Quality Customer Service

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from three different readers with complaints about products they’ve purchased. All three had already contacted the manufacturers, and two of the three reported results that were not satisfactory. That’s too many similar calls in a short period of time to not believe we’re seeing a trend.

First, it’s important to me to tell you that after over 15 years with Horse Journal, my contact with manufacturers has been mainly positive. I can usually get through to the CEO with little effort. That person is often also the owner of the company and usually a fellow horse lover. He or she is normally extremely well-educated in horses, outgoing and determined to improve their products. Overall, I’m impressed by their integrity and commitment to the manufacturing industry. Customer service, however, can be another matter.

One of the readers who called us said she had spoken with a couple of manufacturer reps but was never able to get more than a cursory ”we’ll look into it” reply. Just a couple of days ago, she called to say she’d received a letter from the firm, stating that they were pleased they were able to resolve her problem. Huh’ (This involved the amount of product in the jar she was purchasing. You’ll hear more about this soon, as we’re working on that, too.)

The second problem involved six fly masks that tore at the seam (all the same product, all used during the same time frame, all used under the same situation, all tore in the same area). The reader was told the products tore due to ”normal horse wear,” which is frustrating to say the least. With persistence, this reader finally did receive two replacement masks.

The third problem involved a hoof boot that kept falling off the horse. The reader was told that it was a measurement error. When the reader told the rep her measurements, the company actually suggested the reader purchase the same-size product again, but this time they recommended a ”used” version of the product instead of buying a new one. (How convenient!)

I’ve complained about Internet business before, especially manufacturers who hide behind no-phone-number (or address) websites. It’s a similar situation when you get an unhelpful representative on the phone. Don’t let manufacturers hide behind a customer- service department that is trained to make you give up and go away.

If you have a legitimate complaint, call customer service. If that doesn’t work, find out who is the director of sales or consumer affairs or even the CEO of the company. Write a letter (note well that I said ”write a letter”) directly to that person — put the person’s name on the letter. Explain the problem and what you’d like them to do for you. Include your receipt and a copy of the warranty, if there is one. Be reasonable.

If you get no response within 30 days, call to follow-up. In a civil tone, tell the manufacturer that, under no uncertain terms, will you purchase products from that company again if someone doesn’t help you resolve this issue.

The economy is still tight. Manufacturers are well aware we’ve all learned to live without certain things over the peak of the recession and its job losses. I’ve read that financial experts predict we’re not going back to our old wild spending habits any time soon. I’ve also heard that equestrian purchasers have a strong ”brand loyalty” in their purchasing. No manufacturer with half a brain is going to lose a customer like you over a single problem purchase. Let us know how it goes.

Cynthia Foley,