If you recall from from my post a few weeks ago, we recently remodeled our kitchen. Overall, we’re complete thrilled with the result, but along the way, there have been a few lessons in customer service. For the most part, customer service is all about how you treat a customer who isn’t completely satisfied. Of course, there are any number of sayings about good and bad customer service, but what it really comes down to is your commitment to having satisfied customers.
You can learn a lot from both good and bad experiences. If you’re a small business, you absolutely have to focus on satisfying your customers. For larger businesses, it can be tough to keep employees focused on the customer. In any business, employees will take their cues from the boss. If the boss is truly committed to serving the customer, that attitude will permeate through the organization. If you simply took over a thriving business from you parents, you may not appreciate what it took to grow the business in the first place.
During this process, we’ve enjoyed great customer service, and what I consider to be horrible customer service. The good came from our cabinet supplier, Kevin Zimmerman of Delavan, Illinois. Kevin runs a small contracting business and also builds custom cabinets under the name Country Cabinets by Kevin Zimmerman. What a pleasure it is to design the kitchen with the guy who’s actually going to build the cabinets. Need them 25 inches deep instead of the standard 24 inches? No problem. Want to shuffle some drawers around? No problem. Need extra wide crown molding? No problem.
But, what really stood out was how Kevin handled the times when things didn’t go just right. When his supplier shipped him the wrong stain, he had the correct stain shipped overnight. When another supplier sent only eight foot lengths of crown molding, he ordered more and specified some longer lengths. When some of the doors didn’t take the stain quite right, he built new doors to replace them. What’s more, he didn’t wait for us to complain, he just took care of it.
Unfortunately, we’ve also experienced the other end of the customer service spectrum when the owner of the company, Paul Sherman of Sherman’s in Peoria, called to tell us that he wasn’t going to do anything about our concerns. I think I would have been happier thinking the owner didn’t know about the problems, or just believing they didn’t really care. Instead, he called to make sure we understood that he really didn’t care, and wasn’t going to do anything about our problem.
The problem is really with GE Profile appliances and how they’re presented and sold. We specifically went with GE because they offered a complete set of appliances from their Profile line. What the salesman didn’t know is that there are actually two or more style lines within the Profile group. So, while all of the appliances say GE Profile, some have curved fronts, others have flat fronts. Some, like the dishwasher, have large radius edges and corners while the trash compactor five feet away has sharp edges and corners.
The issue isn’t confined to just these two appliances. The stove has coarse grain, black trim and large-radius corners. The microwave right above it has very fine, smooth grain with a shiny finish and sharp corners. All the appliances have horizontal grain, except the refrigerator, which has vertical grain. The refrigerator has dark gray trim but the dishwasher has light gray trim. All of the appliances have matching handles except the dishwasher, which doesn’t have any handle. I could go on and on, but the point is the appliances have obvious differences. More importantly, we’re not satisfied that we’ve received the level of quality we expected.
We’ve discussed our issues with GE and with Sherman’s. GE says Sherman’s salespeople should have known about the different styles. Sherman’s claims there aren’t different styles, and they all go together. You can check out this dishwasher comparison page on the GE web site and decide for yourself, but I think you’ll come to the same conclusion I did. There are two different designs, they cost about the same, and nobody explained that when we ordered the appliances.
Now, I’m not pretending this is an easy issue to resolve. The appliances are all installed and being used, so it’s not a simple matter of just changing an order. But I’m amazed that Sherman’s isn’t even going to try. Paul’s reasoning is A) most customers don’t complain, therefore we should be satisfied with the appliances and B) we got a “really good deal” and he can’t afford to spend the time or money to address our concerns. I’m not an expert in customer relations, but that sure doesn’t seem like the way to keep your customer coming back. What I’m most surprised at though is the lack of trying. All of Paul’s energy seems to have gone into explaining why he can’t do anything rather than trying to understand the issue and find a creative solution.
We’ll continue to work the issue with GE’s Customer Service department. In the mean time, we’ve had to do our own research to find options. We’re asking GE to replace the dishwasher with a comparable unit that matches the design of the other appliances. The compactor doesn’t have different lines, so our request is to send us the front panel adapter plate so that we can replace the stainless steel panel (which already has several dents) with a custom door panel to match the cabinets. Then the compactor will at least match something in the kitchen.
Only time will tell if GE is up to the challenge.