Why Are Some Companies So Bad at Customer Service?

Jan 15

Written by: Todd Anthony Puma
1/15/2014 6:59 PM  RssIcon

It’s almost a case of the bigger they come, the harder they fall. But instead it’s the bigger they come, the harder they are to deal with. One reason clients tell me they keep coming back to The Source Home Theater and why they refer us to their friends is because of the great customer service. Have a question? Someone always answers the phone. Cable not working? We’ll be right there. Want to add an AppleTV to your living room? We’ll be right there. Speaker sounds like it’s blown? We’ll be right there and we’ll replace it if there’s any problem.

In the past few weeks I’ve had problems with three different media servers from the same manufacturer, and each time they ran me through myriad tests, even though they knew (and I told them, just to be sure) that I’m a certified dealer who has sold dozens of them in the past year and I know how to troubleshoot the devices. Each time they wanted me pay for an advance replacement and wait five days to get it to me.  In the meantime my client would have been without their media server, over a long weekend, during the Polar Vortex.

Instead, I took one I had in inventory and replaced the defective one, which I sent back for “evaluation” (since they didn’t believe me). Not surprisingly, I got a call from the manufacturer telling me I was right and the device was defective… all THREE TIMES. If I could bite the bullet and provide my client with an advance replacement in 24 hours, why couldn’t this company stand behind their product? Guess whose media servers I won’t be buying anymore?

Why is that the smaller guys offer the best service, whether it by us, as dealers, or smaller manufacturers? Seems like the bigger the manufacturer is, the worse they are. What bigger companies don’t seem to realize is that what is maybe a small issue to them is a huge issue to our client, and by extension to us. Maybe they have gotten too far away from the customer. Have any of the people that run these companies gone on a ride-a-long with a dealer for a day, or gone on a service call? They have no idea what it is like in the field, and it shows in how they execute on customer and technical support.

That is why I make it a point to be in the field as much as possible in my business; I want to stay close to my clients and my techs and installers so that I know what is working and what isn’t and can make changes to how I operate accordingly.

An exception I have found is Crestron, which has impeccable customer service, great reps, and knowledgeable tech support, despite its relatively large size for our channel. Maybe size doesn’t matter if the company is private and can invest its resources in serving customers instead of Wall Street. Maybe it’s the big, public conglomerates that are the issue.

Another company, which I won’t mention by name, had its servers go down for a few days recently, which led to a litany of emails that our clients’ systems were back up (even though you were never alerted that systems went down). Despite multiple calls, it took the manufacturer more than two days to get back to me, and even when they did, it was low-level technical support, and they couldn’t answer my questions.

I know this may sound like a rant, but I have an ulterior motive. I want us all to learn from each other. So help me out by posting in the comments below. How do you make sure you provide great customer service to your clients even if you aren’t getting it from your manufacturers? Have you found manufacturers that excel at customer support? Let us all know and let's all support them by directing more of our business their way.
+Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.

4 comment(s) so far...


Re: Why Are Some Companies So Bad at Customer Service?

"I want us all to learn from each other" What was the server company? I know that they must be an important vendor, and putting their name out might be a iffy, but I would like to know.

By Bob Lieto on   1/16/2014 3:14 PM

Re: Why Are Some Companies So Bad at Customer Service?

....because we insulate them from the irate customers. We get the call, we sold it, it's our fault it doesn't work. Even when we didn't sell it (ie cable box).

Most vendors have forgotten that WE, the Dealers, are THEIR customers.

Solution, don't sell the products, sell yourself. Many moons ago in a CEDIA class, it was said "it's all crap...in 5 years that amazing $2000 receiver you gloat over, won't be good enough to be a boat anchor"

Yes, it's going to break, and I'll be here to help you through it.

By Rob on   1/16/2014 5:09 PM

Re: Why Are Some Companies So Bad at Customer Service?

Sorry to say that I fall into the statistic of those who tried and failed. I completely agree with your tactic of how to best handle customer service. In the 10 years I ran an integration company I stood up for customer service every time. And the number of times the manufacturer or distributor didn't assist is astonishing. And being in the field is a must - the stories I could tell about the employee issues I had to deal with would be a compelling reality - black comedy - novel. There is a formula to make this work- Todd it sounds like you are on the right track. Keep monitoring business metrics and may you find the path many of us missed.

By Morgan Harman on   1/17/2014 4:54 PM

Re: Why Are Some Companies So Bad at Customer Service?

Todd-- thank you for writing about this important issue! I sent you a message about it on Facebook as well, it will go to your messages from non-friends folder, please find it there.
Have any readers come up with solutions that have worked with these issues? I would love to hear them if so. We have the same issues dealing with some of the bigger companies as their "middle man," when things go wrong with their product, it ends up costing us both time and money, which doesn't seem fair.
We agree that Crestron doesn't seem to have this issue, which is refreshing.
We thought about strictly using a time log for work done on products that have issues caused by the manufacturer. Keeping track of absolutely every time this happens, and then contacting the larger manufacturers to see what can be done about this for their loyal 'Middle Man' customers (us,) who sell tons and tons of their products.

By Lindsey on   2/4/2014 6:40 PM

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