Saturday, 2 February 2008

Customer Care - How Not to Do It

When our children were babies the ubiquitous brand of plug-in baby monitor was the 'BugPlug'. Once they grew too old to need it, our BugPlug was recycled to act as a night-time relay between the garage/garden shed alarms and the house. (Clever, huh?)

One day we had a thunderstorm, and the sender unit stopped working. I unscrewed the casing and found, as suspected, that the fuse had blown. It was an unusually small fuse cartridge, and I was unable to source a replacement. So I contacted the company. The smarmy BF at the other end of the line cheerfully told me that they would service my unit for £18. (This was some years ago, and the price of the service was more than half the cost of a new unit). I said that it did not need a service, I just needed a replacement fuse.

"How d'you know you need a fuse?", the smarmy BF asked.

"Because the fuse has blown," I replied.

"How d'you know it's blown? he said.

"Because I've tested it," I said.

"That means you must've opened the unit," he said.

"Yes," I said. "You need to do that to discover the fuse has blown."

"In that case," he replied, "We can't service it. You have to buy a new unit."

"But a new unit costs around £30," I said. "The fuse I need is worth a few pence."

"We can't supply you with a fuse, because you've opened the unit."

"But if I hadn't opened the unit, I wouldn't know that I only needed a fuse, and you'd have charged me £18 plus postage to replace it."

"Yes, that's right. We can't take responsibility for people opening our units."

"But it's not your unit, it's mine. I own it. I don't expect you to take responsibility for it."

"Nevertheless, we can't help you. It's Policy"

"How f*$*^g ridiculous," I observed. "You're a bunch of profiteering ars!!4*%wipes!" (Or words to that effect)

As it happened I was able to deconstruct the old fuse and solder new fuse wire into it, taken from an audio fuse of appropriate rating. The monitor has functioned beautifully for ten years. I have spent the intervening period advising people not to buy Bugplugs, and the company seems to have ceased to exist. I'm glad. I hope I helped to achieve that.

Apart from the uncooperative arsewipery of the company, there was a potentially lethal implication. In refusing to supply replacement fuses (which are, after all, designed to blow and be replaced), people might have been tempted to replace the fuse with fuse wire of an inappropriate rating, or even bypass it, so risking burning their houses down. Possibly some did. BugPlug's 'policy' may have led to deaths.

By way of customer care contrast, our Yale night-latch stopped working a while back. I found that a small plastic component inside had snapped, and wrote to Yale asking the price of a replacement. By return of post they sent me not one but two replacements, no charge, compliments of the company. Yale won my respect and loyalty for the cost of a few pence, and I big them up whenever the occasion arises (you can tell what an interesting dinner guest I am).

By the way, Yale locks rock. Buy Yale. From the nice people at Yale. They look after their customers with a smile.

Pity they don't make baby monitors.

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