Hailey Eisen: Our Happy Place


Should The Customer Always Be Right?

In the social media age, Customer Service Is More Important Now Than Ever

A few years ago I went to Deerhurt Resort in Muskoka for a long weekend with my family. I had been to this awesome family resort a few times and had always had extremely positive experiences. But this particular weekend something was up. Our room wasn't ready and we were made to wait. When we finally were given a room there was a really loud noise coming from somewhere inside of it. We then had to wait for a maintenance person to come and look at it. We then had to wait to see if the hotel would be able to find us a different room. We then had to argue our way into getting another room. We were grumpy. We were tired. We were traveling with a toddler. And we were made to wait an unacceptable amount of time for a solution. 

While we waited I turned to Twitter, hoping I'd be able to get better customer service from the resort's social media team than I was getting from the front desk staff (who were totally unpleasant and unhelpful). It turns out social media was the way to go. Not only did I get a response almost instantly, I was approached later that night at dinner and apologized to personally. Then we were given a discount on our stay and came back to our room to find chocolate covered strawberries and wine waiting for us.

Social media is extremely powerful. I'm not sure if it was because I'm a Yummy Mummy Club blogger, or because Erica Ehm so kindly re-tweeted my tweet that day and commented on it, or if the resort's social media team was just more well-versed in customer service. Whatever the reason, I was made to feel much better about the whole situation because of Twitter.

But, wouldn't it have been better if I didn't have to deal with any of it at all? I'm always happy to share positive reviews of places, services, and products that I love. I'd rather not have to publicly complain about a company. I really feel that in the digital age, companies should assume everyone is media, everyone is a blogger, and everyone has the power to spread the word (good or bad) about their brand. I feel that companies should really up the ante when it comes to delivering the best customer service. Don't you?

But, sadly it seems this isn't the case.

If you're like me, when you pay for something—a product or service—you have certain expectations. This is especially true when you spend a lot of money on said product or service.

In a world where we're all connected in real-time, where word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising, and where there is SO much choice available—poor customer service just doesn't make good business sense.

So why does it keep showing up, time and again, across all industries? Why are so many people on Facebook, Twitter, and online forums, complaining about companies letting them down and failing to meet their needs?

When you take a flight you don't want the airline to lose your baggage and claim they can't find it anywhere—for 99 days. You don't want the airline to cancel your flight on Mother's Day and then rather than responding with good communications and lots of apologizing, leave you stranded in the airport, angry, and unsure when you're actually going to get home.

When you take your car in for servicing at the dealership, you don't expect to be overcharged and mistreated (though that's happened to me!). When you buy a new iPhone online you don't expect the shipping company to lose it and then expect you to wait 5+ weeks while they issue a stolen item report and determine whether or not you're eligible for a new phone (that's happened to me too!). I never assume I'm going to get poor customer service, which is why I'm always shocked when that's what I get.

My Latest Customer Service Fiasco Has Been Driving Me Up The Wall!

I've spent the past week all up in arms about my stroller. You see, it's broken; the brakes don't work. And, I really wanted to take it with me on our upcoming family trip to Disney World. We bought our stroller, the UPPABaby Vista, in 2010 when my first  daughter was born and we've loved it ever since. We even bought an attachment so my big kid could ride along with her sister.

Truth be told, I've recommended this stroller to MANY of my friends—most of whom actually went out and bought it. When I noticed, about a month ago, that the breaks were not working, I contacted the Canadian distributor of UPPABaby. They told us to take the stroller all the way downtown to Macklem's, the only store in the city with a certified UPPABaby repair person on site. I did that, a few weeks ago, and waited for a call back. When the repair person called to tell me my stroller couldn't actually be fixed, I was pretty upset. Apparently the break cable between the two back wheels could not be repaired. The only solution would be to replace the whole frame for about $300. On an $800 stroller that had been used for 2.5 years in total, that seemed like a lot of money to spend. The repair guy suggested I contact the distributor to see what they could do. Apparently these things happen once in a while, but it wasn't common. So I went to 5514km (the company that distributes UPPABaby strollers in Canada) in hopes they'd be able to help me. I wanted the new frame at a more reasonable price—I even had hopes that they'd consider sending me a new frame for free. What I got instead was a big fat headache. It went something like this:

- The customer service rep with 5514km said he couldn't help me. The cost of a new frame was $300. My stroller was off warranty so I was on my own to replace the frame if I wanted to. The end.

- I refused to accept this fate. Where was the good customer service in all of this? Why had I spent so much on a stroller if it was just going to break and cost me a whole lot more money in a few years? Shouldn't this stroller last at least through two kids? What if I wanted to sell it when I was done with it?

- I went to the US distributor of UPPABaby hoping they could help me. The nice lady told me that if I could locate the proof of purchase for the stroller she could help me get a better price on the frame. She didn't think I should have to pay $300 for it. Great, now I was getting somewhere.

- I did a bunch of recon work scouring old Visa statements from 2010 to find the exact date I bought the stroller. I then called the store I bought it from to see if they could search their printed records (they aren't computerized) to find my proof of purchase. The store owner seemed surprised to hear that the stroller had broken and offered to call the 5514km corporation on my behalf. She said they usually give retailers a better deal.

- She came back to me saying the same customer service rep I'd dealt with had told her: "No, we can't do anything."

- So, before I had her go searching for my proof of purchase, I went back to the US customer service rep to find out what kind of discount we were looking at. I didn't want to do all this work just to find out I'd be getting 10% off the price of the frame. She went back to 5514km and then sent me the following email:

"I just spoke to {name} at 5514 and I am afraid that we (they) cannot discount the price of the Base Frame for you any lower than the price that was quoted.  I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion, but I have to abide by the decision of the country of purchase."

- As my preschooler likes to say: Say what???? Now I was really starting to get angry. To social media I went. I posted about my frustration on UPPABaby's Facebook page, on my own Facebook page, and on Twitter. Interestingly, I didn't get a single response from the company. Not one. I did hear from lots of my friends and followers about what they would do and how I might go about handling the situation from this point on. I got some good advice. I had my voice heard.

- I was almost ready to give up. I was getting too emotionally involved in this whole battle. It was wasting my precious time and stressing me out. "So. Not. Worth. It." I told myself. Yet, I had to do one more thing. I sent a long email to the Operations Manager of 5514km. And then I waited.

- It took six days for the company to get back to me. I assumed I wouldn't be hearing anything else from them. And then I got an email from the original customer service person I had been dealing with. He wrote:

Your patience and understanding are most appreciated. Our apologies for this delay as we wanted to provide a resolution that would have you strolling securely and meet the warranty criteria. After further deliberation and consideration, we have opted to further discount the cost of the frame from $300 to $125 plus tax with shipping included. We will also provide you a set of replacement front/rear wheels at no cost to you. 

There you have it. The good customer service I had been waiting for. And, to make matters even better, he agreed to have the base frame shipped to me today so that we can take it with us on our upcoming trip.

What's the moral of the story? First, I'd say perseverance is TOTALLY worth it. Companies should not get away with treating their customers poorly. If you think you deserve something, you've got to go after it. The customer is always right. I'm convinced of that.

Second, if the company had just offered me the discounted price in the first place, I wouldn't be writing this. I wouldn't be talking poorly about them on social media. I'd be saying "thank you very much"...and I would continue singing them praises. So, why not take the high road the first time? Don't make us customers beg for good service. Make good customer service your go-to response...every time!

Now I'm going to set up my stroller and take it for a spin somewhere much warmer than here!