Loyalty is hard to find.
Trust is easy to lose
Actions speak louder than words.
I'm an intensely loyal person...probably to a fault. Whether it's friends, a product I buy or a company I do business with, it takes a lot of disappointment before I move on. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing as loyalty is an attribute to be valued as long as it doesn't make you a doormat.
Up until a few days ago, I was a loyal customer of a local heating/air conditioning company. They were my go-to source when the air coming out of the vents was hot when it should have been cold and vice versa. They showed up when they said they would, explained what fix was needed and charged fees that were reasonable. They earned my trust and my loyalty, and I was happy to (and did) recommend them to others. It helped too that they were a small business just minutes from my house. I like supporting the little guys.
Early last summer I called them when one of the AC units was blowing air that could best be described as "luke." Due to the configuration of our house, we have two smaller units (one on each side of the house) rather than a big one for heating and cooling. Given its age, we were prepared for the repairman to pronounce this unit as terminal and we'd be forced to purchase a new one. No, they said, we can make an economical repair. It might last six months was the advice, or it might last a year or two. It's easy to be loyal to someone who seems to have your best interest, i.e., pocketbook, at heart.
So when that same unit went bonkers a few weeks ago and would only work on the emergency heat setting, I knew just who to call. Sadly, what happened after that ended my status as a loyal customer. Their actions and inactions could be a case study on poor customer service in any business class. I can sum it all up in three easy lessons.
1. Don't answer the phone. My initial call was first thing on a Monday morning. I don't know why major things in your house always break on the weekend or a holiday but that seems to be our experience. An answering machine picked up which was unusual but I left my message and expected a call back. When that didn't happen the first day, Wayne called the next day. It was the only time over the course of four weeks that someone actually answered the phone. After repeated calls and repeated unanswered messages, I did what any scorned woman would do; I showed up at their office before they dispatched their trucks for the day. I think they were surprised.
2. Don't tell the truth. We've been really busy, the owner said, claiming he had relayed that information to Wayne. If he did, he had implied it might be a few days before they could get to us, a reasonable delay given the cold weather we'd been experiencing. With me standing across the desk from him, he must have felt compelled to continue talking. We're short of help, he added. I told your husband it would be three to four weeks. I knew Wayne would have shared that information with me if he'd been told that. Still, we were more than halfway through that period at that point and after being assured they would get to us in that time frame, I put on my patience button and agreed to wait. I really didn't want to start with someone new and they'd always done such good work.
3. Don't value loyalty. The time came and went. Calls went unanswered and messages unreturned. I suspect they probably really were short of help and elected to put their limited resources into installing new systems for home builders which generated income in bigger chunks. I totally understand that; I just wish they'd been upfront about it. If they'd just said hey, look, we aren't doing residential repairs right now but here's someone you can call to take care of your problem and we hope you'll call us next time you need service and hopefully we'll be in a position to help you then...well, I'd have respected that. And I probably would have called them again.
We now have a brand new unit on the west side of the house. I called someone new who called me back within five minutes and was at my door less than an hour later. He explained how he could make a repair but he didn't think it would last long at all and recommended a new system. He gave me options and explained them all and then he did what he said he was going to do in getting it installed. And while one experience does not earn undying loyalty, I'll definitely be calling him again in the future...although after that cash outlay I hope it's a long time into the future.
I saw a statistic not long ago about why customers leave. It broke down this way:
3% because the business moved
5% preferred a competitor's product
9% due to price increases
14% were dissatisfied with product/services
69% left because of poor service
In this case, the heating/air conditioning company might have said they wanted our business but their actions which indicated otherwise really did speak louder than their words. Poor service pushed my loyalty elsewhere.