A Customer Experience Concern That Has Steeped Far Too Long

tea_imageI’m in a quandary and I could use some help.  I am an avid drinker of green tea and have a favorite brand who shall remain nameless.  I drink the stuff almost every morning but have had a poor experience with their product of late.

I recently opened a new box of tea and upon opening a bag of it, I was showered with green tea powder (Exhibit A).  There was a hole in the tea bag.  I checked another, and another, and sure enough, the entire box was flawed.  I couldn’t remember which grocery store I bought it from so returning a three-dollar box of tea seemed pointless.

I decided to go about my business and just get another box.  After brewing my first cup of tea however, I found that there wasn’t enough tea in the bag to brew a worthy cup (Exhibit B).  Sure enough, every bag in this lot had the same flaw.

At this point I was worried that my favorite brand of tea was having some serious quality issues.  I decided to take a picture of it and email the company to make them aware of the problem.  Mind you, in my email I told them of my concern for the quality of their product and at no point asked for freebies or compensation.  Allow me to chronicle my dialog with their support.

Email Response #1
Shortly after sending my email to the company, I received an email response stating that they were concerned about my feedback.  They asked me to call customer service and gave me a reference number.

Call To Customer Service
Upon calling customer service, I spoke with an agent who asked me to explain my entire complaint to him.  Apparently, my reference number wasn’t good for a whole lot.  He clearly had no clue what to do but did ask if I had tried to return the tea to the store I bought it from.  I indicated that I forgot which store I bought it from and I was more concerned about the quality of their product.  After placing me on hold for about five minutes, he told me that a manager would give me a call to discuss further.  I thanked him and decided to wait for my phone call.

My Followup Email
My conversation with them occurred on December 14.  After not hearing anything for more than three weeks I emailed them asking for a status on January 8.

Email Response #2
I received a fairly prompt email response apologizing for the lack of response.  The agent said they have arranged for a specialist to followup but that I may want to call them, as they are extremely busy.  That was five days ago.  I have not called them nor have I received a call.

I get it.  The picture I sent them represents about $0.25 worth of green tea.  Big whoop right?  Well consider that I have spent at least $100 on their product over the years and a whole lot more with their parent company and my confidence as a customer is teetering.

Anyway, what would you do if you were in my shoes?  Would you:

A. Drop it, get on with your life and continue to buy your favorite tea?
B. Fight to the very end and sully the name of this company on every review site until they hear you?
C. Drop it and find a new favorite brand of tea?
D. Continue to pursue this in hopes of having more content for your blog.

Yeah, yeah the answer is probably D.  Admittedly I’m a sucker for a good customer experience story.  Regardless of your choice, I am reminded of the fact that when a customer offers feedback, they want to know that someone is listening.  Had the frontline agent been empowered to say something like “I am so sorry for this poor experience.  I will be sure to pass your feedback on to my manager,” I think I would have been satisfied.  If I was running that team I may have even empowered my employees to send a coupon out for a free box of tea.

Being ignored doesn’t feel good, does it?  Are you listening to your customers and giving them the priority they deserve?  Are you empowering your frontline agents to respond empathetically and effectively to customer complaints?  Or are you giving them the runaround in hopes that they will ultimately go away?

I’ll write a followup to this post if I ever see a resolution on this issue.  The way I’ve been treated thus far, I’m not holding my breath.

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

5 comments

  • Maybe e-mail is too high tech? Try a hand-written letter. I have reason to believe that may actually work.

  • Yeah – definitely option “D”.

    It seems as though the customer service reps you interacted with viewed the situation as a complaint rather than a loyal customer alerting them to a potentially damaging quality problem.

    I think I’ll add this to my list of reasons why employees don’t pass along complaints:

    http://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/2013/8/13/why-employees-dont-pass-along-customer-complaints

  • I experienced a similar sort of quality issue recently with my new Apple iPad. I’ve been experiencing crashing in Safari when viewing certain web sites (Twitter) and wasn’t sure exactly what was the cause of the issue was.

    I first tried Apple’s online Chat support and they had me restore the ipad to factory settings. The issues was still reproducible, so that helped to narrow it down to something either being defective with my specific ipad or their might be a bigger issue with all iPads.

    They then told me to go in to an Apple store and talk to a Genius rep. The first thing he had me try was to replicate the issue on a brand new iPad (exact same model) in the store. Sure enough the issue happened to that iPad. The rep then clearly understood that this was not a good thing, and would let their manager know of the issue and that feedback would get back to Corporate.

    That is excellent customer service! They didn’t solve my problem right then and there, but they were smart enough to help identify the problem and I know they listened and will, hopefully, solve it eventually. Now its possible that the issue was never ratcheted up the chain. From that perspective, the Genius rep could have opened up a ticket of some sort that I could track to see if Apple corporate eventually recognizes and solves the issue.

    But otherwise, it was good experience.

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