Customer service

August 2, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

For nearly 50 years, PS has prided itself on helping customers get what they need. It's as simple as picking up the phone or dropping us an email. We're here to help with whatever we can do. It's just part of our DNA.

It's how we would expect to be treated.

Apparently, not everyone shares our thoughts on customer service.

In fact, sometimes it is so far in the opposite direction as to make one laugh out loud. Such was the case with a recent interaction I had.

I am a subscriber to The Wall Street Journal. I get their daily news briefing via email and on Saturday they send me a printed weekend edition of the paper.

In the six months since I started my subscription, I have perhaps received only two Saturday papers. Dutifully, I fill out their little form of missed delivery. The automated bot thanks me with the same message each time about how sorry it is and we'll do better next time.

So it was with eye-opening surprise that my latest dance with the customer service bot resulted in the following message:

"We apologize for the missed delivery. Due to an overwhelming number of missed delivery complaints we are no longer accepting them. Thank you."

Wow😎. That message gave me such a good belly laugh that I forgave them entirely.

Sometimes a smidge of honesty goes a long way.

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39 comments on “Customer service”

  1. Too funny. I took home delivery of our local newspaper for nearly forty years. We occasionally reported not getting the paper and a real person dutifully said we'd get a credit. Finally we insisted on knowing what they meant by receiving a credit. Once the failed deliveries equalled a full month's cost, we'd see our credit! What a policy!

    1. I too had home delivery of my local paper (the Montreal Gazette) for the last 34 years. A few weeks ago the person who was doing the delivery retired (doing a paper round has been beneath the dignity of a teenager for many a year now), and it seems there is nobody to replace him. So, no more home delivery - but I can buy the on-line version. No, thanks ... I cancelled.

      1. Here’s another one. Our elderly neighbour had her milk delivered by the milkman, quite a rare thing these days. It had to stop. Not because the milkman gave up his round but because he could no longer accept cash and she couldn’t pay online. That’s progress. 😉

  2. It may be honest, even from a bot, but it's still BS.
    What a terrible way to run a business.
    Might as well be even more honest & just say, 'We can't get our sh!t together'

    Good for 'PS Audio' for fixing their gear that falls outside of their standard
    warranty period, at their discretion.
    I believe that Nelson Pass provides the same, 'if it broke down, & it wasn't
    your fault, we'll still fix it even though it's out of warranty' policy.
    Now that's what I call really backing your product & your name.

    If I'm looking at purchasing either a Marantz DSD CD player for AU$12k MSRP
    (the SA10 flagship) or the equivalent from PS Audio for AU$16.8k MSRP (PST +
    DS DAC) then as far as I'm concerned I've paid an extra AU$4k for a lifetime
    warranty...that's the way that I look it.

    1. IMHO. Good warranty is definitely not equal to good customer service. One is talking, the other is actually do it. Good customer service is not only in the company culture but also in the personality of the customer service representative.

      1. I understand your point Terrence.
        Customer service can take many forms.
        My background is home-audio retail.
        I did the customer service 'talking thing' for 22 years.
        IMO, & from my experience, doing is much more important than talking.
        Just sayin' ✌

  3. Once I had an issue with a product I ordered online. I called the customer service number to complain. I politely explained my issue to the customer service agent but was getting nowhere, so I asked to speak to the Manager. He said, "I AM the Manager." I then said, "Well, let me speak to your boss." He replied, "My wife is out shopping and can't be reached." 😉

  4. Sometime last year I called a furniture company and got the message that as their customer telephone lines were so busy, they'd decided not to answer them and please send an email. So I called another company and bought their product.

    Strangely, one of the best customer service I've had recently was with HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs), otherwise known as the taxman. I called them yesterday as I seem to have overpaid my tax. They mostly employ very experienced ladies of a certain age who are calming (tax can be stressful), experienced, patient and very helpful. Many are based in and around Newcastle, in the North-East of England, with a lovely regional accent. Anyway, they got me sorted and sent me some money back, a lot easier than getting a refund form a hifi dealer.

    HMRC also have a fantastic system for paying your tax. You log in, type in how much you want to pay and the name of your bank. A QR code comes up on the screen, scan it, takes you to your banking app, press Pay and you're done. Never handed over money so quickly and easily.

  5. Years ago I had a friend who owned a Bryston amp. He had a party where some guest turned the volume way up and this was a time where bass and treble controls still existed and these were turned up also. And the inevitable happened. The amp blew up and it was obvious the amp had been abused. Most warranties don't cover gross abuse like this. The amp was sent to Bryston who repaired it and it came back without the expected bill. The owner was ready to pay for the repair so he was surprised and called Bryston for an explanation. The reply was simple. They said ' our amplifiers don't blow up'.

    1. Kind of like the myth that Rolls Royce cars don’t break down. When Elton John’s Rolls broke down in London some years back they had a replacement there in minutes, but then it was Elton John.

