How to lose friends and alienate people

Those of you who know me, have met me, spoken to me on the telephone or read my work will be aware, I am a strong advocate of up-serving your clients and customers. I am also a solid believer in helping your clients and helping them in the best way you possibly can.

So, with that in mind, imagine how I reacted when confronted with this situation just a few days ago:

Setting the Scene…

It is a beautiful sunny morning and I am awake and ready for my day. My day could have started better, had my lovely high-quality espresso machine been working. Now, my espresso machine isn’t just any old espresso machine, it is a market leading and rather expensive espresso machine. The type that you administer with small metal pods and comes with an exclusive “club” membership… You know the type, right? And who can resist such a product, when the company’s marketing embodies everything I live for as an avid coffee drinker and fervent George Clooney fan?

So, at 7am, fuzzy headed and alternatively caffeinated, I agree with my lovely wife that we really do need to do something about this machine before it runs out of warranty. With that in mind, I decide to take it upon myself to call the customer service team. This should be easy, right? A company who has an exclusive “club” membership totalling 3 million members and is turning over £500m annually. I should have nothing to worry about here. After a short while I was connected to a human being and asked a series of security questions. After the standard customer service script, it was finally my time to talk.

I explain my issue plainly;

“My machine is broken, what do I need to do in order to get it fixed? I am unsure, but I believe it is still under warranty.”

“No problem sir, your machine is still within warranty and this will expire within 3 days. In order to proceed we will require you to provide proof of purchase.”

“Ok, so you have all of my details on the system, and you can even tell me when I purchased it and when my warranty runs out, but you still require proof of purchase before you can do ANYTHING to help me?”

“That is correct sir”

I have spent over a £1,000 on coffee products over the past year and have been a very loyal customer of theirs and have even recommended them to friends and family and, apparently, none of this means anything without a receipt. So, the long and short of it, I ask if I can speak to his supervisor.

Sometime later, the customer service agent returns to the phone and explains to me that the supervisor is unable to speak to me now, but will call me back later. I question further; “If the supervisor can speak to you, why can’t he speak to me?” A rather long exchanged ensued and I was left with a promise that the supervisor would call me at 6pm that evening.

The countdown continues….

Being a busy man and being completely disgusted by the treatment I had just received, I took to Twitter to share my thoughts with this company’s 11,400 followers and 10,000 of my own.

By 4pm yesterday afternoon, after almost a day of battling, the company finally agreed to collect the machine (without proof of purchase) and repair it under warranty and even offered to extend my warranty by 6 months and lend us a machine to use in the meantime.

That’s all good…. However…

Why the heck would you cause such a fuss and upset customers, when it’s so easy to fix? For goodness sake – whatever business you’re in, train your teams, give them the authority to fix problems or speak to the customer yourself.


In contrast to this…

I met with a new business connection of mine on Thursday morning. She was saying her Microsoft Surface Pro had completely died on her 2 weeks OUT OF WARRENTY and she was getting by with her trusty notebook and pen. She continued to tell me, that a simple phone call to their customer team and 3 minutes later, (may I add no proof of purchase required), she had been sent the packaging labels to return her old one and will be receiving a replacement, free of charge, in the post. She was obviously very happy about this, so happy that she felt compelled to share this story with me. Heck, she almost had me converting to PC for a moment!

This really does make the difference to your customers and their loyalty to your company and your brand. After all, a brand is no longer what a company tells customers it is; it is what the customers tell each other it is!

Adding to that, after being treated in such a way, I would actually pay to go elsewhere for my coffee needs if a suitable alternative presents itself. In contrast, my friend will stay with Microsoft and be a proud brand ambassador for the rest of her life.

We live in a digital world and years ago if you made one customer happy or unhappy, they may tell 5 or 6 of their friends. Now if you make a customer happy or unhappy they can share that with 6,000 friends.

The moral of the story is…

We should see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.

“It is our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better” – Jeff Bezos.

It can take months to find customer and only seconds to lose one.

Next time, just say YES and FIX IT!


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