Does Social Media Improve A Bad Customer Experience? Maybe. (UPDATED)

Amazon ImageMy writing schedule has been thrown totally off this week by what started this past weekend.  We ripped out the carpet, and chipped out the (clay) tile.  The house is a wreck, and we feel like we are living rough (in truth, the floor is very rough).  Dust is still everywhere.

Today was supposed to be the day the merchant (Lowes) was supposed to start the job.  Their installers showed up, started work, and 3 hours later told us that the delivery of the materials dropped last Friday was two pallets short of what is needed for the job. Bad customer experience number 1.

A phone call by my wife to the store we purchased the goods (tiles) and service (installation) from, results in a “well we don’t have a truck available” answer.  Bad customer experience number 2.

So, a quick tweet to @Lowes via Twitter elicits a quick response (asking to move the conversation to email [to keep it out of the public eye?]). Less than a positive customer experience, but not necessarily a bad one.

We receive a pleasant call from a pleasant person at the store we paid many thousands of dollars to, telling us all is well and the two pallets will be delivered this evening ,about 6PM (NOTE: 2 pallets were delivered by 5PM). (UPDATE: The 2 pallets they brought were the wrong shade.  The store came back the next morning to take them away and bring the right shade).

Well, no, all is not well.  We are a full day behind now on getting any tiles installed. Bad customer experience number 3.

Mrs. TT receives call from second pleasant person at same store (seems like the training on pleasantness certainly is being followed), again indicating that the situation is now resolved (since they are delivering the final 2 pallets late).  Mrs. TT informs them that the situation is certainly resolved from Lowes’ perspective, but from the customer side?  Not so much.  Bad customer experience number 4.

Around this time installers tell us the job will take about a week and a half rather than the 3.5 days indicated when we paid them many thousands of dollars.  Bad customer experience number 5.

Shortly after this I (finally) get an email from the customer care people at Lowes.  I had actually tweeted a second time that their Twitter response time was really good, but their email seemed to be lagging (after an hour of no response at all).

This email indicated that the agent writing had spoken with the assistant store manager (pleasant person number 1 above), and that they were working to get the tiles delivered.  Good customer experience number 1.

Further, they indicated that someone from upper management would contact us within 24 hours.  As I write this they haven’t, but they have 22 hours to go.  I tend to think they will.

Interestingly, after delivering a second set of tiles, which we believed were the right shade, someone from the local Lowes’ store called Mrs. TT and said they were in fact the wrong shade, and that two more pallets of the correct shade would be delivered tomorrow morning.  Bad customer experience number 6.

The best part of the experience today?  The installers.  They have done their job well, but they were dealt a poor hand by not having the right materials for the job.  Good customer experience number 2.

So far all we have is much frustration, some sense that Lowes’ corporate is on the ball, but also the local store might not be quite sure of things (even yet).

I think what is most frustrating is the feeling the local store has left us with.

We have not caused these problems, the local store has, and yet almost each time our interaction with them has left us feeling as if they are more interested in mitigating their loss (if any), rather than attempting to resolve a problem to our satisfaction.  We are just one more statistic to them.  Our order is small in their scheme, but it is a huge investment for us.  They have been pleasant, but mitigation is their concern, not restoration of a relationship.

Which brings me back to the title.  Social media helped us raise the awareness of this problem.  We seem to be moving toward a resolution.  But at the end of the day, I am not convinced that local managers of big chains get the relationship thing.

Customer relations requires a relationship, not mitigation.

Read the second part of the story here.

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by Thad on January 22, 2013 · 7 comments

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  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    “Customer relations requires a relationship, not mitigation.” Amen!

    Sorry about your experience Thad, I can only imagine at how I would feel. It really is a relationship, and I worked in customer service for years. Many of these big box chains are looking solely at the numbers and a relationship, sadly, is not their desire.

    • Thad

      That’s what has me so interested in the social media aspect. Their social media group has been in contact with us.

  • http://[email protected](soon) Alan Salls

    Thad, I feel for you, my friend, because I have been there, exactly in your place, about two years ago, and with guess who? Yes, Lowe’s! I too gave them “many thousands of dollars” to rip up a small bit of carpet and a huge amount of hardwood flooring and put down an even huger amount of 18×18 tile.

    I had material problems, grout batch (and thus “matching”) problems, and my installers (the same guys who came to do the estimate for the job) told me after they started that it would be 2+ weeks to finish the job when they had said 5 to 7 days on the estimate. Fortunately there is no Mrs. Me here, just myself and (2 yrs ago) my 4 and 7 year old sons, but it was really hard on them too.

    The end result: it was a hassle and a half. I don’t want to remember how many meals we ate on TV tables while sitting on the couch in a large room with just concrete for a floor. But in the end, the installers did one KILLER beautiful job, and even did some extra tile work around the fireplace that was not part of the estimate (for free). The surgery pains were rough, but the end result was worth it!

    Hang in there and I’ll be praying that your job goes well. :)

    • Thad

      We are definitely in the “eating on TV tables” mode, but the first tiles are down, the installers are doing a great job, and we have the first glimmers of what the end result will look like.

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