Sunday, May 10, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Customer Rights and Wrongs

Waterproof iPod Shuffle
by Peggy Robin

The customer is not always right, but businesses that want to keep customer loyalty are often well advised to treat them as if they are. If it turns out the customer is wrong, or has filed a claim in error, it may be better for the business to forgive the customer for the mistake than to stand on its rights to refuse warranty service. In the long run, the customer’s good will may be worth more to its bottom line than the price of the repair.

A case in point: Customer P (I am not using the name to preserve my fifth amendment right not to incriminate myself) called up an electronics seller’s toll-free line to complain that the small digital music player had failed after just five months of use. It came with a one-year warranty, conditioned, however, on the customer maintaining the player according to instructions. The customer service rep (let’s call him “Jim”) put the customer through a few paces of testing the player to try to troubleshoot it over the phone. The customer complied, but the device, which was only half dead at the beginning of the call, failed entirely after the first few steps. Instead of producing an error message that showed up on the computer screen, the whole dialog box suddenly disappeared from view. “It’s dead, Jim,” P said sadly.

Jim, after asking a series of follow-up questions, ascertained that the problem was that the battery in the device had become damaged and would no longer re-charge. Jim’s careful questioning had also elicited answers establishing that the customer had failed to follow the steps recommended to preserve battery life. So many things P did wrong: She would habitually leave the device in the charger instead of disconnecting it whenever it was fully charged. She never let  the battery run down before recharging it. P even admitted never having read through the charging instructions at the outset. She had left it on occasion in a hot car. It was no wonder the battery was shot. It was a case of customer abuse. P freely admitted guilt, and having done so, was resigned to the fact that she had voided the warranty. She was prepared to buy a brand new device.

Now comes the surprising part. Jim cheerfully informed P that she could send back the broken player, and he would mail out a replacement, brand-new, at no charge. This one, he said, should last for years, PROVIDED the battery is maintained as recommended in the instruction booklet. It wasn’t necessary to do everything exactly as recommended (Jim added) as long as the user is careful not to do any of the things known to kill the battery.

P was so grateful for the generous, forgiving attitude that she was motivated to reward the company for its “help the customer even if she’s wrong” policy. But what kind of help could P give? Just letting as many people as possible know that if you buy a waterproofed Apple iPod Shuffle from Underwater Audio, you will not only get a tiny but versatile music/pocast player that you can use while swimming or doing any water sports, but you will get above-and-beyond customer service: Go to for all the products, and for the waterproof iPod Shuffle with waterproof earbuds.

Just so that you can see that P is not the only one with this opinion, have a look at these Amazon reviews:


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays or Sundays.  

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