I watched a hilarious training video called Who Sold you This Then? staring Hugh Laurie. At the time, I laughed because it was so over the top--the repair guy was the poster child for ghastly customer service. I was soon to find out Hugh Laurie was spot on!
In the middle of a heat wave, our new heat pump went out. We immediately called our repair guy (let’s call him Hugh) to come fix it. It was a week before Hugh had a free appointment, and then when he did come, all he did was diagnose the problem and schedule another appointment a week out. By the time Hugh showed up to fix the pump, my husband and I, and the dog were a frustrated, sweaty mess.
Five hours later he handed us an $800 bill. Hugh told us, "Sorry, still doesn’t work. I’ll have to call the boss."
"Did you say it’s still not fixed?" I could tell my husband was ready to sic the sweaty dog on him.
"Yeah, I fixed the leak. That’s the $800, but it’s still not working. It’s probably the thermostat, and that $1,200, plus labor. Haven’t seen anything like it for a few years."
"But the pump is practically new! I’m tempted to go to another company."
"I hear that a lot," Hugh said, nodding.
All I could think was, "Oh my God, you ARE the Hugh Laurie character!"
Doing Damage to the Company
Our service guy is probably the bane of his sales department. On his behalf, while the sales people sell the product, Hugh has to pick up the pieces . . . literally.
I’m sure Hugh’s life is full of calls from upset people or meeting those same people in person. And, one can only take being attacked by angry (possibly sweaty) customers for so long before he starts to deflect. And our service guy deflected like crazy.
He passed the buck onto the following:
• The product: "Normally these things last for 15 years."
• The customer: "When was the last time you cleaned the filter?"
• The organization: "I’ll talk to my boss about your warranty, but I can’t promise anything."
Ideally, our service guy should have stood up for the product, the customer, and the company. He should just have fixed it as speedily and courtesly as possible, without passing the blame.
If he had, maybe we wouldn’t be looking for another heating company right now.
Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.