Today I was wondering if Customer Service can Survive Growth. What exactly to I mean? When Tesla first started and only had the roadster, customer service was impeccable. Complaints simply didn’t exist.
As the auto industry and airlines consolidated, customer service went down as the companies grew trying to provide more product at a better price. When the big three automakers in Detroit went through bankruptcy, the service dropped like a hot rock. In 1988 I bought my first new car, a Toyota SR5 Pickup. It was a great truck and I wish I could recall a reason to even take it to the dealer. Everything just worked.
In 2016 we added a Jeep Wrangler Sahara JK to the business fleet. Specifically we bought it for the KuhlToys show. Sadly, after Fiat acquired Chrysler from Mercedes, they changed the electronics, and there have been some issues. You can read about my entire customer service headache at WranglerForum.com. My handle on the forum is KuhlToys.
Closer to home, literally, is our home automation and alarm system. For the last 20 years I have been loosely affiliated with the home technology and automation industry. At one point I owned several stores and was partnered with some other companies. For the do it yourself world it has filtered down to just two companies if you really want products that work.
The home automation industry is littered with products that won’t talk to each other and Google, Apple and Amazon all trying to run your show in your house. HomeControls and SmartHome are really the two “go to” places when it comes to things that work and don’t require a degree in programming highly proprietary systems.
I have always believed that you should own what you buy. The millennial attitude of renting baffles me. When it comes to my home I really don’t want to have some company own the software running my house, so I have been a big fan of “open systems”. That means something you the homeowner can fix or work on or at least hire someone else without starting over.
For many many years I was a fan of Home Automation Inc aka HAI and Leviton. Home Depot used to carry Leviton and Home Automation was easy enough to program anyone could do it. In 2010, I went to the SmartHome warehouse just because it was close to my home in Southern California. They convinced me to drop HAI and go with ELK. Since they owned Insteon, the lighting system that killed X-10 and the last real DIY choice for home automation, I followed their advice.
Since then I have found that the ELK-Insteon mix is really owned by Smarthome and they sent their customer service overseas. Normally I would be all for this because it would mean that I get a better price on Insteon and ELK. That lower price in dollars isn’t worth it.
In two weeks I head out of the country for , and like most areas in Southern California, homeless people are moving in quickly so I wanted to finish the alarm portion of my ELK M1 installation. I got on the SmartHome website and ordered the last four door sensors. Instead I received someone else’s order. Instead of being able to just run by the warehouse and give back what I didn’t order and pick up the correct items I spent 45 minutes on the phone with “Ryan” in India.
Four days later I called back and talked to “Adam” in India, and he said that it was being “escalated”. Just four years ago this would have been solved with a 20 minute drive. Today it has taken over a week. Instead of hiring people that work in the warehouse, in order to make more money and sell more product, FIAT, SmartHome and others have moved service to third parties who have zero knowledge and zero authority. In both cases they know there are no other options unless we just choose to go without.
This doesn’t have to happen. In fact several great companies that once farmed off customer service to over seas call centers have brought those jobs back to the states. The real cost is a lot higher than they expected.
If you want to grow your business without sacrificing customer service, give us a call.