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Is Customer Service a Myth at Staples, Nordstrom’s and Samsung?

I am amazed at how many large firms promote customer service but offer very little. Most CEO’s believe their employees are empowered and provide great service but unfortunately this is really a myth. The lack of empowerment and service recovery will prevent these firms from excellence and repeat business.

I bought a Galaxy Samsung Camera for my safari in Botswana in May. Great camera. In November the lens would no longer open or shut 100%. Then I got an opportunity to experience “hell”. Trying to find someone at Samsung to get it fixed was difficult. They outsource their call center to the Philippines.  The first thing they ask for is the camera model number.  There is none. The first person said he could not help because there was no model number so when I asked to speak to his supervisor he put me on hold and disappeared. 

Irate Customer

After several attempts I went to Best Buy, which also sells the camera. They helped me with the identification numbers  (which were still not what Samsung wanted). The receipt from Amazon was not enough.  After a few weeks and many phone calls and emails I finally got a location to ship the camera. In all of their communications they talk about wanting to provide great service.

When you outsource to the Philippines or India you are on a suicide mission. Regardless of how much money you save, the employees come from a caste system. They are not empowered. They are only allowed to say NO. I will never buy another product from Samsung. This was the first and last purchase. They have robots with scripts that cannot think outside the box. Management has never looked at their own camera to discover that the model number they ask for does not exist.

Staples is super slow. When you buy a service contract for a laptop they do not honor the time period they sell to make repairs or replace. It took a friend about 30 days to get a new replacement laptop. Service in the store is slow. The firm they outsource the warranty work to called Square is slow. 

Because the replacement computer was not being sent immediately, an employee asked if I would like to talk to the office of the President?  I said yes and they transferred me. (It is really just a call center with a sexy title). The man in Miami I talked to could do nothing. When I asked what he was going to do for Service Recovery he had never heard of the term. I suggested he give a free service contract for $159. Under no conditions was he going to do anything like this. Staples could not afford it. The real cost is probably $50. They just lost a couple of customers. I suspect they think they provide great service. Again, NO empowerment and NO service recovery.

Nordstrom’s has no Empowerment or Service Recovery. None.  My daughter lives in China and in early September bought a $30 coffee gift card for her mother on  a three way conference call with Nordstrom’s at the Mall of America in Minnesota. I called my wife to let her know and she raced over to the Mall of America to get her card and get some coffee. They did NOT have the card. Could not find it. About 10 days later I called Nordstrom’s and talked to the manager of the coffee shop. (In the Mall of America there have to be at least 100 other places to buy coffee.) The manager said she would talk to her manager and call me back. She did and said she would need to talk to my daughter in China to get her credit card number. I said fine but she has a 12 hours time difference from Minnesota time so call after 7 PM.  The young woman called back about 2 hours later to say she found the charge. The young lady did volunteer to drive the card to our house on Sunday, which she did. My wife was happy to finally receive the gift from her daughter.  

This is what Nordstrom’s should have done. When my wife, Pat first went there (about 15 minutes from our home) and they could not find the gift card they should have just given her a $30 coffee gift card. The real cost is probably $8. Would Nordstrom’s have gone broke had they done this?  NO. When I called they should have just given me the card and INCREASED THE VALUE TO $50. That is a combination of empowerment and service recovery. I suspect they spent over $100 in labor time over this period of time. Nordstrom’s is supposed to be the icon for great service in the US. They still don’t understand that….without empowerment and service recovery providing great service is very difficult.

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