Service Charge

Sometimes, being a big organization is an advantage. But sometimes its not. Over this past
weekend, I had the opportunity to test the customer service levels of two
organizations.

The first is Hawaiian Telcomm
(hereinafter “HT). HT took over from Verizon around April of last year. Although the company tried to put forth a good face, by saying how it would become a “local” company, with most back office
services relocated from the mainland to here, things have not been all light and happy.

From the very beginning, it was clear that HT
was unprepared
. Bills were sent out late or people where
charged twice for the same month. People calling in with problems had
to wait on hold for very long periods of time because the customer
service staff were insufficient to cover the load.

In my case, when I called on Saturday to report the loss of dial tone, I waited less than a minute
to get through. However, the earliest time a technician could come out
was Monday afternoon. Compare this to the same day service that Verizon
provided when I last needed assistance (also on a Saturday).

Although I am happy that the wait time on hold was substantially better than in the past, the time
to actually get someone out to the house has been substantially
increased. This is not good customer service.

In addition, I am still disappointed that Verizon is rolling out extremely high
speed fiber optic Internet service to homes
on the mainland (at speeds up to 30Mbps!), something that would eventually have reached here had HT not taken over. Conversely, HT has,
well, nothing except 3Mbps DSL.

The other organization is Best Buy (hereinafter “BB”). Although I appreciate the coming of “big
box” retailers to Hawaii, because it brings more choice and selection to customers, the downside seems to be a lack of service.

We bought a gas range from them that had a pretty good price. But we were surprised to learn
that BB does not include delivery or installation. If we wanted them to
deliver, install the new range, and remove the old one, we would have
to pay over $200 additional (bringing the grand total to over $700USD).

Okay, bad as that was, it got worse. BB contracts out the delivery and perhaps the
installation (I’m not clear on that part). Since each company is separate from the other we were told that the
delivery company would deliver sometime during the day (we would get a
call the day before narrowing it down to, essentially, before lunch or
after). After which, the installer would come and unhook the old range
and install the new. The delivery people would then need to come back
to pickup the old one.

But wait, it got even worse. On Friday, the day before the actual installation, BB left a
message at home (rather than calling me at work, which is what I wanted them to do),
saying the delivery would come between 4:00 and 7:00 pm. The problem
with this is if the delivery occurred at 7:00 pm, it would be doubtful
that the installer would come that late in the evening. Being that the
delivery was scheduled for a Saturday, and it is doubtful the installer would work
on Sunday, the earliest the new range could get installed would be the
following Monday. This would leave our tenants with no range from
Saturday to Monday.

So, we called BB to reschedule it for an earlier time. After waiting for someone to answer the phone
for 45-minutes, and trying to get through to various other lines, we
got through and rescheduled the appointment for the following
Saturday (but with the same caveat that the moving company
would schedule the actual time, regardless of whether we wanted a morning delivery).

In the mean time, we saw an add from a small neighborhood appliance store. Although the price of the
range was about $100 higher than BB, the store included free deliver,
installation, and removal. Thus, saving us about $100. In addition, the
range appeared to have more features and seemed better built.

So, we went to BB to cancel the order. After standing in the customer service line for about 30
minutes, it took the service person another 20-30 minutes to figure out
how to cancel the order (she had to talk to four other people to get it
right). In total, we spent about an hour, just to cancel the order.

We then went over to the smaller store, spent about 10 minutes to pay for the range and
arrange the date and time for delivery/installation (they do
their own delivery and installation so we could schedule it then and
there). We will have to see whether the small store lives up to its
promise to deliver, install, and remove the old range as scheduled, but
if they do, they will have a customer for other appliance that we may
need.

Clearly, there are competitive advantages that larger companies may have. But being big doesn’t
guarantee this will translate to better service or price. To me, it all
depends on what management sees as being important.

In the HT case, being a small local company has not translated into better service or selection. In
the BB case, being a large company has brought better selection, but
not better service or price.

The upside is service, selection, and price are controlled by management. Hence, if either
organization saw an advantage to being better in any or all categories,
they could.

Aloha!

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