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Arnie Rowland

Discussion of issues related to SQL Server, the MSDN SQL Support Forums, the complex interplay between Developers and SQL Server Administrators, and our sometimes futile attempts to have a 'normal' life.

Marketing Mistakes and Poor Customer Service can Hurt Your Business

Yesterday, I was able to cause a potential customer to buy a competing product. In fact, according to my tally sheet, it was the 43rd time that I am aware of where my dissatisfaction with this company's customer service directly translated into loss of sales for the company of it's products. And i suspect that there have been quite a few other lost opportunities because of my tendency to verbalize my displeasure.

You may ask, "Who is the Company, and what did they do to rankle you so?"

Let me explain. I needed to purchase a NAS for my home office. Being a diligent shopper, I dutifully studied the competing product's marketing materials, visited the various company's websites, and checked out the reviews. Since, as many of you, I have a more 'complex' home network than the average, I was attracted to a particular vendor's marketing claims. On the specification page of Buffalo's Terrastation Live, I was attracted to the statement "Directory Integration see TeraStation Pro", and when reviewing the Terrastation Pro specifications page, found "Directory Integration Active Directory". Since AD integration was important, it seemed to indicate that the Terrastation Live was the same as the Terrastation pro and would serve my needs. I purchased the Terrastation Live, plugged it into the network, imaged all drives to the Terrastation, unplugged the Terrastation and stored it off site, and promptly left the country for 6 weeks.

Imagine my disappointment when I returned and set about to configure the Terrastation Live to support my network, and then finding that it did not provide AD integration. So, as any reasonable consumer experiencing a 'misunderstanding' such as this, I called Buffalo's support. After quite a wait, I spoke with a support person who curtly informed me that AD support was not provided with the Terrastation Live. I tried to discuss the misleading marketing materials and explain that it seemed a little deceptive and could be considered to be to a 'bait and switch' tactic. He shot back that the marketing material meant 'Buy' rather than 'refer to'. I held on to the concept that it was grossly misleading since it would have been easy to indicate that the Terrastation Life did not have AD support -but instead make the implication that it was the "same as" the Terrastation Pro. He wasn't having any of that and gruffly informed me that since I now had the product over 30 days, I couldn't take it back to the vendor, that Buffalo wasn't going to address my compliant, and that, in so many words, I 'could stuff it'.(And, oh yes, I did keep copies of the web pages discussed.)

I contemplated a small claims case and concluded that the cost, time, and aggravation just wasn't worth it. However, I did vow to drive as much business away from Buffalo as possible. So when asked about small office NAS units, I steer folks away from considering Buffalo's products. And every time I am in the large electronics retailer that stocks their products, and if I see anyone looking at Buffalo's NAS units, I politely disclose my own experience. No rancor, no diatribe, -I just calmly explain my dissatisfaction with Buffalo's misleading marketing and the cavalier and dismissive manner of my support experience. In every case, the potential NAS customer moved on to competing products and did not purchase a Buffalo product.

Mistakes happen. Marketing mistakes happen. The 'right' thing to do when confronted with a mistake is to correct the mistake and satisfy the customer. The 'wrong' thing to do is to assume that you can 'blow off' the customer and it won't effect the bottom line. Companies need to learn that there is an obligation to conduct business in an ethical manner -and the ethical thing to do is clean up mistakes and move on. Use the opportunity to create customer satisfaction -and hopefully, loyalty. Use the opportunity to provide feedback to the marketing department. Use the opportunity to strengthen customer support.

When markets are increasing, it seems easy to ignore customer satisfaction. After all, every product being produced is sold as fast as they can be shipped. But when the markets mature, or contract, satisfied customers become an important ally of marketing efforts. For my part, I am proving that yes, unhappy customers can do something about companies that treat consumers as expendable commodities rather than valuable resources.

Happy customers increase the bottom line, dissatisfied customers can hurt the bottom line.

What have you done when faced with misleading marketing claims and/or poor customer service?

Published Sunday, November 15, 2009 9:17 AM by ArnieRowland
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Andrew Kelly said:

My brother had a similar experience with Buffalo the other day. He purchased what he thought was a NAS since the marketing literature stated it was. When he tried to configure it as he thought it should work he had issues and called their support. The support person promptly informed him it wasn't really a NAS even though that is what the literature says. He called it a mini-NAS :).  My brother did get to return it but I agree with you in that if the marketing material is that misleading they are pretty much scum. I have a Link station from them and will never buy from them again myself.

November 15, 2009 4:06 PM

KKline said:

Stick it to the man, Arnie!

November 15, 2009 6:20 PM

SQLRockstar said:

i learned a long time ago that if you get good service in a restaurant you are likely to come back but tell fewer people. if you get bad service, you are not only likely to never return, but go out of your way to tell ten people to never visit.

clearly something is amiss with that company and the either the message of poor service is not being relayed high enough up the chain or those up the chain have no idea how to remedy the situation. then again, they may not care to fix things.

November 16, 2009 7:15 AM

Deborah Read said:

Hi Arnie,

Interesting article and well considered, given the multitude of errors being made daily by indifferent customer "service" departments and help desks, etc.

I've read one of yours; how about reading one of mine? My article, Customer Service Mistakes That are Made Everyday, covers a few of your points and adds a few more. Given the passion you have for the subject, I'd be interested in your opinion. (I also have another article linked to this one entitled Top Training Rules for Great Customer Service, as I used to teach seminars and write programs on the subject).

Best regards, Deborah

(The provided link is non-functional. Mutual cross linking is appreciated.)

January 7, 2010 11:40 AM
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