Customer Service Policy: Is This Good For the COMPANY?

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(Image Courtesy of Google Images)

Lowe’s really set me off last Friday. Five years ago, my wife and I bought a fridge and a stove from Lowe’s. The fridge wasn’t working anymore. The freezer was frosting up and the fridge wasn’t keeping anything cold. We were told that means it’s low on freon and it’s easier to just buy a new one. Our dishwasher also stopped working, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and buy both, from Lowe’s, on a 10% off coupon that my wife had.

My wife doesn’t like contractors and delivery people coming to our house when I’m not there. Obviously, we wanted the use of our new appliances as soon as possible, so we asked for the earliest delivery, last Friday, but please come in the afternoon. I had a risk review meeting that I needed to be at in the morning, but I could make it home for an afternoon delivery.

We got a call Thursday night at Joshua’s Karate class that our appliances would be delivered Friday morning. I told the person on the phone that I needed afternoon. She said that they only had 6 deliveries but would make me the last one. That didn’t happen. I was sitting in the meeting Friday morning when my phone rang. It was the delivery truck on it’s way to my house, as the first delivery rather than the last. Of course this was right when my risks were being discussed and I had to excuse myself to call my wife and let her know to be ready. I don’t think she’d started cleaning out the old fridge yet, so she had to scramble. She called me back a few minutes later to let me know that the new stuff was delivered but the old stuff wasn’t taken away. The delivery truck crew wasn’t authorized to turn the water off and my wife didn’t know where the shut-off was (which is why I needed to be there) so they couldn’t disconnect the old fridge. The salesman also didn’t add dishwasher installation to our order, but the delivery crew doesn’t install or remove dishwashers. The driver gave my wife his cell number so I could call him later and he could explain it to me and try to work something out. I couldn’t do anything until the afternoon because of my meeting and other actions I needed to take care of.

I finally got around to calling the deliveryman that afternoon. To be honest, though this is a complete pain in my butt, he did everything right. He also did a good job of smoothing me over. He directed me to call the store manager. I’ve been told that particular Lowe’s is good at dealing with customers who have been inconvenienced. That was not the case for me. I called the manager and explained my situation. There was little he was willing to do for me, thought he claimed Lowe’s would try to "make it right". When I said that the salesman didn’t discuss installation with me, he said that he can’t speak for the salesman. I told him that better not be true; as the manager it’s his responsibility to make sure that his salesmen are trained. I said that I would handle disconnection the fridge and dishwasher myself and would call the delivery back for a pick-up of the old.

As I was leaving work, the salesman called me, I guess to defend himself against the charge of not explaining installation to me. By this point, I was tired of the whole deal and frustrated and I just wanted to get in my car and go home. He said that he told us installation for a dishwasher was $198 and we said it was ridiculous and did not want it. I said it is ridiculous but I never declined it. Then I (as kindly as possible) unloaded my frustrations with Lowe’s onto him since he called me. I asked him to look at this through my eyes and the inconveniences my family was put under.

This is where the whole thing broke down:

  • Lowe’s (at least the Sicklerville, NJ store) does not use their own employees to deliver. Delivery is handled by a 3rd party contractor. I asked for an afternoon delivery, but Lowe’s doesn’t give two craps what time is best for me because the actual delivery time is up to the contractor who doesn’t give two craps what time is best for me because they’ve already been paid and not directly by me so they have no more obligation to me than to call and say "This is when we’ll be there, know what we’re sayin’?" The delivery contractor DOES NOT provide installation of dishwashers. I think they can hook up a water line for a fridge, assuming they can actually deliver when the member of the household who knows where the water shut off valve is home. (When my brother-in-law delivered for Lowe’s, he did installation as well. This looks like Lowe’s has had a reduction in service.)
  • Dishwasher installations are handled by yet ANOTHER 3rd party contractor. That’s probably why installation of a dishwasher is $198. Assuming we had discussed installation with the salesman (I say we didn’t, he says we did), we would have had to wait for the sun, moon, 5 yet to be selected stars, the deliverymen, and the 3rd party dishwasher installer to line up perfectly to get a dishwasher installed in our house and the old dishwasher removed. How much more complicated can this be?

Perhaps if Lowe’s could stop writing 3rd party contracts to take it’s own responsibility away, maybe I could get two appliances delivered and installed at a convenient time for me. For the time being, I’ll leave Lowe’s to their "Is this good for the company?" meetings and find another store that asks "Is this good for the CUSTOMER?" Lowe’s company policies should be hidden deeply beneath an abstraction layer. I should be able to live in a happy world assuming that everybody I dealt with on this transaction was an employee of the Sicklerville store.

I have nothing against contractors. I am one myself. I work for a 3rd party, but I take enough pride in my job that everybody I deal with should be able to assume that I am a direct employee of my organization (hopefully I will be someday.) There is no good reason for my supervisor to have to apologize to somebody and say "He’s a contractor; we have no control over him." I wish Lowe’s could say the same thing. Hey, Lowe’s, here’s a great idea: why not contract out your salesmen? Then you really have no worries about how they treat the customers. "Oh, our salesforce is made up by a 3rd party contractor. Maybe 2 or 3. We can’t speak for them."

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