How to encourage your customers to go away screaming

If you care at all about your customer but you deliver to him a defective gas range (itself excusable) and, for his convenience and at his request, take away his old, electric stove/oven, then you had better not tell him:

  1. The soonest a technician can come repair the brand new, broken range is five days from now.
  2. The soonest you can swap the defective range for a (one hopes) functioning one is a week from now.
  3. You can’t process a return until he receives in the mail the newly opened store credit card with which he made the purchase.
  4. You can’t pick up the defective range for two weeks.

If you do these things then what you have delivered to the customer is very far from a new gas range. What you have delivered is an expensive, cryptic, long-winded “Go to hell.” (Why does this obvious arbitrage opportunity still exist? Efficient markets, hah!)

You’ve also provided the valuable product/service of a two-week “free” use of a paperweight in the shape of a gas range. Except it is not really even that “good” a deal for the customer because he has to spend a lot of extra time helping you process the return, purchasing a functioning range at another store, and missing time at work to do all that. He also may have to pay for the additional time it takes his plumber to deal with the inefficiencies all this creates in the installing task.* Meanwhile, the customer’s wife is not happy that she can’t cook for her family until all this is resolved.

This is all rather unpleasant enough. But there is one way you can make it worse for the customer. You can offer him nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a token coupon, in recognition of his past loyalty to you and to partially compensate him for the frustration you have put him through. You can make it still worse by contacting him suggesting you want to help him be satisfied and then stop returning his emails, completely dropping the ball. That’s a nice touch.

If you do all that, do not be surprised if the customer (a) never shops at your store again, (b) tells his family never to shop at your store again, (c) urges all his friends never to shop at your store again, (d) suggests to the readership of his blog that they not shop at your store again, (e) puts in his will that his potential heirs receive their inheritance only after signing an oath never to shop at your store, (f) arranges for his epitaph to serve as a warning to all potential shoppers at your establishment that it is a good way to waste one’s time and money and a horrible way to help one’s spouse prepare excellent meals.

Now, not every so irritated customer will do all of these. I’m just saying don’t be surprised if some of those customers are provoked to do some of those things.

It so happens that I’m one of those customers. If you’re Sears, it just so happens that you’re the company that made me one.

Not that you care, Sears, but guess which company just bailed me out of the jam you put me in, destroyed you in the area of customer service, and to which I will be giving my future large appliance business. This one.

With this, I have now vented all my rage at Sears. The irate tweeting will stop, at least until some other store so thoroughly destroys my willingness to buy its goods.

* My plumber is such a mensch he did not, in fact, charge me for the extra time.

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