Today I’m revealing customer service secrets that big companies don’t want you to know.
Did you know that many big companies have special departments to handle customers who escalate their complaints in a certain way? And that the staff of those special departments are charged with making the customers they talk to happy by going the extra mile? I’m going to tell you about those departments and how to find them.
I first encountered one of these secret customer service departments when we had ongoing and difficult problems with our Comcast service. At my wit’s end, I called the head of the company and his assistant pointed me to what Comcast calls its “executive customer service department.” The charming and concerned customer service rep not only helped solve my problem but gave us a year of premium cable channels for our trouble. Wow! I was impressed.
That was something I remembered when catalog jeweler Ross-Simons got under my skin in a big way. Here’s what happened:
Killing time in the San Francisco Saks 5th Avenue, I saw a beautiful ring that I coveted. And one of my best girlfriends also coveted it. But it was nearly $2,000 and neither of us coveted it that badly.
Still, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I looked for something similar online. After several abortive attempts to get Etsy jewelry-makers to fashion the ring for me, I found something similar in a Ross-Simons catalog. For less than $100. I’ve purchased from Ross-Simons in the past and have always been happy with what I received.
Just thought he was cute. He liked the ring, too.
I quickly ordered two rings: one in my size and one in girlfriend’s.
Girlfriend’s ring came first and it was gorgeous. She loved it. So did I. But mine took about a month to arrive. Ripping open the large envelope with excitement I couldn’t wait to see the ring.
Which had a huge diagonal flaw across the face. How it passed quality control, I don’t know, because it was obviously flawed.
I called for a Return Merchandise Authorization. On the form I specified I wanted them to send me a different ring, not a refund.
A few weeks later I received notice of a refund, so I called Ross-Simons. Their reps are very nice, and the nice woman I spoke with had no idea why I didn’t get a new ring. So she placed a new order for me.
“Now, don’t send me the same ring back,” I cautioned. Because that’s happened to me. I returned something damaged and then got it back as its replacement.
After a week or so, I got the replacement ring.
Actually, I didn’t. I got the same flawed ring back.
So I called and explained to a different rep.
“Maybe all the rings in that size have the same flaw,” she said.
“If so, then you have a real problem with QC,” I told her.
She said the only way we’d know for sure would be for me to hold on to the flawed ring and let her send a new one out in my size. Comparing the two side-by-side would tell us if it was a production problem.
“Can’t someone in the warehouse simply go eyeball the ring?” I asked. She said they couldn’t. “Can I talk to a supervisor?” She said the supervisor couldn’t do more than what she just did for me.
I also tweeted Ross-Simons but got a not-helpful reply. It’s true that Twitter is sometimes a good place to get customer service problems resolved, but this was not so for Ross-Simons.
A week later I received the new ring. Upon opening the box I could see immediately it was perfect. Yay!
And then I tried it on. It was too small. The receipt had the correct size, but the ring was clearly a size smaller.
You’re probably thinking, she gave up, right?
No way! I loved that ring. So I looked up the number for the president of Ross-Simons, dialed and asked for his office. The operator asked my name and company.
“I’m not with a company,” I said. She asked me what this was about. “A customer service issue that is driving me insane.”
She told me that she would connect me with the customer service manager who handles customer service issues faced by customers who call the president’s office.
BINGO! I’d hit the customer service jackpot.
I reached a very nice customer service manager who was not only sympathetic, but got back to me within a few hours.
There was one ring left in my size and she’d sent someone to examine it in the warehouse. (You know, what I’d suggested to the earlier reps that they said was impossible. Nothing is impossible for an executive-referral employee like this manager.) The face of that last ring was perfect but the mounting was flawed. New rings are due in Dec. 5, she told me, and recommended I wait for the new rings and she would send one out to me. Meanwhile, I should keep the other two rings to compare. We’d figure out the return later.
I told her we were leaving the country on Dec. 4 I warned her that I wouldn’t get back to her until mid-December and she said that was ok. That ring arrived promptly, while we were gone and it had a brand new flaw. GRRR.
Still, here’s the takeaway:
If you can’t solve a customer service problem through traditional channels, and I encourage you to make every attempt to go that route first, you have another option. And that is to call the office of the president of the company. Chances are that his or her assistant will have a referral to the manager who is charged with solving difficult problems.
If the company does not offer you this option, you can call the Investor Relations Department of a public company, or its Media Relations Department. If you are a blogger, you can use that fact as veiled threat, although I didn’t. Often, staff in these departments will help you find a solution. It’s worth a try.
Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how it all turns out with Ross-Simons.
So how about you? Got any customer service secrets to reveal?