Posted by: Rael Kalley | January 31, 2015

287. Is customer service an oxymoron?

A few years ago, shortly after I had taken delivery of a new Dell desktop, I called their Sales Department and ordered a part for my computer.

I don’t remember specifically what I ordered but when the shipment arrived it turned out to be the wrong product.

I immediately called the Dell Customer Service number, explained my predicament to a representative who apologized profusely for the mistake and assured me the correct part would be shipped to me that day.

She also asked me if I would mind putting the wrong part back in the shipping envelope in which it arrived and hold onto it and she would arrange for a courier to pick it up from me over the next few days.

Two or three days later as promised the correct part arrived and the following day a person from FedEx stopped by the office to collect the incorrect part.

This left me with a sense of high regard for Dell customer service.

Contrast that experience with one I had just a few days ago.

In 1998, I purchased a product called Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is voice recognition software that enables users to dictate directly into a microphone or even into a digital recorder, connect the recorder to your computer, and the words you have spoken magically appear on the screen.

Since 1998, Nuance – the company that provides Dragon NaturallySpeaking – has brought out many new, improved versions of its product and I, as a loyal and extremely happy customer, have faithfully upgraded to the newest, best version each and every time.

If you look at the top of this blog you will see that it is number 287. If you follow the blog that I write on Wednesdays my most recent posting was number 107 meaning that I am closing in on having written 400 blogs. To say I have “written” 400 blogs is indeed a misnomer as I don’t believe I have written a single blog since I began.

I have dictated every single blog either directly into my desktop or laptop or, more likely, into one of the five or six Sony digital recorders that I have strewn all over my home and office.

Once the blog is completed, I simply open the software, connect the recorder to the computer click on the word “Transcribe” and everything I’ve said is instantly converted into text.

Over the years Dragon has improved its accuracy to the point where very rarely do the words on the screen not precisely match the words I have spoken.

I have also, with great enthusiasm, recommended Dragon NaturallySpeaking to many friends and clients, a large number of whom are now very satisfied users of this product.

Two weeks ago I answered the phone in my office and it was a caller from the Nuance sales department offering me a great deal on upgrading my software to the newest version, Version 13, of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

I pointed out that I had already done so a year ago when this upgrade was first introduced and the lady apologized by explaining that sometimes their system is a little behind in getting their customer information current.

I chose not to comment on a year being a little bit more than being a little behind.

For some time I had been thinking of purchasing a particular Bluetooth microphone headset and mentioned this to the sales representative. She directed me to the Nuance website where we found the exact product I had been looking for. I ordered and paid for it.

On Monday a package arrived from Nuance and I excitedly opened it eager to play with my new headset, only to discover there was no Bluetooth headset inside the package. Instead, there was the newest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

They had shipped the wrong product

Remembering my experience with Dell several years ago, I called the Nuance Customer Service number expecting to be treated with the same courtesy and professionalism as I had been dealing when Dell several years ago.

The person on the other end did apologize for the error. He then told me that the Nuance policy for addressing such matters was that it was my responsibility to ship the product back to them.

He would send me shipping labels so as to incur no cost on my part and I was then, in my own time, to seek out a UPS store and drop the package off there.

Upon receipt of my shipment they would conduct a “thorough investigation” to determine whether in fact the wrong product had been sold sent and if they concluded that a mistake had been made, they would ship me the product I’d ordered.

Perhaps my experience with Dell created a standard in my mind that I thought any company hoping to develop goodwill with its clients would replicate, I was quite disappointed with this response.

I have no interest in waiting three or four days for a shipping label to arrive and taking time out my busy day to go looking for a UPS store and wait for their “investigation” to conclude in the hope that I may receive what I ordered.

I told the person on the other end not to bother and I gave the software to one of my office-mates who has just purchased a new laptop.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. The test of an organization is exactly the same as a test of any relationship; it’s how matters are dealt with when things go wrong.

The real measure of a company is not the greatness of its products. The true measurement is gauged by how they manage those times when the product fails.

The real measure of a car dealership is not the smoothness of the test drive, it is the way in which we are treated when the vehicle beaks down.

The real measure of a relationship is not how things are during good times but rather by how we deals with conflict and with tough, stressful times.

Nuance, I am sad to say has not only failed miserably in this area but, sadly, version 13 is the last of their products I will purchase.

Many years ago I read that it costs up to 30 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

I believe after 17 years I have demonstrated strong customer loyalty and now I must say goodbye because, as much as I have enjoyed and benefited from their products, I will no longer support a company that treats its customers with such disdain and lack of trust.

My blog was never been intended to be a sounding board for my whining but I am not my one to say nothing when I am not satisfied.

I have tried to contact Nuance and have had no luck in speaking to a senior person in the organization. Perhaps their senior management should contact Dell for a refresher on customer service.

I’m not willing to invest more of my time in making further calls and while I’m sure no one from Nuance will ever read my blog, I hope this will make a few of you who may be Dragon Naturally Speaking fans realize the level of customer service you will likely face should you ever call for assistance.

My next blog may be for the shortest I have written, as for the first time next week I am going to actually “write” it.

Till we read again.


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