The wrong way to provide good customer service – part 2

So, as you’ll recall, last time we left off having sent an email to our flooring company with a list of issues we had with their installation. I also listed 2 simple things that could have prevented this from being a problem.

I also promised to show you the response to my email. Well, here it is:

Hi Jeff how are you? Sorry for the inconvience. Thank you for letting us know.
For the dust there is nothing that we can do about that because we cannot control it.   I can have someone and come out and clean up the glue.  As for the baseboards we can have a painter come out and paint, fill and caulk them  and take carre of the drywall for $350.00. The reason why there is a cost for that is because the estimate does not include painting,filling and caulking. One the painter goes there  I will ask him to take care of the drywal. Let me know when you want me to have someone come out and  clean up the glue.
Thank you, have a great day

First, let me give them credit for replying quickly. They have my money, the job is done, and this is certainly not a big deal to them, but they took the time to send a reply. Regardless of my reaction to receiving it, they did reply.

In my opinion, the person who wrote this email entirely missed my point but more about that in a minute.

What really annoys me about this reply isn’t just that he missed my point, it’s that they tried to sell me something more! If a customer is annoyed with your business, don’t quote them prices on more services, because they WILL NOT BUY. Now, I’m not saying that clarifying that I didn’t order the baseboard package and thus there would be an extra charge is wrong. It’s not and should be done tactfully. I’m saying that NOW is the wrong time to quote me dollar figures.

So, back to the point. Or the missing of the point.

What the author of this email really screws up is that they don’t take responsibility, acknowledge the problems or offer any kind of sign that they truly get what’s wrong here. It’s not the dust. It’s not the damage to the baseboards, hell it’s not even the bag of garbage left behind.

It’s the feeling. I don’t feel that I was heard and I don’t feel that the installer cared about my home while it was entrusted to him. “Thanks for letting us know.” is a useless sentence right up there with “how are you” and “have a great day.” After that, he blows me off and tries to sell me $350 worth of services. I wonder how often that works.

Jeff, how would you have handled this?

Glad you asked, Jeff, because I have an answer for you.

First, this goes WAY back, IMHO. Like I said in the other post, Educate Your Customers and Hire Good Staff. You’d be amazed what those 2 things will do. We wouldn’t be here if those 2 things were done.

I imagine I’m sitting at my desk, my computer goes DING! and I see I have a new email. The subject starts with “Unhappy with job completion…” which, to a customer focused company is code for “We can learn something now.”

I read the email carefully, trying not to get personal or emotional, probably 2 or 3 times to suss out what the real problem is.

  • Is the customer upset about the price? Nope. No mention of money anywhere.
  • Do they want something for free? Nope. Not asking for anything specific.
  • Are they unhappy with their floors? Nope, in fact they are quite happy.
  • Did the installer do something wrong? Yep. That’s mentioned several times.

Ok, so the installer made the customer upset somehow. How did they do it? Well, that’s easy – there’s a list. Read it over, consider what normally happens after a job is complete and decide if the customer is bat-shit crazy or not. It happens.

At this point, I decide these are low-level problems just the kind I’m supposed to take care of, so I do. I send back an email to the customer listing what I can do for them (remove glue & putty, hey that’s easy) and have an estimator or supervisor go and take a look at the baseboard problem. Did the installer really do more damage than was necessary?

Those 2 actions solve ALL of the actual problems listed. That was easy, too easy. Now what? Did I miss something?

Nope, the rest is stuff the home-owner has taken care of by now. I doubt they waited 4 days to clean the sawdust in the bathroom. But it shouldn’t have happened and it’s left our customer with a bad taste in their mouth. So I add some TRUTHFUL things to the email about how it’s not supposed to happen and our installer has a good record etc. and acknowledge that it was our fault. Then hit send.

20 – 30 minutes later, I call the customer on the phone and repeat everything I said in the email. I do not leave it in a voice-mail. If I have to leave voice-mail, it’s a sincere apology that I’ve missed them, and that I want to speak to them about their complaints to address them.

When I speak to the customer, I’m genuine in my concern and attempts to fix things. I nail down a time for the cleanup and/or inspection and make sure the person I dispatch is THE BEST possible person, even if it means sending the boss.

Since I can’t do anything about the mess the customer has already had to clean up, I use petty cash or whatever to purchase a gift card for a restaurant or something I think the customer would like, and send it with the service call. $25 should cover it depending on the situation, but here it’s plenty.


Let’s see how hard this was to prevent.

  • Educate the customer
  • Hire good staff.

Let’s see how hard it was to deal with after.

  • Find the real problems (dirty mess, damage, residue)
  • Fix the ones you can (remove residue, check for excessive damage)
  • Patch the wound (personal call, gift card)

This presumes an atmosphere and culture of customer-centric thinking. This isn’t about scrambling to safe face for the company or kissing ass for the sake of it. It’s about addressing a problem within the organization (prevention) and satisfying a customer when it’s possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this. I’m not a pro, but I’ve been providing customer service in every job since my first paper-route over 30 years ago. I’ve made my share of mistakes in this time but like to think I’ve learned something too.