Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Customer Service is Priceless

As a handyperson, repairs are not an option, they are a given. Lately this has been on my parents' cars and ours too. Over the course of 22 years since I got my set of Craftsman tools, they get much use and abuse. The nice thing about Craftsman hand tools is that the majority of these are good quality at a more than reasonable price. The no questions asked warranty is also a huge plus as I can't afford to just buy stuff all the time (who can?).  Last weekend, I went through my collection and weeded out any broken, rusted or otherwise worn sockets and also found a broken end wrench. There were also two "pocket sockets" (made for Sears in the mid 1990's that were meant to be a better alternative to the adjustable wrench) to add to the collection. Apparently, they never lived up to the hyperbole as I was informed they were no longer made. It didn't stop me from using them when a socket wrench was out of reach. The problem was these were worn out from nearly two decades of use and no longer safe.

Prior to leaving for Sears, I packed up a small tote with all my old sockets, end wrench, pocket sockets and socket spinner. I left the end wrench in my car, as this was going to a competitor (I'm not mentioning names, as I will explain later). After hauling up all the aformentioned tools to the counter, I was informed that I could proceed with my tote to hunt up the replacements. Meanwhile they wrangled about what to do with the pocket sockets. Note to self, all of the worn out, damaged, or otherwise messed up sockets were 12 point, which are great for some engine work, but are not the best in removing stubborn nuts and bolts. One of them was split right down the middle trying to tighten a fastener on my car. It's a wonder they even work at all, but Craftsman still has great hand tools for the money. Nevertheless, a six point socket is better unless you're working in tight quarters, such as a water pump or starter wire.

After the wrangling, Sears elected to let me choose a tool comparable to the value of the pocket sockets and I got a 90 degree socket wrench with this credit. The service I got was top notch all the way. My hat is off to these people. It took a little time, but we went in the right direction.

This was the same level of competent service that I expected at the next place. Incidently,  the reason I'm not mentioning names is because this would be counterproductive to my cause, which is to try and be as positive as possible in making a point. Inherently, potential customers would look at the negative and not do business there. Punishing this or any company providing jobs for one mistake is destructive. We need commerce and all the jobs we can create right now.

Well, I walked into the establishment with end wrench in hand, the open end part deformed a bit. Because this is a safety issue, the choice is to either exchange the tool or throw it away. Worn out stuff is dangerous because it can slip and you can end up with stitches (been there, done that). I've had this wrench for nearly 12 years and other than the deformation, it looked brand-new. Upon walking in to where I thought the wrenches were, I found an employee and asked him about exchanging a wrench. He told me to grab what I needed and take to the cashier. However, I didn't find the tool and walked up to the front. This is where it gets hairy...

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for poor customer service. Hey, I know what it's like to work retail. I did it for nearly 6 years. This was during a time when the job market wasn't really great, but a lot better than it is now. Because of being unemployed and having to provide "service with a smile" through nearly a quarter century of work, I expect that out of people making several times what I made back then. I also did the majority of this with only a bike and bus pass to get to work. The individual involved was older than me by a decade and a half, so no excuses. I can cut a 20 year old some slack, but an older worker should know better. The woman worked in "Contractor Services" and the terse reply did not sit well with me. "You have to go to the service desk." This was all the way across the store. My feet were killing me at this point and I was livid, but restrained. The lady at the customer service desk got an earful (and an apology) from me about the way I was treated. 

Coming to our aid was, a slender, clean-cut gentleman in his thirties who happened to be the store manager. He was apologetic and explained to me that every employee was empowered to resolve these kinds of issues. It would have taken the person at the "CS" desk less than five minutes to take care of me, so I didn't have to try and navigate the store with my feet. I was also informed that the wrench was no longer being made and at this point, I considered discarding it.

The outcome was good in that the manager made good, really good, by honoring the warranty on the tool. It was a pity that it took the manager to resolve it. Even though companies have been getting a lot of bad press as of late, there has been a push toward employee empowerment. This means giving the employee more leeway to solve problems instead of having them "rubber stamped" by a manager. This is important in maintaing the good health of a firm; if and when employees use it. I know from experience this method works. I used it at one of the property management firms I was employed at. It saved the company a lot of money hiring outside help and several neighbor feuds. This is one really good thing going for businesses today. I would strongly suggest if you have this opportunity, to use it. Good customer service is the best job security. God Bless!

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