In the past week I have had 3 quite different customer service experiences all thanks to a broken sump pump. It’s a long and complicated story but the Cliff Note version is this:-

Earlier this month an alarm in my basement let me know that something wasn’t right with my sump pump. I called my “Jack of all Trades” handyman who replaced the primary pump with something similar by the same manufacturer. But, even after getting the pump fixed the alarm kept going off. Time to call a professional!


The Good (part 1)

After coming for 2 visits and spending 3.5 hours in the basement, the plumber hadn’t fixed my issue, leaving me in the same state as when he arrived. He even tried to “upsell” me to a $1,400 Bluetooth enabled sump pump alarm system that monitored the volume of water pumped (because isn’t that what all of our lives are missing). And then presented me with a bill totaling $400. I was not a happy camper!


The Bad

That evening I ordered new primary and secondary pumps and a check valve, all from Amazon Prime, for $530. It was a Wednesday so I expected delivery by Saturday. I booked another plumber for Monday at 10am to install everything. The check valve and primary pump arrived on Saturday as expected, but when I tracked the secondary pump it’s expected delivery was “Monday by 8pm”. A call to Amazon, told me the delay was due to “an inventory issue” – obviously a lie because tracking showed it had arrived at my local hub at 5:30am Saturday morning, exactly when it should have done. It transpired, in a 3 way call with the shipper, that the item was NOT marked as Prime delivery, which Amazon denied, but I did get a promise of a 9am delivery on Monday with a follow up call from the CSR to make sure that it had got there on time. Not what I wanted but good in the circumstances. Delivery on Monday was at 10:30am and NO phone call – they obviously knew they were going to be late delivering!


The Blah

The new plumber duly installed everything, at which point I took back the first replacement pump to Lowes for a refund. Normally this is a simple exercise, but since this pump had been installed and worked for a while, the Lowes CSR Manager wasn’t happy. First she denied that the item was stocked by the branches, but her junior pointed out that it was in the system, and when I offered to show her where it was on the shelf she backed down and did do the refund.


The Good (part 2)

So the reason the first experience ended up being good was that the plumbing company phoned up to apologize. The service supervisor had checked the work logs, recognized that I had been charged $400 and not had my problem resolved. They wanted to find out what my version of events was. First of all, kudos to them for recognizing that a potential problem existed and for them phoning me – they were proactive. Secondly, they wanted to refund all of the $400, because they didn’t want to be paid if they hadn’t resolved the issue. I was blown away – in a good sense. If anyone wants their name and number please email me I’d be glad to provide it to you.

Amazon on the other hand – whose Vision statement is “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online,” unfortunately, not only fell short of expectations, but lied to me twice (maybe 3 times if you count the delivery time and phone call as two separate incidences). Despite this experience I will continue to use Amazon a) because in 12 years of using them, this is the first time they have really messed up and b) what’s my alternative – they are more or less a monopoly?

Lowes did “okay”, but I did feel like they were trying to find a way not to refund me, just because the pump was not in pristine condition when I returned it. For some reason I do prefer the “blue” store over the “orange” store, so I will probably continue to use them too.

What I learned in this whole process was:

It doesn’t matter how badly you screw up, every situation is recoverable – as long as you admit your faults and try and make the situation right. In fact, very often a poor purchasing experience followed up by an excellent customer service recovery will win a vendor a customer for life!

If you feel that your business’ customer service needs an overhaul, please don’t hesitate to call Jager Consulting on (440) 385 6737.