Thursday, May 28, 2009

How important is YOUR customer service?

I'm not sure how it happened, but I suddenly realised today that it is well over 37 years since I last bought anything with the Heinz label, and it will be at least another 37 years before I think about buying anything again. This thought suddenly brought home to me again how important a response to a complaint can be, and how important customers are to a business.

Now you may think that my response is petty, but I will tell you the tale. My daughter was still tiny and only eating a little solid food. At that time it was mostly pureed fruit and vegetables - apples, pears, carrots etc. Very rarely I would buy a readymade jar of Cow and Gate, but mostly it was freshly prepared. One day we visited a friend, and her also tiny daughter, and stayed longer than expected, so I had to 'make do' with a can of Heinz apple puree that was in her cupboard. We opened it and were shocked to find a not so small and perfectly formed spider nestling in the puree. A second can produced the required lunch, but we still had the evidence from the first. After lunch it was decided that we would write a letter to Heinz telling them about it, this we did, not sending the spider but preserving it carefully. The letter was sent on our way home.

It was a month before Heinz replied. They were sorry, but unable to do anything as we had not sent the said creature. The whole tone of the letter, quite frankly, said 'we don't believe you'. Together we wrote another letter, this time including the spider - it was still perfectly formed. Another month went by and we received another letter. It was a preprinted form containing all sorts of facts about how careful Heinz were to ensure that their products were safe etc, and finally at the bottom was a typed PS telling us that there was no need to worry, the object we had returned was only plant matter. For our trouble they enclosed a voucher for 5p, which, by the way, was less than the cost of a tin of their babyfood.

That was the day we both decided that we would never again purchase Heinz. I had a phone call from Sue today, and out of the blue this memory surfaced. We both laughed - and both admitted that we still don't buy anthing with a Heinz label. Sometimes you have to read the really small print to discover that Heinz are involved - but if it is there I will find it. My first son in law was a very fussy eater, everything was smothered in Ketchup, but as mine wasn't Heinz he wouldn't eat it. He would only eat Heinz soup - and beans (in fact, this was just about the total of his diet when he first came into our lives) I'm glad to say that he wasn't quite so fussy by the time he disappeared into another life.

So, I ask you - How important is YOUR customer service? Do customers count or do you just want their money. OK, Heinz may still be a big company, but they may have been bigger with our money too.....


On a Whimsey said...

I am very much like you! It doesn't matter how small or large the company they would not be there if it wasn't for their customers!

I strongly belief the customer is always right theory. OK, there may be times when they are not but there are ways of sorting that. People should always be allowed to have a 'door' through which to exit gracefully.

Ultimately, and sadly, you can count on one hand the number of companies that think their customers are important.

AltheaP said...

I've been boycotting Sears for 40 years, but they don't seem to miss my patronage. ;-) I remember when companies would go out of their way to satisfy customers. Now, I think, there are really only 10 corporations in the world and they all own each other.

Attack of the Vintage said...

To me customer satisfaction in way up of the ladder. I go out of my way to make sure my customers are pleased with their purchase. However, too many companies and people are just in it for the money, greed is not pretty!

joon said...

Well, M, this is right up my alley. Just in the past few months I have been considered starting my own consumer advocate blog or writing a book. I am one who writes to companies with complaints. I started when I was about 9. I wrote to Nabisco informing them that they used so much glue on the box ends of my favorite Fig Newton cookie box that it rendered the reusable flap useless. I received a wonderful letter of thanks, apology, explanation and a promise to seek improvement in their machinery - and coupons. I never forgot it.

In 1994 we called Coca Cola complaining about a weird taste/odor in our Coke cans. We were shocked when a friendly delivery man came to our house! Yes, he brought us flats of Coke, was gracious, jolly & totally apologetic. Took the suspicious cans and away he went. Again, we will never forget that.

Of course, my tales similar to yours are much more the norm. I refuse to patronize any who annoy me and I spread the word. It does make a difference.

But blogging or a book...

PS. I thought your post was going to be about etsy experiences. Sadly, outside of our team, my few purchases have mostly been 'never again' experiences. That is a sad finding.

joon said...

Just went to check my mail and this is too much. Check it out!

Talk about timing, kismet or ???
maybe the 40 year delayed effect syndrome...

enjoy. :)

Sixsisters said...

Good for you Myfanway. I have done that with movies
as strange as it sounds.
I refuse to see or read anything by Woody Allen .
I can't tolerate his personal preferences or moral
I have complained about products too. I once found
a piece of metal in a beef product I purchased.
They were nice enough to send me a coupon that more than covered the cost of the beef.

Beth said...

I love this and I stand behind you. I've boycotted many stores and items and even movies if I don't agree with what the Actors are doing in their lives. Call me crazy. Love this post.

Pam said...

Oh, my goodness! I totally agree with you that every customer should write the company about any little thing. I wrote to Del Monte once because there were tomato peelings (I counted every one of them) in my can of tomatoes, and told them I didn't buy store brands for that very reason and expected better quality from the name brands. I got a letter and coupons for several cans of Del Monte products.
I think if people make other people aware of flaws in products, too, it might have a greater effect. I can imagine that if this goes onto Facebook or Twitter and lots of people read it, it could inspire them to write, also. Enough noise, and I think even the 10 companies that all own each other might listen.
Have the same thought about insurance companies. If it were just possible for everyone to have no insurance for one month, I think they would be more customer (as compared to stockholder) oriented, too.
Oh, well, enough from Pam's soapbox.
My philosophy: complain every time, and let other people know!

Rose said...

I agree with you! Family members have bitten into a hot dog that had a fly embedded in it, bread with bone, and other things. It really turns one off when the customer service is so bad.

nadine said...

so glad that you shared this Heinz story. Why companies believe that customer service is Not important is beyond belief.

No more heinz for me.