Category Archives: Customer service

Home Depot online appliance purchase: a smooth experience delivered

After 11 years of faithful service, my washing machine bit the dust last weekend. A few hours of online research and some feedback from friends led me to choose a traditional-style machine with an agitator as its replacement. There aren’t a lot of models to choose from in this category, since most new washers are high-efficiency. Given my limited number of choices, I felt comfortable buying a washing machine online without seeing it in person, something I’ve never done.

I typically purchase appliances at Lowe’s, but Lowe’s couldn’t deliver the model I wanted until 9 days after my purchase, so I chose to purchase the same appliance at Home Depot. In a 2012 blog post, I explained what a ridiculous experience I had trying to buy an appliance online from Lowe’s. Thankfully, the Home Depot ordering process was 1,000 times easier. I started my shopping at Ebates.com, so I could earn 3% cash back on my purchase. After clicking the Ebates link to the Home Depot website, I added the appliance to my virtual cart. The only downside of the Home Depot appliance ordering process is that the company requires you to purchase new washing machine hoses, as it refuses to install your new washer with old hoses. I was planning to do this anyway, but it may be frustrating for others. I don’t believe you have to purchase the hoses from Home Depot, but you must have new hoses on hand. You can read about all the Home Depot’s appliance delivery requirements online.

During checkout, I was shown a calendar of available delivery dates and selected the one I wanted. An online notice (and follow-up email) from Home Depot informed me that I would receive a phone call the day before the delivery date and be given a delivery window. After that, I successfully completed my online purchase.

Sure enough, someone called me on Tuesday to let me know what time on Wednesday the washing machine would be delivered. The next day, the delivery driver called in advance of the delivery and even asked if he could come early. From the time the truck arrived to the time the delivery crew left with my old washing machine, only 20 minutes elapsed! I immediately washed a couple of loads of laundry and confirmed everything worked properly. The delivery drivers were courteous, and nothing was damaged during the delivery.

The Home Depot offers free appliance delivery and removal of your old appliance, while competitors like H.H. Gregg and Sears do not. Plus, Home Depot’s regular price is the same as Lowe’s for the washing machine I purchased. As I write this, it’s actually $45 less, because Home Depot is offering 10% off all appliance purchases of $397 or more.

Overall, my online appliance-buying experience was much better at Home Depot than at Lowe’s, and the delivery was icing on the cake. I will definitely consider Home Depot when another appliance needs replacement.

Where’s your favorite place to purchase appliances and why?

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Linksys customer service and router support needs improvement

This week, I spent hours troubleshooting problems with my printer and a laptop. Finally, I realized the problem was not these devices but my Linkys E3000 router. I checked the Linksys technical support page to see if any new firmware updates were available for my router and determined I had the newest one. So, I decided to turn to the live chat feature on the Linksys website for assistance.

My chat request was answered promptly by a Linksys representative. He spent about 30 minutes asking me questions about the setup of my router, printer and computers. I was asked to provide the names and model numbers of equipment and to explain what I’d done so far to troubleshoot the problem. I also had to provide the serial number of my LinkSys E3000 router. It was at this point, after 30 minutes of questioning, I was informed that because my product was out of warranty, LinkSys might have to charge me for assistance.

The customer service technician then walked me through the settings on my router. The technician said he could see some of my router settings were incorrect, but he couldn’t tell me which ones they were unless I paid for further assistance. The fee would be $30 for this incident or I could pay $40 for six months of support. However, the technician noted he could not guarantee that he could fix my problem.

After that, the session turned into a sales pitch in which he tried to convince me to just buy a new Linksys router. I said I’d have to think about it and ended the chat session. When it was over, I felt Linksys had wasted 40 minutes of my life, and I was no closer to solving my computer problems.

