A True Customer Service Story: Don’t Let Your Glass Business End Up in This Situation

By Paul Bieber

Four years ago, Elaine and I bought a new stackable clothes washer and dryer set from a Very Reputable American Manufacturer (let’s call it VRAM). Machines worked great. A month ago, the washing machine started making a funny noise. I called VRAM because there’s a sticker on the machine with a big “10 Year Warranty on Parts” and their 800 number.

The Saga Begins

After being on hold for over 30 minutes a person finally answered. There wasn’t a “sorry to keep you waiting,” just “how can I help?” They would send a mechanic to see about the problem, and only charge me $99.50 for this visit. I counted to ten and said okay.

A week later the mechanic said the washing drum was cracked, advised us not to use the machine, and to contact VRAM for more information. I spent 45 minutes on hold to get to a live person who told me that they would give us a new part, but we had to pay for the installation labor. How much? It would take about 12 hours to replace this part, at a special rate of $75 per hour. The machine cost $800 new.

I thought about it for two seconds and said that wasn’t acceptable. I asked what else could be done and was told there was nothing else available. I asked to speak with a supervisor. Thirty minutes later, after talking with a woman in another state, explaining the problem and my disappointment with VRAM, I was told there was nothing else they could do.

I asked to speak with the next highest service manager and she told me she was the top-of-the-line. Almost two and a half hours into this call, having written lots of notes, I hung up. The next day I called VRAM’s home office and asked to speak to the president of the company.

The phone was immediately answered by a very polite lady who told me, after I explained my problem, that the president doesn’t take consumer calls but she did switch me to someone who could help. I was on hold for 20 minutes. I told my whole story again, ten minutes, and was told that to eliminate my displeasure with VRAM, they would give a 10% discount on a new machine. No thank you and who is your supervisor?

On hold for 45 minutes. With the next person, I spent 20 minutes explaining the situation and was offered a 20% percent discount. No thank you. Who is your boss?

After a total of 11 hours on the phone, I finally spoke with someone who had the authority to make a customer happy. Ten minutes into the conversation I received a 50% discount on a new washer, free delivery, set-up and removal of our old machine. I placed the order with him and everyone was happy. Except me.

Avoid the Run-Around

I usually get what I want in situations like this. The person who doesn’t have the time or the patience to go through this type of bad experience will only tell sad stories about VRAM, and using VRAM’s real name to everyone who will listen. Talk about a sure-fire plan to lose customers.

To my friends in the glass industry who depend on customers to be their growth engine, give your customer service people the authority to settle questions on the first walk-in or phone call, or at least the next phone call after an inspection that may need to take place. It’s customer service that will retain and grow your customer base. I’ll never purchase from VRAM again. Don’t let your glass company adopt this extremely weak business model.

Paul Bieber has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence and as executive vice president of Floral Glass in New York. He is now the principal of Bieber Consulting Group LLC and can be reached at paulbaseball@msn.com. Read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com

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