How A Company Handles A Problem Can Be Costly.

As a manager of businesses, I have faced a number of customer service issues. I have always felt that it was in everyone's best interests to solve it quickly and generally to spend what it takes to make it right with the customer. I know the word of mouth value of a customer--especially and unhappy one. Not every company feels this way. Here is one story that was and continues to be costly.

Best Buy is a large company. I was a regular customer and loved going in there. I had just purchased a stereo, a laptop computer, a desktop computer and many other items along with regular visits to the DVD section, printer supplies, etc. Then I got to test their customer service. I got to see if the Geek Squad was what they are touted to be. This problem turned into a nightmare times ten.

I took my computer that I recently bought from them to the Geek Squad counter. I was getting a message that indicated I needed to replace a small onboard component that was causing slow and poor Internet connectivity. I took the computer in and expected to get it installed while I waited and get back home in an hour tops. They needed to keep it until the next day. I expected a call and got none, so I went down again. Now they say that there is a virus deep in the system that was not recognized by the virus software and that the only way they could fix it is to reformat the hard drive. I said, okay, but I need my files because I'm overdue for a backup. I wrote down where all the files were (I create my own directories so I know where things are) and they charged my $89 to back up my files. Great. On to other stuff.

I go in the next day to pick it up and they hand me a CD disk of my files. I laugh. You must be joking I say. My files couldn't even fit on a DVD let alone a CD. So where are my files really? This was it they say. I'm being incredibly patient. They say no problem, we can recover the files. I say, I'll make it easy. I need a back up hard drive anyway, I'll buy one and you can back it up there. Great. Call next day. No one knows anything. Call again, and again. I call the store manager. 7 days have passed. 9 times they were going to call me and not one returned call. Finally I see the manager face to face and find out my computer is toast. She agrees to give me a new computer which is the least I would expect since mine was but 3 months old. They put all the recovered old files onto the new computer. I take my new computer, my new external hard disk, etc. and I go home and find out that only about 1/3 of the recovered back up files will work and not the most important ones like Quicken, my CRM database and many more. I can only think of the tons of hours of work to redo all this and no extra time to do it.

I go back to Best Buy and talk to the nice manager lady again with my problem of the lost information. I'm thinking they might pay someone to reenter the data since they lost it all. She is wanting to, I can see this, but she has to go to her manager and he says no.

Now, I was determined to remain calm throughout this ordeal and I did so. I was testing my control. I felt totally justified in taking them to small claims court. I refused to do this. It didn't interest me. The most I can get there is $5,000 anyway. That would have been about right to hire someone to reenter the data, but I had a better idea. I fired Best Buy. It was my favorite store next to The Home Depot, but now I will not set foot in one of their stores for any reason whatever.

In the first 6 months after this affair, I spent a little over $20,000 on computer equipment and other equipment and although Best Buy would have received all of that business, they got none and their competitors got it all. I wouldn't care if their plasma TV was on sale for $5.00, they would not get even a cent. It is costing them a great deal more to not have taken care of this gross error on their part, than doing the right thing, but they are big and they can afford it for a while. As far as I am concerned, they are out of business. If someone asks me where to go to get a computer, TV, etc., I say anywhere but Best Buy.

One customer has a good deal of power. Who has benefited from this situation? I have. I decided to remain calm and to not get emotionally involved in the problem. I am the customer and I get to choose who will get my business. My power is in that choice. Best Buy is big enough to not notice what it is costing, but that doesn't matter--they are paying the bill anyway. One customer has power. If that customer is also a center of influence, the bill skyrockets. Who else benefits? All Best Buys competitors. Circuit City has gotten a good deal of it along with Costco, Amazon, Office Max and others.

So what does it cost to give poor customer service? In my case with this company, the total is around $35,000 in lost revenue already and climbing as time goes on. This might be an example that you just don't know who you are dealing with. It seems clear to me and I am hoping you as well, that good customer service is something that pays--it doesn't cost. And, it's a much better plan.

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