It has been kind of slow for The Gimp lately…or I guess I should say, life has been really hectic and I haven’t had as much time to bitch about life, wheelchair access or shoddy customer service. I’m working a full-time gig, in grad school and doing a field placement for said grad school…it all adds up to anywhere from 60-80 hours a week since late August and lasting through next month.
In other words, I’m too tired to complain.
However, once in awhile a situation becomes so irritating that I find myself having to pull out my trusty writing skills to either vent, whine, complain or hope to resolve the situation. Thanks to Coca-Cola, I have arrived at such a moment.
For well over a year, I have participated in the MyCokeRewards program. For those unfamiliar, it’s a nifty little “rewards” program that offers loyal users of Coke products the opportunity to receive “rewards” for collecting bottle caps/labels and visiting the Coke website to enter codes. The products aren’t particularly fancy, but I’ve enjoyed the program and have reaped a few rewards (mostly movie tickets and smaller items). Generally, it’s a brand loyalty program that has worked well with someone who could easily be considered loyal to the brand anyway.
I prefer Coke to Pepsi, there’s no question. I’ve also, quite honestly, generally regarded Coke as a better community partner and have always enjoyed their products. I’ve never had difficulty with their program until recently.
On January 10, 2011 I had finally compiled enough in the way of rewards to receive what was advertised on MyCokeRewards as a “Red Wireless Mouse.” I ordered the product, read the description of the product before confirming it and was notified on January 11th that the product was being shipped and should arrive within 7-10 days.
A couple of weeks later, slightly late but within a reasonable time, the product arrived. Quite honestly, with my schedule the way it is it would take me another week to even open it. When I did, I was immediately struck by the wording on the package “wireless notebook mouse.” Interesting. While I’m not what I would call a “computer expert,” it struck me as rather odd that I would receive a “notebook mouse” rather than simply a “wireless mouse.” I looked at it carefully, and the mouse definitely looked smaller than a traditional mouse. However, I chose to do some research before contemplating my next action. So, I reviewed a few websites to ensure that I wasn’t going crazy and that, indeed, a “wireless mouse” is different from a “wireless notebook mouse.” I also revisited the MyCokeRewards website to make sure that I hadn’t simply misread the description of the product.
Nope. “Red Wireless Mouse” with no mention whatsoever of it being for a notebook.
So, I finally submitted a customer inquiry on the MyCokeRewards website (which was harder than heck to even find as an option) and waited for a response. And waited. And waited. A couple weeks later (mid-February), I received a formula e-mail that basically read “We realize you wrote to us awhile ago, but our customer care team is experiencing technical issues. We’re working on an upgrade and will get back to you as soon as possible. If you need immediate assistance please call.” As strongly as I felt about this issue, it hardly felt like an “emergency” so I chose to wait until I received a response.
No response. Ever.
So, three weeks or so later I again e-mailed and this time received the message below after waiting 2+weeks:
“Early this year, our customer care team underwent a system conversion that caused technical issues. We realize you wrote to us a while ago and really apologize for the delay in getting back to you. We are working on getting it right and in the meantime, if you need assistance from us, please give us a call toll-free at 866.674.2653.”
This time, I called and spoke with a customer service rep…I believe her name was “loretta,” but can’t be certain as her voice was low.
In both e-mails, I had not requested a restoration of points necessarily. However, I had requested that the product be delivered as promised or that I have the chance to return the product and receive a different product with the points as I do not have a notebook computer and would not have ordered it had the product been accurately described on the site. I also requested that the product description be updated so that others would not make the same mistake.
So, when I spoke with Loretta I fully was open to reaching a point of compromise related to this experience. Admittedly, I was frustrated that it had taken so long. However, to this day the product sits on my kitchen counter unopened and ready to return. I immediately explained to Loretta what had happened in very brief terms…I redeemed a reward described as a red wireless mouse from the site, but had received a red wireless notebook mouse. The rep looked up my account and immediately said “Well, there’s nothing that I can do since you confirmed it. I can’t restore points and there’s nothing I can do about the product.” I again explained “But, the product isn’t as described.” She again said, “you confirmed it.” I responded, admittedly with more agitation, “Actually, I “confirmed” a red wireless mouse not a notebook mouse.” She looked up the product, actually verbalizing the words “red wireless mouse” and I affirmed it saying “See…that’s not what I received. I received a red wireless notebook mouse.”
“Oh well, sorry there’s still nothing I can do about it,” she again said.
For the record, Coke, whoever trained Loretta in basic customer service should be fired.
I made an admittedly agitated crack about switching to Pepsi and hung up. It wasn’t one of my finer moments, but I will admit to having become really frustrated and incredibly appalled by the lack of concern in this person’s voice. Even if she was going to decline every request, she did so in a way that was unconcerned, uncaring and completely lacking in any customer service.
Massive fail, Coke.
The thing is, while I was agitated when I made the Pepsi crack. Guess what? I’m sitting here writing this blog and drinking Diet Pepsi. I don’t bluff. When you alienate me, or any customer, you risk losing the customer. When you make statements that imply you don’t care and can’t solve what was an easily solved problem…guess what? I switch to a different company.
Let’s add it up. I drink a minimum of one two-liter a day. So, Coke, you’ve lost a customer who spends a MINIMUM (and likely much more) of $500 a year on your product over what was likely a less than $10.00 mouse. Because your “customer service rep,” and I use that title very loosely, wasn’t empowered to solve a basic problem you’ve become the subject of a widely read blog bashing your “rewards” program and lost hundreds of dollars in business.
You see, the big problem was that the customer service rep blatantly lied (and I’ve worked within the computer systems that make these reward programs, so I know these are lies).
1) “We can’t restore your points” – Either she’s blatantly lying or completely unempowered. Your system can accomplish this task and it’s easy. In fact, you did it for me within the last two months when I participated in one of your bonus days and the points didn’t show. I e-mailed you and the points were added “D’oh,” but I thought you couldn’t do that? While I wasn’t asking for restoration of points, it would have been the simple solution. Instead, your customer service rep came off as completely unable to resolve a reasonable concern and, even worse, as lacking any concern about the actual issue.
2) “There’s nothing I can do about the product.” Um, yes there is. You can actually arrange for the correct product OR you can pay to have this product shipped back to you while I pick a new one. Does it cost you a few more bucks? Yep. It does. But, it keeps a long time customer happy. Seems pretty simple to me. Again, if your rep isn’t empowered to do this then why is she even in customer service?
3) “You confirmed it.” I will admit that this line, muttered 3 times, angered me the most…especially when she read the description of the product and realized what I had ordered. In other words, she discovered I was actually right and she was still saying “There’s nothing I can do.” I did not confirm what you ordered…your customer service failed. Pure and simple.
So, Coke, what are you going to do about it now? Are you willing to lose my business forever over this trivial issue that should have been easily fixed (I won’t even talk about your obviously crappy IT department…one month after telling me that your system was being converted it’s still being converted? Um, excuse me…don’t put together a rewards program if you don’t have the ability to maintain it).
The ball’s in your court, Coke. For now, I drink Pepsi and tell everyone about my experience.