As I reflect on this encounter, Linksys, it is easy for me to suggest how you can improve your customer service:

  1. Offer free support to anyone owning your product, or at least for those who purchased it in the last five years
  2. If you can’t do #1, ask for the customer’s serial number at the beginning of the chat session, before you ask dozens and dozens of questions about the technical issue. Inform the customer of fees that apply for service, so she can decide up front whether she wants to continue with the chat session.
  3. If you must charge for out-of-warranty service, apply a reasonable fee, such as $5 per incident. This would be a nice recognition of the fact the customer has given you her business before and would encourage customer loyalty.
  4. Offer a guarantee for your technical support. Why should I have to pay a fee if you don’t fix my problem?
  5. Add a disclaimer to your “Live Chat” page warning that customers with out-of-warranty products cannot receive complimentary customer service through this venue.
  6. Drop the sales pitch. If your problem stopped working in three years, I’m probably not buying another router from you, unless you offer it to me at half-price with a free extended warranty.

In the end, I was able to fix my own router problems. When the time comes to buy a new router, I will examine more closely each manufacturer’s warranty and technical support offerings, and I will definitely think twice before buying another Linksys product.

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Filed under Customer service, Technology and office equipment

KitchenAid customer service delivers when product malfunctions

It is always refreshing to find a company that does the right thing when its products falter and offers customers a pleasant product return experience. That’s exactly what I found in KitchenAid recently.

In a previous post, I shared my love for my new KitchenAid personal coffee maker, which I purchased about five months ago. I still love the coffee maker, but recently, its swinging basket stopped sealing properly against the body of the coffee maker. When making coffee, considerable amounts of  heat and steam began escaping through the front of the coffee maker, instead of being vented out the tiny opening in the back designed for this purpose.

So, I couldn’t call KitchenAid and say the coffee maker didn’t work. It did work, but not like it should. I called the company’s customer service line to ask for a replacement and was promptly greeted by a company representative who was very well-spoken and announced he was located in Tennessee (“Thank you for calling KitchenAid, this is Chris in Tennessee.”) Chris agreed to send me a new coffee maker. After collecting the model and serial number of mine, he explained a new coffee maker would be delivered to my home, and then I should use the packaging and prepaid label that accompanied it to return the old coffee maker. He said it would take up to 10 business days to get the new one.

The new coffee maker arrived in about a week and is now in use with a properly fitting basket. As I write this, the old one is making its way back to KitchenAid. Even better, the company said a new one-year warranty applies to the replacement product.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give my customer service experience with KitchenAid a nine. Why wasn’t it perfect? Two reasons:

  1. Chris asked if I would like to receive an email notifying me when the replacement shipped, and I provided my email address for this purpose. I never received a notification.
  2. Chris indicated FedEx would pick up the replacement product if I called and asked them to. But the return instructions accompanying the replacement instructed me to send it back via the United States Postal Service. However, the postal carrier did pick it up from my front porch, saving me a trip to the post office.

My return experience showed me KitchenAid cares about its customers and stands behind the products it sells. I will seriously consider KitchenAid for future appliance purchases.

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Ask Amazon, Walmart online customers for product info

I do a lot of online shopping. While it is a convenient way to find affordable products, it does have its downfalls. One is that you cannot see or try out the product you are viewing on the Internet. In some cases, you can find the same product at a local store and examine it there, but this is not always the case. That’s why I’ve been excited to discover helpful tools offered by Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

Both retailers have an “ask-a-question” feature on their product pages that allows you to post an inquiry about a specific product and get answers from other customers. I have been amazed at how quickly questions I posted on Amazon get answered and by how many people take time to share their input. Often, I will get an answer within one to two hours of posting my question on Amazon.

Answers come more slowly on Walmart.com, sometimes taking a few days or even weeks.

Both websites give you the option of being notified by email when your question is answered, so you don’t have to keep revisiting the product page to look for a response.

It can be a bit tricky to find the “Ask a question” feature on Amazon. You have to click on the link to customer reviews found just below the product name at the top of the page (behind the product’s star rating). Once the reviews page loads, you’ll see this heading on the right side of the page: “Questions? Get fast answers from reviewers.” Type your question in the box provided.

