By Steve Moran

Over the last few weeks I have been the recipient of an unusual number of significant customer service fails.

  • An expensive HP laptop stopped charging just a couple of months out of warranty. When I tried to get service it was going to cost me $99.
  • My health care system (Sutter Health) forced me to go to the emergency room for something that should have been a phone call or a video visit — wasting my time and valuable health care resources.
  • A fitness club (24 Hour Fitness) wiped out hundreds of dollars of personal training sessions I purchased before COVID.
  • A Zoom event platform did not deliver what was promised, rendering it completely worthless. Adding to the misery, when we were unwinding from the platform, they — without warning — refunded the tickets for 25% of our attendees, effectively taking money that was ours.
  • My AT&T cellphone quit working. It was covered by insurance, but it took eight hours’ worth of phone calls to get them to send me a replacement phone.

In each case I decided to “not take it.”

  • I got HP to do the right thing and fix my laptop for free.
  • I got the personal cellphone of a regional health care system CEO, which will help me cut through the red tape in the future.
  • 24 Hour Fitness ultimately restored my sessions, and I am well into using them.
  • Zoom finally canceled the agreement and has promised to refund the money we paid for the platform, though we have not yet gotten confirmation this has happened. With respect to the money they took from us, we are in the process of trying to recover as much as we can, before closing the issue with Zoom.Over all, this has been a $10,000 misadventure.

Resolution, But …

I know stuff happens. During this same period, our 10-month-old Keurig coffee maker quit working. I called their service line, they asked me to do one quick diagnostic that didn’t work, and a few days later a new machine showed up at my doorstep.

Just a few days ago Brava replaced a faulty sensor device on a smart oven they sent me to try out for free. It took one call, and they sent it FedEx the next day.

A Huge Waste

In the case of every single fail, not only did I waste hours of time, but most of that time was spent on the phone or chat with people who work for the company — including, in some cases, top executives. This happened because the frontline, first contact people were only empowered to say NO! Because they had such limited empowerment they simply didn’t care that what was happening to me was wrong.

Ultimately I prevailed, but it took a lot of time and some cleverness, and in the end, even though the company did the right thing, it was only after a huge hassle, which means I still have a negative view of the company and am unlikely to recommend them to others.

Senior Living

In senior living there are lots of ways for things to go wrong, and everyone has a unique set of problems and challenges. We have a great opportunity to not be like the first set of companies I listed and to instead be like the second set of companies that realized customer service is everything — that saying yes is better than saying no.

What is your culture like?