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Great Products ... Terrible Customer Service!

It strikes me as strange that some companies associated with great products can have such terrible customer service.

In a world where competition is increasing, where the "flat earth" allows companies half way across the world to compete, where household name companies go out of business and consumers are more and more savvy how can companies afford to treat their customers so badly?

I am about to trash some big name companies ... and I'm just one voice so maybe it doesn't matter, but then again some people will read this and maybe they will have something to say too!

I will preface these comments by the disclaimer that my experiences are all Ottawa based, but supported by hearsay in other places.

Let me start with BMW. I love their products, my wife and I have owned three over the years but I have reached a point where I would go a long way before I would buy another one. Part of the problem stems from the "elitist" posturing of the dealers. They will point to the car magazine reviews, the awards and the performance statistics. They will demonstrate just how well these cars drive ... and they do! They truly believe that their cars are the best, which is both a good thing AND a bad thing. The bad comes from their complacency in how they treat their customers. "Oh you want snow tires, well drop the car off a week on Wednesday and we should have it ready that day." "You want a loaner ... sorry sir we don't do that." "You can't book an appointment sir, you'll have to leave it with us!" "Yes we've ordered parts but they are coming from Germany so it might be a couple of weeks!" I have had ALL of these comments from our local BMW dealers.

I hear from the Lexus owners about how their dealer picks up their car at the office and drops it off again later! When I owned a Corvette my dealer always gave me a loaner (and a comparable one), no matter what was being done.

I have a Porsche ... another world class car with "third world service"! They take arrogance to whole new level and I will do anything to avoid taking my car in there! I take it to a small local shop just to avoid the hassle of the dealership.

All of this brings me to the reason why I am writing this blog entry, and its not really about cars ... it's a world leading company called SONY. Sony service has to be the classic worst!

I have a Sony notebook ... an expensive little laptop, top of the line but totally underpowered. It came with Vista and it takes ages to boot, ages to shut down and don't try to run too many things at once. It's a very expensive machine ... but its slow. Its light, it loos cool ... but its slow. To top things off Sony had a recall on these machines about 18 months ago because of overheating problems. I registered my machine and was told that they would order parts and then send me information about where to send it. I would be without my machine for 3 weeks! Hello! This is 2009 last time I looked, who wants to be without their computer for 3 weeks? So I wait ... they never contact me. I call their customer service ... sorry sir, we don't have any record of you so just go through the process again. My laptop still runs hot ... it is still slow and I'll never buy a Sony computer again.

In August I blogged about my Sony eReader and how cool it is. Last week I dropped it ... not far, it was about hip height, it had its leather case on and it didn't seem to be damaged. The screen wasn't even damaged but now the on/off switch won't work and its not usable. I take it to the Sony store ... knowing full well this is not going to be a happy experience. They lived up to their billing!

Yes they are very delicate sir!

I can send it away and we can see if they will fix it ... takes about three weeks (what is up with that three week thing) but maybe you should just buy another one!

You don't have your receipt with you ... then if you can just tell me the exact date and time of day that you bought it we might be able to find it in the system.

I particularly liked his next line ... No sir we can't find you in our system ... that's why we give you that little receipt (he didn't actually say dummy ... but it was in his eyes)!

So here we are with another example of a product I loved with service that sucks.

I think I will create my own Wall of Customer Service Shame ... companies to avoid. So far I have:

BMW
Porsche
Sony

If you brand yourself as a superior brand ... then you had better live up on the customer service side too. I can be more tolerant if the brand is a middle of the road brand ... my expectations are not so high, but when I pay top dollar I want good service. These are excellent examples of what NOT to do and I truly believe that it will catch up to them!