A Real-Life “Doing The Right Thing” Customer Service Experience Recovery Story


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I’m not a big fan of health clubs (except for playing pickleball, a recent passion), and, because it’s important to me to stay fit, I’ve long had a great little exercise facility in my home. It consists of three pieces of equipment: a rowing machine, a machine to help with core strength (abs and obliques), and an elliptical. The elliptical was a bit of a compromise, because it needed to be compact enough to fit in a limited space, but good enough to give me the workout I needed. Oh, and by the way, I set up a TV and multimedia “package” to play the CDs (and the tapes and records) I like to have playing as background while exercising.

The elliptical I’d been using for several years was, as indicated, maybe a bit too small and light for my desired purposes. Not too long after beginning to exercise on it, the machine began to have quality problems. These issues didn’t subside, but only got worse as time went on; and eventually the elliptical was being held together with glue, rubber bands, and bailing wire. In February, metal fatigue finally won out; and, it was time to trash the elliptical and get a new, stronger, and more feature-rich machine.

After extensive research, and a lot of showrooming and trial, I narrowed my search for the new elliptical to a new model which would be best for my needs. It was somewhat bigger and heavier than what I’d had, but I was excited by what I’d be able to do with it. Even more exciting, it was on sale from the website of a major bricks-and-mortar sporting goods chain, and the sale included free delivery to my home. Assembly, if I wanted the store’s service to do it, would be extra; or I could assemble it myself.

My order, placed at the end of February, stated that, because the elliptical was a bulk item, it would require 10 to 14 working days for delivery, and that it would arrive via common carrier rather than through one of the major delivery services. Three weeks passed without receiving my elliptical; and I called the store’s customer service line. Their customer service representative referred me to the common carrier; and they informed me that they had no record of my purchase in their system. This began a series of calls to the store’s customer service center and to the common carrier; and, after more than a week, there was no resolution and, in fact, no real progress. The closest I came to learning the whereabouts of my elliptical was that the carrier had finally located my order tracking number in their system – but it had, apparently, disappeared after arriving at their northern New Jersey terminal two weeks earlier.

Both the store and the carrier were making their order process and systems issues my problem; so, I decided to bring this to the attention of senior corporate management. I wrote to them (via registered letter) at the chain’s headquarters, enclosing copies of my paperwork. Rather quickly, now over five weeks after my order was placed, I heard from a special service representative of the store (who’d been directed by the CEO’s office to contact me); and he began to, proactively, take responsibility and control for getting delivery resolved. Miraculously, the carrier located my missing elliptical, which was still in their New Jersey warehouse. Delivery was arranged. Though my feeling was that I’d had to do too much work to make this level of support happen, I was pleased that, at least, the store was concerned that the experience had, to that point, been so negative for me; and they stayed on top of the situation until it was resolved..

The representative and I “negotiated” what would be acceptable resolution to my issues about the order snafus. Here were the terms which we worked out. To compensate for the inconvenience caused by the lateness of delivery and the time involved in working with them and their carrier, the chain agreed to my requirement that they professionally assemble the elliptical in the location of my choosing, a $100 to $150 value. They also rebated $100 of my purchase price, and gave me a $75 gift card for use at their store. With the money, I bought a great new pickleball racquet.

The recovery brought me back to neutral regarding perception of the experience. I consider the case closed. And, by the way, I LOVE my elliptical, which I’ve been using since mid-April has multiple programs, an MP3 and computer hookup, electronic incline changer, and other great features. It was absolutely the right choice for me, and I now use it for 30 to 40 minutes almost every day.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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