On Walmart.com, it’s not readily apparent where this feature is, either. After you open the product page, scroll down to the “Item description” section, and look for this wording at the end of the description: “Do you have questions about this product? Ask a question.”

I’ve only encountered one instance where customers disputed the correct answer to my question, and that involved a technical specification on a specialty electronic device. While there are no guarantees you’ll get a right answer, I’ve found the responses I receive to be generally helpful, friendly and accurate.

Are there other websites where you have found helpful customer question features?

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Jump to the front of the line at the cell phone store

After stopping by a local store last week, I told my husband we should quit our jobs and go into the cell phone business. The place was packed, and people were waiting in line for assistance Since cell phone transactions can be quite complicated, I could tell it might be a long wait. A visit to another store a few days later revealed a similar scene.

That’s why I was thrilled to discover a service offered by AT&T Wireless corporate stores. You can make an appointment online for assistance at your local AT&T-owned store. When scheduling mine, I found numerous times to choose from. After selecting one, I received both an email and text confirmation. Then, the day of the appointment, I received email and text reminders of my meeting.

When I arrived at the store, I discovered what “appointment” means in AT&T’s dictionary. It means you go to the front of the line, bypassing customers who walked into the store without a service appointment. So, even though I had an appointment, I still had to wait a few minutes. In the store, AT&T has a display screen that reminds me of an airline “standby” list. The screen displays the first names of people with appointments on one screen, followed by a list of walk-in customers on another screen. When a service representative is available, she calls the next customer on the appointment list, and walk-in customers are served later.

Keep in mind not all stores bearing an AT&T logo are company-owned stores. Many of these are “authorized retailers,” but they won’t help you troubleshoot account issues to the level that a corporate store will. They also probably don’t accept appointments. Go to attwireless.com and choose “Find a Store” to locate your nearest AT&T-owned retail location, then use the “Make appointment” link to set up a time.

Verizon Wireless also allows customers to make appointments when they start at its Store Locator Web page, as does Sprint on its Make An Appointment page.

Have you tried making a cell phone store appointment? What was your experience?

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Best Buy changes its rewards program

There’s good news for those of you who shop frequently at Best Buy. The company announced this week that your Reward Zone points will no longer expire at the end of each calendar year.

In a previous post, I pointed out that Best Buy’s expiration policy could mean that your points would expire a few days after you earned them. Now, the company says as long as you have activity in your account once every 12 months, your points will never expire.

Kudos to Best Buy for making this positive change! The company also announced that:

  • Purchases made on your Reward Zone credit card with a promotional financing offer will no longer qualify for Reward Zone points.
  • Purchases made with promotional financing will continue to count toward the program’s Premier Silver status level.

To learn more about Best Buy Reward Zone, visit this Web page.

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What to do when you forget your Kroger Plus card

Readers who shop at Kroger no doubt know the value of having a “Kroger Plus” card. It entitles you to discounts on food and merchandise throughout Kroger grocery stores, and it also allows you to earn points you can use for discounts at Kroger fuel centers. Especially valuable are the double fuel points every day on gift cards — read my previous post for details on how to get the most out of this offering.

With all these advantages, you can imagine how bummed I was to get to the checkout line recently and realize I did not have my Kroger Plus card with me. If you forget your Kroger Plus card, you have two options:

1. Use the credit card keypad to enter the telephone number associated with your card — this will allow your card to be applied to your purchase

2. Pay the nondiscounted price for the items and return later with your card and your receipt

I chose the second option because I could not seem to recall which of the many phone numbers I’ve had was linked to my card. I presented my card and receipt at the customer service desk the following day and explained the situation. The clerk promptly refunded the $34.82 I would have saved with my card. I asked if this meant the fuel points linked to the purchase were now on my card, too, but the clerk said that required a separate procedure. He offered to call the Kroger Plus customer service center and take care of this for me, but you can also do this yourself if you are in a rush or the clerk is too busy to help. Be sure to point out any gift card purchases that were part of your transaction so the points are calculated properly.

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Filed under Customer service, Saving money, Shopping tips