Saturday, February 18, 2006

Complaints as a service

Twenty years ago I read a newspaper article about a woman who was making the equivalent of a hefty salary by complaining. She was a master of letting companies know where they did not live up to their obligations and in return she received lots of free products, refunds, vouchers, coupons, etc. As much as the article's author was pushing the concept of "spend lots of time bitching and you can free stuff," I recall her side of the story. She viewed her complaints comments as a service to the company; giving feedback when most people aren't willing say anything.

I was thinking about this last week when I wrote my complaint letter to Intermatic. While I thought it would be cool to get a free timer out of the deal, I already have a new one installed and it's not like I need a bunch of them.

I know it sounds funny, but I really thought a good company would value my problem as an opportunity. Unfortunately, most companies don't think of problems as opportunity. For an example of how most companies seem to handle issues, read Seth Godin's article about Jonathan Cruce's problem with VTech or his post about Shari's Berries.

Contrast that story with the following response from Intermatic:
Hi Jeffrey,

Thank you for your recent letter and picture. I am sorry that you are having problems with our timers. I would like to talk to you about the past and present timer you have purchased and I'd like to tell you about our new timer that will hit the market soon. I'd be happy to put you in my data base so that you will receive one of the timers complimentary.

Please send me a day time phone number.

Thank you!

Lisa Kosel
Customer Service

I was out this afternoon and missed Lisa's call, but the summary of the voicemail she left is I am going to receive both their latest switch/timer (different than the one I bought last week) and their soon to be released timer once it comes out this Spring or Summer. She also left me her direct line so she could explain the features of their soon to be released product.

And all of this is why I am now a big fan of Intermatic. If your curious, they also make Malibu Lights, the landscape lighting you can buy at Home Depot and Lowe's.

For new readers (should I get so lucky) check out the related posts where I complain about and then get a lovely response to my rant.

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