Customer service

Customer Service in an Online World

Building Customer Loyalty vs Opportunistic Money Grab:

I came back from my long morning walk the other day to that “look” on my wife’s face—the one where something is clearly not right. Before she could tell me what happened, it happened again—the house alarm went off. No big deal, I thought … so I tried resetting the alarm, and it happened again two minutes later. And then again, and again … repeating the process every two minutes.

How were we going to make this stop? We went online for do-it-yourself fixes (which were beyond my technical ability due to the need to fix a wiring problem), and we called an alarm company (who wanted to sell us a completely new alarm system). Panic started to set in, as the idea that we might somehow have to continue dealing with this bloody alarm throughout the day, and into the night

We finally called the manufacturer, who explained that we have a very old model, and told us to just unplug the alarm. Oops—since the alarm panel is built into the wall, there was no plug to be found. Exasperated (desperate?), I called back and sent the manufacturer service rep a picture of my alarm panel. “Look—there’s no plug to unplug!” I pleaded, sensing I was about to receive an offer for a technician to come to my house for a big fee. “Sir”, the service rep replied, “do you see that little red wire all the way on the left of your panel? Loosen the screw holding the red wire in place, and pull the wire away … that will make the alarm stop.” Magic—it worked! I thanked him, and we hung up.

Dealing with customer service is an experience I generally dread, particularly with a very loud alarm going off every two minutes. And we live in a world where the spirit of Gordon Gekko lives—the “greed is good” mentality often, and sadly, is manifest at the expense of doing the right thing. Should we provide those in immediate need with a simple solution, or do we charge them for goods or services that people who know better would never buy? This service representative frankly had us over a barrel, and could well have taken advantage of the fact that we know absolutely nothing about alarm systems. In retrospect, I probably would have gladly paid the service fee to have a technician come “fix” the alarm.

Sometimes, just because we can take advantage of an opportunity, does not mean we should. Particularly in this era of COVID, with so many people newly unemployed, and so many more under extreme stress wondering how they will make ends meet, now is the time to be nice, and help our neighbor. Let’s all just do the right thing—it’s the right thing to do. 

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