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Friday, July 11, 2014

Customer service: Either you have it or you don't - Part II

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Back in September my relatively new lawn mower went on the blitz. Remember? I told you all about it in a column last October.

Between September and October, the dealer who sold me the mower had been informed by the manufacturer that it would not stand behind factory defects that caused my mower to croak. I was unhappy. I was unhappy that a well-known mower maker wouldn't stand behind its product. And I was unhappy that the dealer would welsh on its reputation for good service.

So, in mid-October I borrowed a mower from a friend. By that time my lawn was pretty well shot, thanks to last summer's drought. But I am one of those homeowners who mows leaves. More than once. I mulch the leaves until they're all gone. That means I mow leaves in December. The neighbors think I'm nuts.

OK. I am nuts. But that's not the point.

Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, long after I had simmered down over what I call "l'affaire du mower," I received a telephone call one pleasant afternoon. It was the service manager from the mower dealership. Unbeknown to me, he had kept after -- shall I say hounded? -- the manufacturer's rep about the shoddy way the company was handling said l'affaire. Pictures were taken. Evidence was submitted. Strings were pulled. Pressure was applied.

Guess what? Weeks after I had all but forgotten about my ill-fated mower the service manager happily reported that the company had finally agreed the malfunction was due to manufacturing defects. Replacement parts (basically a new motor) were being dispatched forthwith.

Last week I had my mower back in good shape, ready for spring.

I like this story because one fellow -- the conscientious service manager -- wouldn't settle for less than what was right for the customer. That's what good service is all about.

If anyone asks, I will happily provide all the details.

* * *

On a somewhat related topic of leaves, I want to refer you to a column I wrote shortly after the city announced it had purchased automated leaf-vacuuming trucks that would make continuous circuits of streets to remove leaves during the fall and all winter. What a good move by the city, I said.

Indeed, my short street has been visited at least three times by one of the trucks. This is good, because each yard has trees that drop their leaves at different times. My enormous pin oak is one of the last to let go.

Then I started hearing from friends that not all was well in the kingdom of leaf removal. Some said they had made repeated calls to the public works department only to be assured the truck would visit to their streets eventually. Others said their leaves have been waiting by the curb since November, and no leaf-pickup truck has been by. Still others complain that the new trucks, operated from the cab, are not very efficient, leaving as many leaves sometimes as they pick up.

What seemed to be a really good idea has soured for a good many conscientious city residents who did their part.

Here's an opportunity for the city to restore the faith of many unhappy leaf rakers. It would be good for the city to explain what went awry and what's going to be done about it.

The new leaf trucks, in my book, are still a great step up from the old system. But clearly not everyone agrees.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

R. Joe Sullivan
R. Joe Sullivan