Sometimes I think customer service is dying in Corporate America. And today’s happenings clinched it for me. Here’s my story, and I’ll be interested to hear what your take is on this. This is lengthy, so grab a cup o’ java and read on…

For the past couple months, I’ve been in the market for a new color printer/copier. Of course, I want to “seal the deal” by the end of the year for tax purposes. I checked with my current copier provider (let’s call them Dealer #1) and another one in town (Dealer #2). I settled on the Bizhub C203 (Konica Minolta) and then went about striking the best deal. When it came right down to it, both providers matched price and maintenance agreements, so I chose to stay with Dealer #1 because I had been doing business with them for at least 10+ years and have bought 3 copiers from them to date (This is otherwise known as Customer Loyalty).

We fill out the paperwork and order the copier. I’m told the terms are Net 30, but of course I tell them I’m going to pay the invoice by the end of the year for tax purposes. We talk about possibly paying via credit card, cash, or possibly taking out a loan. Shouldn’t matter to them, as long as they get their money, right? Wrong!

Two days ago I get a voicemail from the salesperson at Dealer #1, telling me that they had called my bank and I did not have the funds available for the purchase. So how do I want to pay for it? Credit card? Cashiers Check?

Whoa! Wait a minute! We hadn’t even set up a date for delivery yet. Why were they calling my bank to see if the money was there? What if I had the money in another account and wasn’t going to transfer it until delivery was happening? Or what if I was paying by credit card?

Needless to say, I hadn’t called the salesperson back because I was still fuming. The more I thought about it, the more it just didn’t feel right. I had been a customer of theirs for over 10 years. Every copier we purchased from them had been paid for with a personal check, at time of delivery. I’ve always paid my statements with them. Why were they questioning me now? Isn’t a good customer worth anything anymore? Apparently not.

I get a call from the salesperson’s manager this morning, asking if I had decided how I was going to pay for the copier. Well, that did it. The flood gates opened. I explained to him the longevity of our business relationship. To tell you the truth, I felt violated that a company would actually do that to a long-time customer, especially when we weren’t even that close to the delivery date yet. (Another interesting note is that this company was locally owned until just this past year when it was gobbled up by Corporate…which has something to do with it, if you ask me.)

Shortly after that, I receive an email from the salesperson apologizing for the miscommunication and sympathizing with me, but there was nothing he could do about it. Oh, by the way, the credit department was now demanding a cashiers check upon delivery of the copier. So, that opened the flood gates again. I emailed him back, explaining all my concerns with their customer service and inviting him to share the email with his superiors, in the hopes it would somehow be helpful in improving their customer service.

Luckily, today was my Women Business Owners Network (WBON) monthly meeting. I was able to tell my story to a few close business acquaintances there, and all of them were shocked that a company would treat a customer that way. They encouraged me to contact them again and demand some sort of discount or something for the faux paux. I needed to hear that from them, just to validate that what I was feeling wasn’t out of line.

So I get back to my office and call the salesperson back. I tell him I’m ready to cancel the deal because of the treatment I’ve received trying to strike this deal. I realize I’m “small potatoes” compared to some of the larger clients they have, but I still deserve to be treated with respect. I told him the deal is off unless they think they can do something to make it right.

So now I have to call Dealer #2 and ask if they’ll still honor the price quote they gave me a week or so ago, because I’m very disenchanted with Dealer #1 and am calling off that deal. He assures me they’d be happy to meet the price he gave me before. He asks why the deal with Dealer #1 is off. I briefly explain to him what happened. He assures me they don’t call banks unless it’s a lease arrangement where it will need to be paid over a length of time. Otherwise, it’s up to me how I pay the invoice. No credit check. No cashiers check. (Note: This is a locally owned company.)

After I get off the phone with Dealer #2, I find a voicemail from the salesman at Dealer #1. They’ve put together a goodie bag for me with pens, mugs, mousepads, etc.; a Husker football book featuring Tom Osborne; and they’re going to take $200 off my invoice. Plllleeeeeaaaaasssseeee…..

Needless to say, my customer loyalty with Dealer #1 is gone. I’m forging ahead and will create a new customer relationship with Dealer #2, who is happy to have my business…and my money…. I wonder if they’ll call Dealer #1 and thank them for the new customer they just got?

Feel free to share your thoughts, if you made it this far. I welcome your comments.

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