Nuts to lousy customer service

By September 20, 2021September 27th, 2021No Comments

Every now and then, you get customer service that rocks and is amazing. Sadly, the ones we share with most people are the experiences where it went off the rails, like this one.

Like many people, I watch what I eat and maintain a fairly healthy balance. I am aware of genetic predispositions I’ve inherited and assume responsibility for my health. As a result, I  have an idea of the daily value of nutrients I consume and attempt to get a fair amount of calcium as osteoporosis runs in my family.

Quite often, I’ll pick up almond milk as an option to regular milk. Usually, I’m a label reader before I buy. However, have you ever picked up a product you’ve purchased many times before, see no warning of changes mentioned on the packaging, so you (wrongly) assume it’s the same nutritional content? That’s exactly what I did with a case, yes CASE, of Blue Diamond almond milk in the tetrapaks I recently purchased from Costco.

After consuming three of the six boxes, for some reason I checked the label expecting to see the usual 27% of daily value of calcium per one cup serving. I was shocked with what I saw. It was only a scant 2%. Yes, that’s right, less than one-tenth what it used to be.

Don’t complain, evoke change.

If you talk to someone who can do nothing to change the situation, all you’re doing is complaining. Instead, speak to someone who has the authority to consider changing whatever it is that concerns you, or will refer your concerns to the person who can. 

Given this, I called the customer service number on the package and spoke to Paola, the agent. She was pleasant enough to start with but when I began to explain my discontent, she kept on interrupting me to defend that they had changed their ingredients. I know, Paola, that’s why I called. I earnestly continued acknowledging that it was their choice to change ingredients and that what I had difficulty with was there was nothing on the face of the packaging to suggest they had done this. Therefore, I bought the product still thinking each serving was still 27% of the daily calcium value.

After several attempts, I felt I was getting nowhere, Paola didn’t hear my point, and most certainly didn’t validate my perspective.

TIP: When someone is expressing a concern, validate their perspective (don’t only defend yours)

In frustration, I blurted out, “Paola, this is really the point in the conversation — when the client is getting angered at not being heard — that you could correct the situation and compensate. Please relay my comments to your marketing people that I found this somewhat sneaky packaging not to blatantly note the change on the front. And now is an opportunity to be a rockstar customer service rep and compensate in some way, like offering to replace the product. In fact, do it before the client starts shouting (like I was!)”. Oh, she was just about to, she says. Ya, sure, we’ll go with that.

Here’s the email I received from her the next day:

Dear Marion,
Thank you for your interest in Blue Diamond products. Because we value you as a loyal consumer and to help you to continue to enjoy your favorite Blue Diamond products, we are very happy to enclose with the following link the money-saving coupons that you had requested, for our Almond Breeze
We thank you for taking the time to reach out to us! And as always – Thank You for Choosing Blue Diamond!
Assistant Consumer Advocate
(her contact info)

Sounds nice except for the comment about “coupons you had requested”. Why didn’t she offer them proactively? I’m not sure I can take back the box to Costco as I’d used half of them before I realized what was happening and so I’m likely stuck with the rest. (UPDATE: I was able to take back the unused tetra packs to Costco who refunded me my full purchase of the case as I returned half the package. Good to know, right?)

And here’s the kicker. Those coupons she included were $1 OFF A PURCHASE. That’s not compensation, having to spend four dollars to save one. I’m afraid she missed the lesson on customer service. Boo to Blue Diamond.

So, I emailed back, and here’s what I said:

Dear Paola,
Wow, let me tell you how Smuckers responded vs. your company …

A while back, I found a foreign product in my Folgers coffee (a little stick). When I called the customer service line, I was advised it was a twig and, although it never should be in my coffee I purchased, it was harmless. Without my asking, they sent me 2 coupons for 2 free containers of coffee.

Your response? I get a whole dollar off 3 products I have to buy. Meanwhile, I’m stuck with 6 tetra packs of your product I paid full price for and don’t even want anymore (given the low 2% calcium daily amount in a serving).

Sadly, both your product and your response are a sorry disappointment. 

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

What to do when someone has concerns:

My point is this — when dealing with clients, colleagues, or even family members, when you or your organization you represent does something that disappoints, here’s what you do:

  • apologize, 
  • validate their perspective (that doesn’t mean agree, just hear it from their viewpoint), 
  • correct the immediate situation, 
  • compensate for the inconvenience, and 
  • look in the longer term how this disappointing situation could be prevented in future.

Now THAT’s customer service, a lesson Blue Diamond missed. Or maybe it was just Paola missed it. And that’s the danger — if someone in your organization disappoints, your organization wears it. Please make sure your staff is trained to deal with these situations and empower them to take immediate action. Not sure how? You can google, read, take courses, speak to colleagues, do whatever you have to to ensure that next time things go off the rails in your organization, your client doesn’t say, “Nuts to them”, like I just did. Or give me a shout and we’ll chat.

If you were Paulo’s manager, what would you suggest she do in future? Do you think my response to her was bang on or a little too harsh? Can’t wait to read your responses below. Until then, take care, stay well, and communicate with your clients in a way that keeps them coming back.

UPDATE: A few days after I sent my email back to Paola, Blue Diamond marketing people emailed me assuring me that they would consider my comments. Let’s hope they do. In the meantime, I’m buying another brand. And kudos to Costco, where I bought the 6-pack case of this product. As I had used only a couple of them and explained my disappointment in the product, they gave me a full refund! Now, THAT’s customer service.

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Sign up for  “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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