Keeping the DIY Dollar

Silly customer! You cannot hurt a Twinkie!

– Apu

When we were shopping for our dishwasher (now installed, about which more soon), I eliminated a specific large manufacturer from all our searches. I accidentally read specifications for one dishwasher from this maker, but I discarded it from consideration based on our past experience. (I’m not mentioning the name of the manufacturer because I haven’t contacted them to be involved in this post.)

When we originally remodeled the kitchen in 2002, we bought a new range (UK: cooker) by this maker. In 2010, it failed. DRAMATICALLY.

housewife_with_oven_fire516x350

Here is the email I sent to customer service (the model number and purchase information were included in the subject line):

Hello! This evening, I was baking a frozen lasagne at 400 degrees for 90 minutes according to package instructions. At about the 70th minute, the oven started to beep and display “FI.” I quickly discovered that “FI” stood for “FIRE” because the edges of the lasagne and the bakable package tray were, indeed, on fire. I turned the oven off and removed and extinguished the lasagne. Having turned the oven off, I assumed it was OFF (as in “not on”), but within two minutes, it started beeping and flashing “FI” again. I opened the oven to find that the broiler element was on full blast despite the oven having been turned off, causing the oven to smoke (also despite the fact that I never turned on the broiler). I hit the “cancel” button several times, but it stayed on. At that point, I sprinted to the breaker box and turned the whole oven circuit off.

After my heart rate came back down, I checked to see if the oven had been recalled. It had not, but the symptoms appear to be very similar to those reported in the [recent year] recall.

I am a frequent baker and I am very familiar with this oven’s functions (except “FI” which was a new one on me!). It’s been fine until today.

Is there a new or upcoming recall on this oven? If not, how should I proceed? Does the company want to check the appliance for faults? I’m going to have houseguests in a week, and I’m going to need an oven, but I’d rather replace than repair (since it seems to want to burn down the house). Should I just buy a new oven and chalk this up to “ovens last eight years”? I’d really appreciate your guidance, because I’m not really sure what to do, having never had an oven with a “firestarter” setting before!

Thank you for any advice you can offer asap, and have a great weekend.

I did not ask for the manufacturer to replace or repair the range. I asked for their guidance and whether they wanted to look at the unit in light of similar problems.

The manufacturer responded:

It’s not under warranty anymore, and there isn’t a recall. The control unit is bad; you could pay to have it repaired. Hope you understand! Screw you.  – Customer service

I am paraphrasing, but only slightly.

helen_wait

The Kev and I both have day jobs (we blog because we love!). Mine involves quite a bit of coordination and planning with the customer service department. In that role, I used to work with a customer service manager who said, “Every customer complaint is a gift.” Although I often laughed when she said it, her point was a good one. If a customer takes the time to give you information that could teach you something, you’d be foolish to dismiss it. Instead, see if there’s a larger pattern or a process issue or a product/service gap that can be addressed. And empower customer service to do something other than just bat away issues like whiffle balls — that’s a tough job made tougher by having no discretion to create solutions.

You know what would have made me a loyal customer? Something like this:

[Paragraph 1–establish human contact/pass the Turing test] That does sound alarming! I hope you were able to find something other than the lasagne to eat last night.

[Paragraph 2–emphasize issue importance and escalation] Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a recall, but I will forward your message to the team that is responsible for considering these issues so they can review your information.

[Paragraph 3–show that the customer was heard/provide manufacturer-focused options] I appreciate your concerns and the time you took to alert us to your experience. From your description, it appears that the control unit on your range failed. The range is out of warranty, but we are improving our products all the time based on customer feedback. I’m attaching a $50 coupon that you can use toward the replacement control unit, or toward another [manufacturer] range. For fast delivery of a new unit, try [preferred vendor], or click here to find certified repair shops in your area [link].

[Paragraph 4–thank the customer] I hope this information helps you. Thank you for contacting us, and please feel free to get back in touch, with any follow-up questions or other concerns.

Probably any oven could fail in this way — that’s not really the core issue. Most people just want to be heard. I needed a new or repaired range fast, and having that issue heard (plus a small coupon) could have made my decision.

housewife-happy

I could have been this happy! Wait…no one is THIS happy.

Instead, I walked into a big box store, refused to look at the manufacturer’s units, and bought a competing product. Almost five years later, I still will not consider that maker for any appliance type. Certainly, I’m willing to hold a grudge(!), but a better customer service commitment would have brought out my loyal side.

The customer has a role to play here as well. It’s useful for complaints to be informational and concise. Messages should be polite! It’s not the customer service person’s fault, so no need to be aggressive or rude. Finally, the complaint should be clear about what is requested as an outcome. In this transaction, I was overly wordy and a little sarcastic (albeit in a peppy way), and my request meandered quite a bit, so there is improvement to be had on my side as well.

Generally, DIYers are skeptical folks who are very careful with their money, but they do spend money! Someone who is re-doing a kitchen is probably replacing a range that another family might keep longer. A little customer service savvy goes a long way toward attracting–and retaining–that kind of spending.

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5 Responses to Keeping the DIY Dollar

  1. marie says:

    That lovely manufacturer wouldn’t have started with a “W” by chance? My parents had one that decided to run a self-cleaning cycle mid-pizza. Did you know that the cleaning cycle automatically engages the child lock? mmmm, charcoal pizza

    • Stacey says:

      Nope, not a “W”. I should have mentioned in the post that we still did EAT the lasagne after I extinguished it. Charcoal pizza, though — that’s pretty much inedible, especially when locked in the oven!

      I guess I don’t understand why cooking electronics don’t default to OFF or at least to something safe rather than to EXTERMINATE mode.

  2. Those 50’s housewives are happy because their ovens are well made and will never break.

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