Volume 37, Issue 11, November 2002


A Renewed Focus
Bad Experience Proves That Customer Service is King
by Max Perilstein

Once upon a time customer service reigned supreme. But over time that changed and our world has become a different place. Even yours truly fell off the customer service wagon for a while. But after the following experience, my focus is back.

The Gateway Gaffe 
On the 13th of a particular month I ordered a computer from Gateway. It was going to be awesome—everything that I wanted and more. It was going to be the ultimate machine to write these high-paying, bimonthly pieces you read here in USGlass. No more using my outdated abacus with a modem. 

I was given an estimated delivery date of the 20th. Great, I thought, 7 days and I am set! The 20th came and went, so on the 22nd I went online and checked the status of my system. A cryptic message appeared: “Your order is being prepared for manufacturing.” That is all it said, no dates, no other info—nothing. So I called Gateway and was told there had been a backorder and the computer would be delayed until the 3rd of the following month. Fine, I can understand that, being in manufacturing I know that this does happen. 

So I wait, but on the 31st, just for the heck of it, I log on to see if they are still on schedule. Sadly I see the same screen as before: “Your order is being prepared for manufacturing.” This doesn’t look good. So I call and I’m told “yep, it’s on schedule for the 3rd but something is backordered.” 
So I question the person and say, “It’s the 31st, when are you expecting the part in for the computer? Will it still ship on the 3rd?” I was told, “That’s what it says in my system, sir.” 

Now this really isn’t good, so I ask to speak to a manager. The manager tells me that the customer service person shouldn’t have told me what she did and that my computer will now ship on the 17th. I turned tomato red and steam flowed from my ears. The 17th! Was anyone going to call me? The manager apologized and asked if I wanted to cancel. No effort was made to try and make good on a horrible performance. If one of my customers was treated that badly, at least we’d try to make up for it, but these guys, no way. 

So I asked to cancel the order and they sent me to another person to whom I had to tell my story. He also showed no concern that this order was being canceled. OK, I’m not meant to buy a computer from Gateway, so I go to Dell. 

The Dell Debacle
I call Dell on the 31st and they say they can ship to me on the 5th. Great! So I order the computer and wait. On the 5th, I log on to see what is happening and I see a note that says my computer has been delayed until the 12th. Here we go again. So I call the guy who gave me the date of the 5th. He says he’ll check into it and call me back. A few hours later he calls me and says that he’s sorry but it will ship in 72 hours. While not pleased, I can deal with it. As you may have guessed, the 72 hours came and went and when I check to see where my computer is, it says on their website—the 19th! So I call the guy and he says it has to be a mistake and he will get back to me. He calls me back and tells me that it was a mistake. It won’t be ready the 19th, instead it will ship on the 6th of the NEXT MONTH! I am floored. He apologizes, but just like Gateway, no effort is made to appease me. Now, keep in mind, I wasn’t ordering a computer for NASA. It had some extra bells and whistles, but not anything crazy. 

So I canceled. I am convinced that I am the ultimate computer-ordering jinx. Anyway, the moral of the story is that customer service rules. If you want to make your mark and be better than the rest, then treat your customers better than the next guy. I may have lost track of that, but now, fresh from battering at the hands of the Gateway cow and the Dell dude, I have a new respect for customer service and care. 



Max Perilstein serves as director of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass. His column appears bimonthly.


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