Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

When it comes to customer service, we’ve all got our tales of the good, the bad, and the ugly. My friend Lillie Normile recently wrote an excellent account of some bad customer service she’d had on her blog, Notes from Napanee. 

This is a good news story. But there’s a bit of bad and ugly in here too.

The story starts with a search for gluten free bread, which is not always easy. A couple of months ago while on a camping trip we stopped at a couple of bakeries and one store, but no luck on the bread. I finally found some in a grocery store near Wellesley Island State Park in New York State, where we’d be staying. It was a brand I’d wanted to try: UDI’s.

Good news.

We got to the campground, got set up, and settled down at the picnic table with some tuna salad I’d made for lunch, and I was all set to make my sandwich. Then I opened the loaf of bread to find this:

2015-05-16 09.01.27 (1)

Bad news.

It got worse. It wasn’t just one or two slices–it was most of the loaf!

2015-05-16 09.01.44

Ugly.

Not only did the slices have holes, the edges were crumbly. I’d hardly be able to make a sandwich from this. I managed to spread some of the tuna salad around the holes and have some lunch.  There were a few more salvageable slices. The rest would be made into bread crumbs when we got home. I’d also be contacting UDI’s.

I searched the company website and easily found an email address where I could send my comments–and my photographic evidence.  UDI’s is based in Great Britain so I really didn’t hold out much hope for any resolution to this problem, but I felt better having sent my note.  As I said, I’d been looking forward to trying this bread, and it was nice that I’d paid less for the bread than I would have at home, but it was still expensive–almost $5.00 for a small loaf of bread.

Now here’s the good news: Within a week, I received an email from Chris Sherman, a representative of  the UDI’s Consumer Response Team.

Chris was very apologetic that I’d had a “negative experience.” Ms. (or Mr.–can’t be sure with the name Chris) Sherman was also appreciative that I’d provided the packaging coding so the Quality Control department could look into this further.  No excuses or platitudes were offered. Just a sincere apology and a request that I give their products another chance.

To make this easier, Chris said that I would be mailed a coupon for a free UDI’s product of my choice.  A  few weeks later I received a coupon for a free product AND I received another coupon for $1.50 discount for another product.

Good–no–excellent news!

With the discount coupon I bought another loaf of the same Whole Grain bread I tried earlier. With the coupon for the free product, I purchased a package of four chocolate muffins. This normally would have cost me almost $13, and I wound up spending less than $5. Good news.

My “negative experience” had already turned positive, and it got better. No holes in this bread.

2015-07-02 13.47.44

It was worth the wait for the coupons. Even better, the muffins were delicious; they tasted more like cake. I shared them with our son, but he was kind to only try one and leave the rest for me. He did agree that they were indeed *very* good (and this comes from someone who does not need gluten-free food.)

Sorry–no photos of the chocolate muffins. They got eaten too quickly.

I sent Chris a note expressing my gratitude for the coupons, and my delight with the products.

Lillie didn’t have a good customer experience in a local grocery store, and insult was added to injury by a lack of response when she wrote a letter expressing her concerns. Unfortunately, we hear of the bad–or even ugly–stories more than the good news stories. Companies need to recognize and appreciate that customers appreciate good service and will go elsewhere quickly when they don’t receive it–whether it’s from a store clerk, a manager, or a company representative. We have a lot of choices where to spend our hard-earned money, and we don’t always give second chances.

In this case, I’m glad I gave UDI’s another try. If you need a gluten-free diet, or know someone who does, I recommend this brand. If you’re not completely satisfied, contact Chris Sherman. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have a good, bad or ugly story about customer service? Let us know.

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9 thoughts on “Customer Service: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

  1. Hi Christine – just last week I had the *exact* holy (sic) same experience as you had with Udi’s, and also heard from Chris Sherman apologizing for my “negative experience”, and informing me that a coupon was on its way to my home. The loaf I had bought last week the was more hole than bread! It was like a loaf-of-bread-doughnut!

    1. Sorry to be late in replying, Corrina. I’m glad to hear that you also had a good experience with Udi’s. As those products are more expensive, they are a treat for me, but it’s good to know the company stands behind the product.
      Thanks for following the blog and sharing your experience.

  2. Glad it turned out well for you. Customer Service is definitely a crap shoot. I’ve had literally hair-tearing experiences (think Ma Bell and Rogers). In fact, I’ll have to admit there were many tears shed due to just how frustrated I was. My good, no GREAT experience was recently with FITBIT. I lost my Fitbit. Someone told me to contact them. What? I lost it. It was really my fault. But I did e-mail them. They were actually apologetic and asked for a copy of my original receipt of purchase. Once i sent it they sent me a brand new Fitbit in the box. Value $135 CDN (including tax) and it arrived in less than 5 days! How awesome is that?!

    I am so glad we actually have good stories to tell about Customer Service. Unfortunately, though, these are becoming the exception to the rule.

    1. That’s great about your Fitbit, Suzanne. While there may seem to be more bad news stories than good ones about customer service, maybe it’s the bad ones we hear about more often. Maybe we should start spreading the good news stories more, and then we will hear more of those too. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. How wonderful that the company turned your experience around. I have never been shy in telling companies about their short comings and have had both “good and ugly” response. While I do not write to all companies about good experiences I do try to hand out compliments in stores when things go well; hoping that they appreciate a happy customer rather than the one who always complains.

    1. You’re right, Lillie. The more we pass on the compliments, either in person, on the phone, or by mail, the harder companies may try to keep these good news stories coming in. Good news begets good news.

  4. Thx for this post, Christine. I think it’s really important to share good stories and bad. That’s why I like TripAdvisor. You really get a good variety of opinions shared on any given property. The only way bad service can be expected to improve is if we bring it to the forefront and demand better.

    1. Thanks, Doreen. It is good to share the good news stories of customer service, as well as ones that don’t work out so well. You’re right that nothing will change or get better unless we let companies, owners, etc. know there is a problem.

    2. Thanks for chiming in, Doreen. I thought I’d already replied to your comment. TripAdvisor is a good source of information to check out hotels, restaurants, activities, etc. I am going to look into commenting on that site.
      If we continue to act in a polite and firm manner pointing out negative experiences, then we things will improve for us. It’s especially nice when companies go above and beyond to keep us as customers.

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