Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is Good Customer Service Really so Rare?

"I regret to inform you that you will have to replace the unit; it is no longer in warranty."

Thus the saga of the wireless indoor/outdoor thermometer and efforts to resuscitate it came to an end. Both the remote sensor and the indoor base unit made an unsatisfactory, "wshhsh," as they dropped through the loose paper in the trash.

For reasons long since forgotten, I had a time ago gotten an indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer for our house.

"What do you want that for," Ellie asked when I picked it up at the local hardware store.

"I dunno, for sure," I replied. "I like, though, to know what the outdoor temperature is. And this one has two indoor units … I'd put one in the den and one in our bedroom."

"We have thermometers outside," she said.

"Yes, but they're hard to read," I said; "and we can't even see them from our bedroom. And I'm especially interested in this for winter mornings … getting dressed."

"And we have TV/radio/the internet … ." She would have said more, but I had put the package  in the cart and was rolling it down the aisle. "Well, OK," she said; "let's get 'em."

To the surprise of both of us, we read the temperatures much more than either of us imagined. For example, it was very common for me, coming into the dark bedroom to slip into bed, to use a flashlight on my dresser and note the temperature indoors as well as outside. "What's the temp?" Ellie, who seemed to be sleeping, would ask.

"Sixty two," I'd reply.

"I meant OUTside."

"Three below."

"Hurry." And I did.

Wanting to dress appropriately, Loretta was always asking us what the temperature was when we'd stop by. When Christmas came, a wireless thermometer seemed like a perfect stocking stuffer.  

But we neglected to consider one thing: Loretta is a technophobe. We have no evidence … truth be told … of this causing the problem; but the device did not work at her place. The remote unit, when outside, sent the wrong temperature to the base unit. It was not even close. Ever. We'd bring the unit inside, put it next to the base unit, and it would send the correct temperature. Put it outside, and it would be wrong again. And wrong different from how it was wrong moments previously.

I brought it home; it performed flawlessly. I left it in our screened in porch for weeks; not a glint of a problem. Took it back to Loretta's: failure again and again. I forgot about it. Recently, Ellie asked me if I wanted the thermometer that we gave Loretta. Sure. "I have plans for it."

Only now it didn't work for me, either. The remote unit displayed a temperature of LL.L and humidity of "- -." The base unit read 59.6 degrees and "HH." I changed to new batteries; I waited. Nothing changed. In desperation, I wrote to Customer Service asking for advice. Customer Service responded quickly, suggesting a procedure. I tried the procedure; no change. I reported this result; Customer Service responded with the news that the unit is out of warranty, I'd have to replace it.

This whole experience impressed me; I wrote back to Customer Service telling them so. Later, I wondered, "What's impressive? Is not responding in a timely way to an inquiry what these people are getting paid to do?"

The answer is clearly, "Of course," but I have had plenty of much worse Customer Service experiences. This experience was so positive that I wrote back and told 'em that next time I'm buying, I'd consider their company just for the good experience they had given me.

More sober now, I really wonder if this is, indeed, such good news.

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