professional? service?

A recent cross country move provided me a clear reminder of how not to practice “customer service”.  I needed to hire a mover to pack and move me so I got four bids.  The provider I chose wasn’t the cheapest or the most expensive, but was the only one who sent someone out to my home to look at what I was moving and give me an accurate bid.  Sounds pretty good so far, right?  I hired based on what at the time constituted the best service.

The moving company gave me a delivery window that was three weeks wide.  I asked if the window could be narrowed (because I had business and personal travel within that window) and was told by my assigned customer service rep that “possibly, after the items were on the truck” she could.  Sounds promising. OK.

I got in touch with my “customer service agent” after the items were on the truck to ask about a narrower delivery window.  No response.  I asked again.  Silence.  I e-mailed.  (sound of crickets).  When did I find out what the actual delivery date was?  When the driver called me, three days before he was scheduled to arrive.

Now, kudos to the driver for calling. (That’s what I was hoping for from my customer service agent.)  However, the three days notice left me with scheduling and billing problems.  I spent six hours over the course of the next three days trying to get a call or e-mail back from no less than eight people at the company’s home office and trying to find a workaround on my end to resolve the issue.  How did I finally get action?  Oddly enough, it was talking to someone in HR that finally got a manager and the customer service person to call me back.  The customer service person finally called, was surly, and had nothing to offer but the question, “I understand you want to speak to me?”   Thus, I asked for a manager. His solution was: because I can’t be available the day they can come, my stuff will be delayed another 10 days and my move will cost 40% more than I anticipated.

So, is the outcome consistent with the terms of the contract? Yes.  They gave me a three-week window and were prepared to deliver within that time frame.  Did I get the communication from my customer service rep that I needed from them to ensure that I could make that delivery date?  No, which is why I became frustrated.

What did the manager that this eventually worked its way up to say when I asked him to work with me to come up with a solution?  He basically said these five things:

  1. He explained to me the internal workings of the company that were why it took so long to respond.  (Why is this my problem?  I don’t need to know why it happened, I need you to help me fix it.)
  2. He said he was sorry for the lack of communication from customer service, but “I think you heard what you wanted to hear not what we told you.”  (Excellent.  Insult me.  Great way to turn a frown upside down.)
  3. The contract is the contract and business is business.  (Translation: even though my customer service person dropped the ball, we can do nothing for you.)
  4. He’d like to be a nice guy about it but whenever he’s done that before he’s gotten burned. (I’m not the one who burned you so why am I paying for someone else’s sins?)
  5. He referred to his own company as “they”, as if he wasn’t even part of the company.  (Team spirit/accountability: 0)

I suspect there are many companies who like to make their living by having their clients over a barrel.  It’s just not the way I believe people ought to do business.  Sure, this company made money off my move, substantially more money than I wanted to pay them, and I paid it because that’s what I’m obligated to do by the contract.  Here’s what else I’ll do:

  1. Share what I consider an exceptionally unsatisfactory experience with everyone I meet who is looking for a mover.
  2. Ensure that I give them a poor rating on any and every rating system for movers that I can find.
  3. Find a place to advertise about my experience so anyone who might try to use them in the future has a sense of what might happen to them.
  4. Never, ever, ever hire these guys ever again (and I move a lot).

Oh, and by the way, someone from the moving company called me the day before the movers arrived to ask me how my move went.

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