Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame Inductee

I’m happy to report: Wi-Fi in Panera Bread of Roxbury NJ has been fixed. Why does this matter? Because now A&E Factory Service Appliance Repair can own “the worst customer service in the history of time” crown, unchallenged.

The truth is, they were never really in danger of holding that crown, despite Panera’s atrocious handling of this customer service issue with their Wi-Fi at that location. But it feels right to point out that as of last week Panera seems to have resolved the issue, and even acknowledged that there had been one.

So now, on to the worst customer service I’ve ever encountered:

A couple of weeks ago, the clothes dryer in my home failed. The machine would turn on, hum, and heat up, but the drum wasn’t turning. Seemed like a broken belt, and as it turns out the arm that holds the belt had broken.

Upon calling Maytag, we were referred to their preferred service agent. A&E Factory Service Appliance Repair dispatched a technician in a couple of days, who diagnosed the broken arm issue. But because that part wasn’t stocked on his truck we needed to order it and make an appointment to have the technician return.

The technician ordered the part for delivery directly to the house, and made an appointment to return a week later. On the day of the appointment, not having heard from A&E, I called to confirm. And now we’re ready for why A&E Factory Service Appliance Repair owns “the worst customer service in the history of time” crown.

First, A&E told me that I wasn’t on their schedule, because I was supposed to have called them to make an appointment. As the technician had made a return appointment with me when he first diagnosed the problem this clearly makes no sense, but “I’m sorry that you were misinformed, sir” is difficult to argue with.

What followed though was that A&E stated that they had called to confirm—twice—and we hadn’t returned the call, and so we had been dropped from their schedule. Well, wait a second: that conflicts directly with the earlier statement that it had been my responsibility to call them. Oh, and by the way, I confirmed that they had the correct phone number to reach me on file. It’s a cell phone. With voice mail and Caller ID. Kind of hard to believe that neither the call nor any message A&E might have left would have registered, twice.

The customer service representative steadfastly refused to put me back on the schedule, pushing my appointment four days. I asked to be escalated, and was sent to A&E’s Customer Response Team, who once I explained the circumstances gave me an appointment for that afternoon. But toward the end of the day, having not heard back, I called in and was told that they hadn’t promised me an appointment at all; they’d merely said they’d try.

This, sadly, can only be described as a lie.

Two days ago, too late in the day to call back and confirm, I received an automated message: the repair was scheduled for an appointment yesterday between 8AM and Noon and that if I wasn’t able to keep the appointment I should call to reschedule. Remember the earlier statement about calls getting placed to confirm the prior appointment? A&E had suddenly managed to make calls to me at the same number they claimed to have called twice before, left me a message, and that message wasn’t “call to confirm”, but “call if you need to cancel“.

Somewhere in there is another statement that can only be categorized as a lie.

Yesterday I called A&E just to be careful and was informed that they would in fact be there in the morning. At about 12:30 they called to apologize for missing the appointment and promised that they’d be out by 2:30. At 2:45 I called and they said it would be by 3:00. And when I called at 3:45 they said they had just assigned someone to the case and he should be there at any moment. He arrived at 5:15.

At 3:45 A&E had just assigned someone for an appointment that was supposed to have happened before Noon and that they had told me twice in between was imminent?

I was furious. I asked for the name and contact details of A&E’s President. I was referred to one Dale Reader, and given a mailing address in Round Rock, TX. I Googled Dale Reader, and the first result identified him as a VP and the CIO of Maytag, which implies that perhaps A&E is a division or subsidiary of that company, the dryer’s manufacturer. I then Googled “dale reader A&E“, and result #1 was a page of complaints dating back five years where several people stated that they’d been give Mr. Reader’s name when having similar problems with A&E, and that any complaints sent to him were simply not returned. (note, February 6 2013: that’s no longer the case; now, this page is the number #1 Google Result for ‘dale reader a&e’.That’s called Search Engine Optimization)

So I poked around A&E Factory Service’s Web Site and found their address. It’s in Hoffman Estates, IL, and not Round Rock TX.

I vented plenty during this process, so please accept that writing 900 words on the topic isn’t about that. This is a customer service story. It’s a real-life story from a guy who writes about business change that when you ignore customer service your customers become ex-customers and tell other people why.

Customer Service Matters. If your customer service isn’t what it should be, make fixing that your next business change.

Oh, and by the way: two hours after A&E’s technician left, on its very first load, the clothes dryer overheated and stopped working.

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