A Tale Of Two Customer Service Experiences

I believe that customer loyalty is something that should not be given lightly by consumers, but should be cherished by a business when it is rewarded.  A loyal customer is not only to give repeat business time and again, they will likely tell friends, family, and even complete strangers to go do business with the place that they have grown to love so much.

With this said, I thought it was worth it to share stories about two businesses which have had our loyalty for years, but with dramatically different outcomes.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…and so was this jewelry store….

While we’ve shopped at other jewelry stores, Store “J” has always been our go-to store of choice for our jewelry needs.  We don’t buy that much jewelry, but when we do, Store “J” is always given our first look and has ended up with probably 90% or more of our jewelry purchases.

Our first major purchase was a big one.  The engagement ring and wedding band were purchased as a set back in 2006.  My wedding ring was also purchased at the same store.

When we got married, my wife was surprised when my gift to her was a nice set of diamond earrings, purchased of course at Store “J”.

A Pandora bracelet found its way into our home from Store “J” when they started to take off, and a few charms have been purchased along the way.

I gave my wife a ring and a necklace, respectively, at the birth of each of our children.

None of these were overly extravagant, and over the course of seven years or so, it’s about one purchase per year.  The point is that we always looked to Store “J” first.  We always talked about Store “J” and recommended them for our jewelry needs.

So, we were disappointed when we had a very negative experience.  There are several locations near us.  One has always been stellar, but we when we needed to drop our jewelry off for their semi-annual inspection (required by the extended coverage plans that we purchased on many items), we decided to drop them off at a different location.  When we went in, people were busy, but we still had to wait several minutes before anybody could even look over at us to acknowledge that we were in the store.

Other people walked in after us, and when the salespeople started finishing up with their current customers, it seemed that people that came in after us were helped first.

Finally, someone from the back, where the lab and cleaning area is located, came out and asked what we needed.  My wife explained what we were there for at which point the woman that was helping did not say anything, but basically held her hand out to take the jewelry…mmm…kay.

Usually the process of writing up the jewelry takes about ten minutes.  This time it took over half an hour.  The woman went through our paperwork, and even though everything was clearly there, she acted as if we were missing stuff, then would get annoyed with my wife when it was pointed out that the information was right there.  As if my wife was being the rude one.

My wife had a couple of questions and the answers she got were short, abrupt, and made to seem almost as if she was in the wrong for even asking.  Long and short, the experience was horrible.

I wrote a letter to their customer service center, outlining the experience and our dissatisfaction.  I indicated that although we always got great service at the store we usually go to, that any store with the Store “J” name should be expected to deliver the same great service.

I got a response three days later.  They did apologize and that was it.  I thought a nice touch would have been a phone call or e-mail from the store manager, but nothing of the sort came through.

We walked away still happy with our product, but a good portion of the loyalty built up over seven years was erased with that experience.  Now, if friends and family ask, instead of glowing reviews, they’ll be told to avoid that particular location, and you can bet that if we buy jewelry from somewhere else and have a great experience, then Store “J” may fall right off the map.

Girls love handbags, too….

Vera Bradley came into our sights over the same weekend.  For those who don’t know what Vera Bradley is, they make handbags, wallets, duffel bags, and other assorted ‘carrying things’.  Most have patterns of flowers or other designs in bright, colorful layouts.  My wife has been a fan for as long as I’ve known her.

The stuff isn’t cheap, but it usually lasts a long time, and I love it because, if I’m ever at a loss for a gift idea, I can just pick up a Vera bag or accessory, and I’m all set.

Before our daughter was born, my wife wanted a Vera Bradley diaper bag.  She got one and it worked pretty well…until it didn’t.  With everything my wife has, she never once had a problem with a bag, until the zipper started to go on the diaper bag.  Basically, the clasp started to come apart making it harder and harder to unzip until the last piece of the clasp came out altogether.

My wife called explaining what had happened.  Even though the bag was almost a year old, they told her to come into the store.  She did.  They looked at it, and even thought it was well past the normal return time allowed, and even though the bag was being sold now at a less price (as it was last years ‘model’), they took the bag back and offered her a full credit toward a new one.  Which she got and she loved.

If my wife didn’t love Vera Bradley enough before, it went up about tenfold after that experience, and if she didn’t talk about Vera before to anybody that would listen, well, anybody that mentions the diaper bag or any other Vera bag is going to get a glowing recommendation.

Two businesses had our loyalty.  Both had issues arise.  They handled it in two separate ways, and now one is on the outs, while the other is at or near the top of the list.

Both keep track of our purchase history. Store “J” and Vera Bradley both could look up what we’ve purchased over the years.  Both likely did when we started our requests.  Seeing the loyalty developed meant something to Vera Bradley, but a similar sense of importance was not conveyed by Store “J”.

Store “J” got made to look even worse, and Vera Bradley was made to look like more of the superstar, simply by the fact that both of these experiences took place on the same weekend.  Because there was such a contrast, Store “J” came out smelling that much worse and Vera came out smelling like roses.