    2. I had a similar experience with Oppo ( which is no longer in business ). My original Oppo was a BD93 ( or something like that ). After about five years the draw froze shut and would not open. I had a disc from or local library in it. I had to take the top off of the unit and force the draw open to get the disc out so we could return it. I called Oppo, told them what happened and asked what will it cost to fix it? They said "what it cost me to ship it to them". I explained the warranty has expired. They explained that the actual transport mechanism is a $40 part and they were not going to have an Oppo down because a $40 part failed! I fell out of my chair when they said that!

      I use Kimber Kable almost exclusively. I do so because they sound so good. I used to think that they were a little sloppy at KK because I noticed over the years that all of their cables measure about 6 or 8 inches longer than the are supposed to be. I asked Ray Kimber about this at an audio show. He said people never measure properly when it comes to cables, so we add the extra so that people do not have to return the cables because they are 2 or 3 inches too short.

      Companies like PS Audio, Bryston, Oppo and Kimber understand what customer service means. These are the good guys.

  6. Paul, you must have the tolerance and patience of a saint. There is a funny side but I think it’s an appalling response. To me they’re saying we can’t provide the service we promised you (and you paid for) and rather than try and fix it we’re going to ignore you. That’s just the kind of service every customer wants to hear, not.
    Coincidentally my wife was asking this morning, why do they make nail varnish where the brush doesn’t reach the bottom of the bottle! Of course we know why they do it, but it’s not exactly good for the customer. Eye roll emoji x 2.

    1. Hah! Your wife's observant. I never thought about that but here's my take. I would bet good money it's not what you think. I cannot imagine a bunch of money grubbing bottle and brush designers conspiring to raise the brush 1/4" off the floor just so they can sell more nail varnish. I don't believe it because it gives them too much credit.

      No, I think this is the same syndrome that's been with us for years. When you get a group building a product—any product—there's almost never an end point person responsible for actually trying the product. And especially one trying the product that has the ability/authority to go back and make it better.

      It's good enough. Now ship it.

      I find our company approach of actually using and listening to new products and how many times they go back for rework until it's something we would be proud to use at home is rare.

      Whenever I cannot open a package, or twist a lid, or the spout clogs up, I ask myself: did anyone actually try to use this product?

      It is rare. Rare indeed.

    2. I think there is more to it. First, if the the brush had any chance of hitting the bottom, it would permanently fray. Second, when it sits somewhere for any length of time (at least in the case of my wife’s bottles) the polish separates and the thick base color part of the product goes to the bottom and is thick. If the brush would go to the bottom, it would sit in it and gum up.

    3. Thanks for your response’s Paul and Reed, they’re all good points. On the surface it seems such a simple problem. Some of those nail varnishes are very expensive, thankfully not my wife’s, and you’d just think it could be sorted. Surely they have consumer research and focus groups for this kind of thing, did nobody ever mention it. Some of the bottles have a ball in which mixes the varnish as you shake it but you end up looking like some frenzied toy testing a Duracell battery.
      Anyway, who knew nail varnish was such a thing here. 🙂

  7. Funny indeed..
    This is one thing in life today that drives me around the bend. Call the bank, robo answers and 30 menus later hangs up. At least a real person still answers the phone a the credit union. Yeah!!
    I think we are seeing the results of common core education people rising to the top.

    1. I had started with the NYT but didn't like the editorial slant. The WSJ has less of it. I am just hoping for news as it happens without a lot of opinion (unless the opinion is marked as such). I almost went with the BBC.

  8. Hey guys, you want to read about a good one (actually pretty bad). As audiophiles who buy & sell audio gear we often need to ship to a buyer or a seller ships to us. Last winter I was in Florida for my yearly 5 months away from the cold (I live near Montreal). Being an audiophile, when I first went down (2018) in the fall I said to myself ''how can I be 5 months without listening to my system?''. So I bought a pair of KEF LS50w and a KEF Cube 8 suwoofer to install in my Class A motorhome. Although not the equal to my home system these speakers helped keeping away the blues. Last winter after being installed for a few weeks I began experiencing problems with them. I contacted KEF America who are based in Marlboro, New Jersey. They suggested I send them up to them. Since I didn't have the original boxes with me I went to FedEx to have them packed and shipped. They arrived at KEF America pretty much banged up. When KEF America sent the photos I felt like crying. I went through all kinds of emotions ranging from dismay to rage. I submitted a claim to FedEx, which is quite an exercise I can tell you. They are very hard to reach and they have no page on their website to follow up on one's claim. They will do everything to discourage you from expecting to get compensation. After a couple of months of trying to get an answer or settlement I gave the green light to KEF America to fix them, which they did. Meanwhile, I even sent by registered mail the whole claim form with the photos and all pertinent documents to their head office in Tennessee. They never acknowledged receipt of the package. I came back home in April with this issue not resolved and found out I could take them to small claims court even back home. Their head office in Toronto contacted me and played their little head games like their American counterpart. So this will be heading to court. They collect millions in insurance fees which they never intend to pay. So, my audiophile friends the moral of this story is NEVER use FedEx to ship your precious audio gear. Their customer service sucks to the extreme.

