Three weeks back I wrote about my exceptional service experience at Sewell Lexus of Dallas. The theme of the post was that it was the Sewell people rather than their product that has kept me as a loyal customer for over 20 years.
The premise behind that post is the same one I offered in my 2006 book, Results Rule!: Fundamentals are the minimum. Being distinctive is the difference if it adds value.
I can purchase a Lexus from a number of different dealers. The quality and service of the Sewell staff makes them distinctive in a way that adds extreme value.
The very nice folks that service GE kitchen appliances just reminded me that you can’t forget the first part of my premise: Fundamentals are the minimum. Because without the fundamentals, there is nothing you can do to stand out with your customers (at least not in a positive way).
Here is the story:
- The glass on the touchpad control panel for our 4 year old GE Profile oven began to separate from the panel. We called a GE repair specialist who told us that the part was out of stock and would be available the following week.
- Over the next 7 weeks, we were given five different delivery dates for the new product. It seems that GE couldn’t get them into their warehouse.
- Thanks to the diligent efforts of Tara, a very dedicated and nice GE customer service professional, we finally received the part the week of December 16 and scheduled the repair for the morning of December 24.
- The repair specialist arrived and installed the new part only to find that it is defective.
- The old part was reinstalled and the glass was again secured with packing tape so that the oven could be functional during the holidays. I contacted Tara to let her know that the problem was not simply unresolved but worse.
- GE initiated contact with us on December 30. They thought the technician could recalibrate the defective part on site. A service call was scheduled for Saturday, January 4.
- The technician did not show up on January 4. We called to find that the appointment had been rescheduled to Tuesday, January 7. We also learned that a new part had been ordered on January 2 and that the service call had been rescheduled at that time.
Why Fundamentals Matter
The issue isn’t that the service people are not nice or professional. Almost everyone we have spoken with at GE has been pleasant and genuinely concerned that we were not being helped. There was one gentleman who told me that he was the top person with whom I could speak about my problem, but I quickly maneuvered around him and was able to work with Tara.
You can’t overcome a lousy product or service with friendly people.
To be fair, we have used GE products for over 25 years without any problem. They historically make a great product.
But, GE has mismanaged the basic service expectations of competence and timeliness to the point that it will affect all our future buying decisions and provide me with a new story to share with everyone. We turned down their offer to replace our 4 year old oven with a comparable new one at a significant discount because the company has lost our trust.
And that is the lesson for all of us. Fundamentals are the minimum. If you don’t get those correct, no amount of distinctive matters. You will alienate your customer and place your team in a position where they cannot represent you well.
One more thing: If you receive a resume from a lady named Tara who works as a senior customer relations professional at GE, strongly consider hiring her. She will represent you well … as long as your product does what it is supposed to do.
The saga continues. Updates will follow.