Have you ever had a company that you’ve been loyal to completely knock it out of the water or fall flat on their face?

26 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Customer Service Experiences”

  1. Hey! I wrote an article about an airline I travelled on back in February:
    Basically, I was having the worst experience ever and then the attitude of one of the employees turned things completely around! I think this emphasises the cliche that employees are a companies most valuable asset! 🙂

    • Very true, I think when I wrote them the e-mail I was expecting something better than a form apology letter.

  2. From your previous descriptions of your wife, I thought she was awesome. Now I know she is. Why? Because she loves Vera and has a Pandora bracelet. And so do I.

    We actually do not shop at the store where we bought my engagement ring and wedding ring (husband’s wedding ring was purchased at a now out of business store). Since that particular salesman left, we have been treated horribly every subsequent time we’ve walked into the store. Once, we were followed around by the security guard like we were going to steal something. It’s a local store, too, not a chain, and I’m disappointed that my jewelry money no longer goes to a local mom-and-pop store. But I will not be treated poorly.

    • Ours is a chain and there is the one store that seems to be poor where the rest are pretty good, so I’m torn because I know we’d get great service at the store we prefer (but couldn’t get to last time).

  3. PS – I have mentioned you in a blog post today – hopefully you will get some traffic from it 🙂

  4. My wife and I bought our first car from one of the Big Three American auto manufacturers in 1989. We ended up having problems with it stalling when turning left which wasn’t exactly the best position to be in with oncoming traffic and all. The dealership didn’t believe us. We took it back several times to be fixed and they couldn’t get it right. Ultimately, we took it to a different dealer in a different state who figured out the problem.

    Eventually, it was noted to be a widespread problem and I believe part of a recall. The bottom line is the experience left such a bitter taste that I have refused to ever purchase another car from that manufacturer again. That was 23 years ago and my wife is even advising our children to avoid these vehicles as well. I can only imagine how many generations this may affect.

  5. Customer service really makes all the difference. I’ve stopped shopping at our local chain jeweler and exclusively shop at a local jeweler.The last time I took a piece of jewelry to the chain to be fixed (broken clasp). They way overcharged me and promised me it would be done by a certain date and it wasn’t. I explained I needed it for an event and so the whole thing was time sensitive when I dropped it off. They assured me it wouldn’t be a problem and would be done on time. When I went to pick it up, it wasn’t complete and nobody apologized. I was so made told them to give it back on the spot. I took it to my local jeweler who fixed it onsite in 5 minutes for a fraction of what the chain wanted to charge me. Now I recommend the local jeweler to everyone.

    • It’s pretty clear in that case that they didn’t feel your repair was valuable compared to the ability to potentially sell a big ticket item to something else. What they don’t often realize is that if they get someone on board with great service and great prices on something simple as a clasp repair, when you’re in the market down the line for something bigger, you’d likely think of them first. Very short sighted, though.

  6. Bad customer service just once can erase years of loyalty that you have been building. It is terrible, but people can erase loyalty as well wiht one slipup just as well.

    • If a place has done right by me for a long time, I generally will give them more than one opportunity to lose me as a customer.

  7. That’s good that you recognize horrible customer service – and are willing to stick to your guns. I think all too often business forget that heir business wouldn’t exist without customers. Rather than focus on customer service… then get fixated on the store, operations, profits, themselves etc. They need to know that that is NOT how to run a successful business!

  8. That is awesome she got a full credit for the bag! I love those bags too but the one I have is a generic brand one I got as a gift. It’s amazing what good customer service can do and how bad things can turn out with crappy customer service. I’ve had so many bad experiences with ATT that I can’t wait until my contract is up so I can switch to a different carrier! -Sydney

    • Cell phone companies always seem to make the list. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one that’s any better at customer service anymore. Sort of like the airlines…

  9. Its sucks that a store could do damage to what took another location over 7 years to build. I dont think I would knock the store brand but more so the actual location. Its like some places have it together and others dont. Are the jewelry stores independently owned?

    I know when I go places that I am considered “a regular” my treatment is always better.

  10. Trust takes forever to build up, and just a second to destroy. Could be that part of the reason for Apple’s success (besides cool, elegantly designed products) is the outstanding, fast and efficient service at its Apple stores. Or at least that’s the way it seems at the store we patronize.

  11. Hey dude Awesome post. 🙂
    Basically, I was having the worst experience ever and then the attitude of one of the employees turned things completely around! I think this emphasises the cliche that employees are a companies most valuable asset! :)Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hmm!!! That’s good that you recognize horrible customer service – and are willing to stick to your guns. I think all too often business forget that heir business wouldn’t exist without customers. Rather than focus on customer service… then get fixated on the store, operations, profits, themselves etc. They need to know that that is NOT how to run a successful business!Thanks for the sharing.

    • You bet. I’m sure the business would have had a different view of things, but obviously not my view 🙂

  13. Wow In a highly competitive now global marketing place, customer service will either make or break a company more now than ever before. Yesterday, Any way dude thanks for the share.. 🙂

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