    1. FedEx had major problems this spring! We could not get them to deliver. The local distribution center was 2-3 weeks behind. When your building high volume electronics having a smt line shut down for several weeks is pure mayhem. I called the local news for them to do a story. They could not get hold of FedEx but did a story on the evening news for several days anyway. FedEx finally brought in contractors to get back on track. I am still licking my wounds over this...

  9. I’m sure they don’t actually distribute to homes, but have that done by 3rd parties. I feel sorry for companies like that these days. No one seems to want to work, and many that do don’t take pride in it. Its like they ask themselves “Does it make ME happy to deliver your newspaper? Nope.”.

  10. From 1990 to 2012 I owned several retail stores in NYC. My business philosophy to build a strong foundation and name recognition was ‘great customer service and sell the best, most reliable products available’ will build a business and the word will spread. It definitely worked for the 22 years that I thrived in my business.

    Once in a while we had a really terrible customer that caused my staff a lot of grief (it was pretty rare). My staff was given a different philosophy on how to deal with all of our customers. I told them in no uncertain terms “You need to ‘bend over backwards’ for every customer but never ‘bend over’ for them”.

    That said, my real philosophy was that “The customer is almost always right”.

    1. One of my major bugbear’s is the banks. They tell us they’re closing branches because we’re all doing more banking online yet it is their tactic’s and behaviour’s that have pushed us that way. In particular opening hours, they were reduced due to Covid but have since not returned to pre Covid times.
      This probably isn’t really the place for me to be ranting about the banks but hey, I feel a little better now. 🙂

      1. Interesting comment about the banks. Here in small town just south of KC over the past 5yrs went from busy lobby to seldom do I see anyone at the bank. Also they need 5 day notice if you want to withdraw cash 1k and above, they don't keep cash around. Strange to me, anyway.

  11. I got the WSJ when I took business law. When I was no longer a student my subscription price went up. I was to busy to read it so I did not resubscribe. They called me to sell a subscription. I told them I was out of school and out of money nor did I have the time to read it. After several failed attempts to convince me to to buy a subscription they called and offered student subscription so I took it. I went thru this cycle several times then tired of playing the game and no longer subscribed. Does anyone know if they still do this?

  12. Recently I had a similar issue having my Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News delivered. Finally after multiple times calling to be told that a replacement paper would be delivered shortly (which never came), followed by being told my account would be credited (which I never was until I called again to complain), I asked to speak to a manager.

    Well the lady I spoke with thought she was trying to help by offering to teach me how to use the online version, I explained to her that I know how to use the online version, but I like to read my comics with my coffee on the porch and hold a real newspaper. She then responded she could give me the name of my courier to call instead of her manager. I explained that I do not pay my courier, I pay the Dallas Morning News. It is the Dallas Morning News responsibility to get my paper delivered.

    I always try to be courteous to those who must pick up the phone and provide customer service. They are at the lowest rung of the ladder and have little authority. That is why you must speak to a “real”manager.

    The manager I spoke with was professional and understood my dilemma. I explained to him that I used to deliver the Denver Post, and had to go door to door to collect the money each month. If I screwed up, I didn’t get paid by the customer, but still had to pay the Denver Post for the papers. Since I pay the Dallas Morning News directly, it is their responsibility to insure delivery.

    So far , four Sundays in a row the paper has been delivered on time and intact.

    Have you tried the Washington Post? Bezos keeps his nose out of the Post, same can be said for Murdock.

  13. The WSJ's thing reminds me of what I have seen among some administrators - if there's some part of the job they can't do well, or don't want to do, just re-define their own job description to remove that part. In WSJ's case, if they produce a good newspaper but can't deliver it, just act like delivery is not part of their job! Works great if you can get away with it. But, as a colleague of mine used to say, "well, that's got to be somebody's job."

  14. China didn't carry out their threat to shoot down her plane and cause world war III. We can all relax now and listen to our systems. I'm not sure why she even went. She's so incoherent and senile. These dinosaurs need to retire.

  15. I once would not get any response to my request for a refund from a Florida-based investment advisory service that guaranteed a full refund if the subscription cost was not offset by gains by following the recommendations for six month's time. After the service ignored my letters and emails for several months, I decided to write the Florida Secretary of State consumer affairs department with all the details. I received my refund in the mail two weeks later.

  16. Paul most of your column readers are likely familiar with the Bluesound system offered by NAD. I use this system for casual listening as it has many features I like. However the system lacks built in Chromecast capability, a feature wanted by many. On the Nad forum there used to be a thread where users were asking about Chromecast and making suggestions on how it could be incorporated. Nad's response? They told their users they have heard what they have to say and shut the thread down. Chromecast is still not a feature..... I am still amazed as this incident completely changed my view of the company

  17. Unforgivable to "NKC Unforgettable" comes to mind.
    Irrespective of cost, contractual terms must be met.
    But hey-ho it is all on line anyway.

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