were on an overnighter to dine in the Muskoka region—well-known for a plethora of cottages owned or at least frequented by numerous National Hockey League players, not to mention celebrities like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell—so we were excited. The online menu was outstanding.
We arrived at the quaint resort and prepared for our dining experience.

There was nothing on the actual menu that was the same as its online counterpart. But wait. There was a rack of lamb that, with a French chef, has to be good.

While my bride had sea bass that was very overcooked—and we didn’t complain, although we should have—she still enjoyed it somewhat.

My rack of lamb consisted of one chop, and two small triangular pieces of lamb from a leg, I’m sure. “Nice rack,” didn’t come to mind as a critique.

But there were some mashed spuds with it, and that was that. I paid 38 Canadian bucks for the privilege. And all told the bill was $220 Canadian.

Everything comes in threes, and the third deal finalized while I was writing this. We had the opportunity to play golf at a group of courses by buying a membership, which for a limited time was half the normal cost, as well as being financed over six years with no interest.

It took two months to get people organized and all the ducks in a row, and then the last email announced that the price went up last week, but we’ll make it up by not charging you for the food and beverage minimum, typical at most golf clubs, for the first half of the season. The end of the first half was July 28. So they are upping the cost of admission, and then saying they are doing us a favor by not charging us a fee for a service that we could not have used anyway, since the calendar had passed some time away. That would have been the icing on the cake if a company tried to charge for a service that you couldn’t have used.

This time I complained profusely to the local management who took it the golf gods, and lo and behold, the contract came back with better terms than before.

Maybe complaining pays. Maybe if my bride said the fish was overdone, I would have had a better evening. A happy wife is a happy life, so says our bonus daughter.

These are not isolated occurrences, I suspect. Now if an automation vendor tried these stunts after I had just experienced a personal beating, that vendor would have had an earful and also might be scratched off my “you can call me anytime” list.

I have experienced similar issues on product returns, warranty claims, product capabilities, pricing and the like. If it happens once, then fine. If it happens twice and maybe from two different people, then the radar goes up. Three times? I would be looking for a new vendor.

And if I had just come back from dinner or a golf meeting or beers with my wedding buddy, who was ready to rip appendages off, I suspect it might take only one occurrence.

As OEMs, vendors and customers, we all have a day to live. Honesty and integrity and our reputation are really all we have.

Protect it and migrate that attitude throughout your organization.

A single, wrongly shipped item shouldn’t really tick someone off. But maybe they live near me and went for dinner in Muskoka.

Attitude is everything.

Jeremy Pollard has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Publisher of The Software User Online, he has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.