Companies change their tune

January 30 2009 by Ellen Roseman

Maybe in a recession, companies make more of an effort to hang onto customers. It costs more to recruit new clients than to keep the ones you have.

These days, I find the turnaround time is faster when I send complaints from readers to large firms. The complaints are often resolved within a day, which used to be unusual.

See comments below for recent cases where companies changed their tune and gave customers what they wanted, after denying and stonewalling such requests before.

All it takes is a little nudge from the media to get the wheels rolling.

Braaking news: TD Canada Trust has listened to customers and decided to cancel the $35 inactivity fee it was going to impose on those with unsecured lines of credit. I’m sure the comments at this blog helped play a role in that decision.

10 comments

  1. Bylo

    Jan 30 2009

    A somewhat long saga that, with Ellen’s intervention, ended well…

    In late November, I bought a Sony 26″ LCD TV from Sears. The TV worked fine until New Year’s Day, when it lost most of the channels I get on cable (e.g. it steps from channels 2 to 6 fine, then jumps to 14 and continues to 20, then skips to 64!).

    I tried to run the Auto-Program feature to scan for all available channels to no avail. I tried other TV sets on the same cable. All channels there. Hmmm.

    I called Sony customer service in case there was something wrong with what I was doing. The agent agreed that the bizarre behaviour of the TV was a defect. He suggested that I get the TV serviced under warranty.

    Now here’s the zinger. Sony does not do in-home service on TVs smaller than 32″. They expect the customer to carry the set to an authorized Sony repair facility — even though the User’s Guide considers even a 26″ TV to be so big and bulky that they advise using two people to move it.

    Worse, they have no service facility in my area, Waterloo region. Instead they expect me to take the TV to Toronto, Hamilton or London, leave it there to be repaired and then come back later to pick it up.

    Their closest facility is some 75km and 1.5 hours away, according to Google Maps. So that means I have to drive at least 300km and spend 6+ hours in total, assuming both Mother Nature and traffic conditions cooperate (highly unlikely in the middle of winter.)

    I told Sony that this is unacceptable. Their response was to tell me to contact Sears.

    So I called Sears. They told me that they can’t help me because Sony has directed Sears to refer all warranty repairs to them. I related my conversation with Sony and told Sears that this was unacceptable.

    I asked if I could return the TV because it was defective and the service options weren’t reasonable, especially for a TV that was barely out of the box. She said yes, as long as it was less than 30 days old. It turns out that I got the TV on Nov. 27 ’08, so I just missed that window by a few days.

    In addition, according to Sears’ website, even if they took the TV back, they’d charge me a 20% restocking fee!

    I asked to escalate to a supervisor. The agent said yes, they’d get someone to call me back. The supervisor did call back and left a message with my wife. I called back twice, leaving messages through their call centre, but never got a call back.

    Now I bought this TV in good faith, based on the reputations of Sony and Sears. I would prefer to get it repaired or replaced rather than have to return it and buy another brand from another store. But the options provided by these companies were unacceptable.

    If I lived in, say, Iqaluit, I could understand the lack of local service. But I live in Waterloo, a region with a population of some 600,000 and one of the largest metropolitan communities in Canada. Not only should I not have to transport the TV to a repair facility, I shouldn’t have to take it such long distances, wasting my time, gasoline and putting stress on the environment.

    Surely, Sony and Sears can do better than this. Both companies advertise their focus on customer service, yet they fail to practice it.

    I escalated this to Ellen. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from the call centre supervisor who reiterated Sears’ policy and very quickly washed her hands of the situation. So I contacted Ellen again.

    This time, I got a call from Sony Canada HQ. The lady agreed that their service department’s stance is unacceptable for all the reasons I mentioned.

    Even though their policy is not to do in-home service on TVs under 32″ and/or over 50km from a service facility, they understand that this isn’t always practical for the customer, they’re flexible about it, and they do make exceptions.

    Sony scheduled someone from Hamilton to come to my home to fix it there or take the set to Hamilton for service. Sony does seem to realize they have a service “hole” in K-W because they send service people up from Hamilton regularly and I woouln’t be the only customer they visited on that trip. They were also going to have a word with their Sears contacts about the negative effect that Sears is having on Sony’s reputation.

    Well, the technician came and installed new firmware. That didn’t fix the problem. So he took the TV with him in order to replace the tuner card.

    About a week later, he returned with the repaired TV. All in all, it took some three weeks to resolve this but now my TV works as it did when I first got it. I’m delighted with the TV and my faith in Sony has been restored.

    Thank you again, Ellen, for working your magic.

  2. Jim

    Jan 31 2009

    I see some companies have turned on their listening ears to obvious problems – except for Bell. They’re still sucking big time.

    When I was a student, they gave me a very hard time over a billing mistake they made. And despite all of my patience and efforts in trying to rectify it with black and white proof, I still lost and got screwed big time. That was when there was no such thing as an Indian call centre handling CS.

    Now I’m a family man and very well established in my career. Do you think I use Bell anything for my work and family?!? Nope.

    How much money did they lose from me alone? Lots. Some legacy.

  3. Lior

    Feb 4 2009

    Hi Ellen, I read your article in the Star today about the judge and BMO. The obviously incompetent employee at the bank tells him one thing, and next thing you know the good judge gets a letter from a collection agency.

    Of course, if anyone working for the bank at some point would have realized that this man has been doing business for 30 years with them, and that he’s a judge, perhaps the matter would’ve been handled differently, more diplomatically.

    But instead, the judge fell victim to corporate bureaucracy on the part of the bank and stupidity on the part of the employee.

  1. Canadian Personal Finance Blog » Blog Archive » Worse Job Losses Possible