Ever run across customer service that was just so perfectly, precisely, exactly—wrong? Like Bizarro Superman, or the Seinfeld episode it inspired, a world of 180-degree opposites? My friend Jim entered Bizarro-land this week.
Jim’s an aw-shucks, dumb-like-a-fox Texan: MIT degree, world traveled, he’s currently building a truly special house in a gorgeous location. And when I say “building,” I mean he operated the earth moving equipment and cut the special trees for the special timber-based patio roof himself.
Back home this week, he visited two stores seeking some special pieces of hardware. The first place—Pierce Hardware in Fort Worth—treated him beautifully. It’s not in stock, but let’s go through some catalogs. You need an in-between size? We’ll work with the manufacturer to get something custom. And so on. Jim bought some things, and may buy more.
Then he visited Company B, a national franchise chain I won’t name. When they found out he wasn’t from the area, the salesperson seemed to him to lose interest. When Jim asked if he could take a very fancy brochure home, the salesperson said she had to ask permission from the Vice President of the franchisee.
So far—no Bizarro, just weak customer service.
Then Jim emailed me, describing the “Tale of Two Stores,” about the contrast between the true customer focused experience he had at one store, and the feeling of being shunted aside because he didn’t live within Company B’s franchise area.
And he cc’d the Vice President at Company B.
Now it gets juicy. Following are excerpts from the email Jim received back from the VP at Company B:
"I am aghast at this completely inaccurate account of your interaction with me and my staff at my showroom.
"As you are well aware, you have completely misrepresented our conversation… I am not sure what you [sic] motivation is for coming into a business and communicating a false recount of your experience.
"What would be of value to you and those few people who may read your email is to do 10 minutes of research on the company that you will be writing about before you attempt to blog about customer service / salesmanship.
"You did not do this so I am going to take a few more mintutes [sic] out of my extremely busy day to educate you on our company…
"… The space you walked into was a showroom for a high-end custom product. Again, listening to what the staff is tellling [sic]you and having a little background on exactly what the business you are critiquing does would have helped you communicate responsibily.[sic]
"In regards to the brochure that our Showroom Liason [sic] so generously handed you is exclusively for our clients that schedule in-home consultations with us and for our trade partners, not designed to hand out to someone walking off the street into our showroom. However, even though you were misleading our employee she gave you the benefit of the doubt and gave it to you in the name of superior customer service, which is our passion at XYZ. Again, if you had done even 10 mintes [sic] of research you would have know that we are a national brand with an unsurpassed reputation for exceptional service.
But the irony’s not over yet. She concludes with:
That brochure costs $12.00 so it is my expectation that you will do the right thing and return it.
FYI – I am cc-ing our corporate office and attorney on this email.
To recap: here’s Company B’s response to a customer complaint:
- You’re a liar
- I can’t imagine your motives for lying
- Nobody reads your stupid blog
- You should research us so we don’t have to waste time selling to you
- I’ll waste 10 more minutes of my valuable time on you
- You clearly don’t understand our business model, because—
- If you did, you would have stopped at the trailer park instead of at our high class joint
- Gimme back my brochure—after all, it’s only right, it wasn’t meant for you
- I’ll sic my lawyer on you
- And I’m sure my franchisor thinks this is a dandy way to handle customer relations!
Hopefully her attorney has by now informed her that (s)he has a fool for a client. And if counsel doesn’t have a gut feel for good customer relations or PR, I suspect the corporate office does. Because XYZ does in fact have a fine and well-deserved reputation and great products, and didn’t get there by boneheaded Bizarro antics like this.
That’s why I’m resisting the temptation to name names here. Ms. Bizarro doesn’t represent this company. Heck, maybe she just had a bad day and normally represents the company very well. I once had a day like that myself. Maybe two…
Reputation matters. It is the result of massive accumulations of daily, truly customer-focused behaviors. Sometimes that’s enough to get you off the hook for even Bizarro behavior. Maybe once or twice. Not much more.