The Customer is always right?

These words came back to haunt me this week, I had visited a customer to fix a machine and needed to order parts.

The fault in the system could have been in one of two places and with this particular piece of machinery there is no way to tell which it might be, so I ordered both, to be on the safe side and to reduce the client’s downtime.

The call disappeared from my PDA and I expect it back as soon as both the parts are despatched.  I am quite sure that I explained the situation to the customer in as unambiguous way as possible.

The next day I got a panic call from head office:

“The customer is kicking off, when are you getting back there?”

“As soon as the parts are there I’ll get in there and do it.”

“One of the bits is there, can you go now?”

It was 4.30 on a Friday afternoon, that’s when the company stops paying me so I declined; besides, I was an hour’s drive away. I explained the situation, the part that had arrived was the least likely of the two to fix the problem and I am constantly reminded not to make multiple trips to sites as road fuel is extremely expensive, about $2 per litre and I have already worn one car out in three years!

I was urged to call the customer and tell him what was happening.

When I called, he was incandescent with rage; “I was told that you would be here at 2.30 today!”

“Who told you that?”

“He didn’t give his name, but it was the person I spoke to at 1.05, he said that you had acknowledged the call and entered an ETA of 14.30.”

“That’s rubbish; I don’t even have the call to acknowledge.  I will have to find out who took that call.”

“I didn’t get his name.”

“That’s no problem, all our calls are recorded and we have a system called Witness that allows us to listen to any call related to job.”

At this point the customer lost some of his aggression.  I have been bullied by customers before, they think that they can make delivery companies send parts quicker by putting pressure on me, it doesn’t usually work and as I have to avoid stress, due to a mental condition, it tends to take a lot longer to deal with the bullies than people who are polite and reasonable.  I promised to look in on them on Monday and left him expostulating to a dead phone.

I have no doubt that either the call centre operative was reading from the wrong call log or said nothing of the kind.  I suspect that some loud-mouth decided that the best way to get some action was to pile on the pressure.  If I find this to be the case I will have words, I have done what I can and have no control over the delivery service that our company has elected to use.

I won’t name them but I have to say that their global reputation does not match their actual performance in the field.

The machine will be running as soon as I can make it, not a second longer.

If I receive direct bullying I will walk, and the client can sort his own machine out.

Yes, he is the customer and yes the customer is the life blood of the business but my personal health ranks a little higher in importance that shareholder value for a Fortune 500 company.  If I go sick it will be long term and then nobody will get their equipment fixed in Dorset very quickly.