the sky floor

How a Stove Installation Uncovered Valuable Lessons in Customer Care

October 11, 2023

Recently, Alan and I were installing a wood-burning stove vent for our parents. To prepare for the work, our dad ordered all the parts required from Lowes but didn’t do a hard inventory check until it was time to start…

Maybe you already guessed, an important piece was a no show to it’s own party. 

It’s not a great way to start a project when you have limited time. Plus, the order had been marked as complete, and it had been some weeks since he had placed it. In these cases, calling customer service is tough to do – for some reason, I hear Ricky Ricardo saying, “you have some ‘splainin’ to do!” 

The Call

He places the call, and after explaining the situation to the person who picked up and then being transferred, he has to explain it again. In other words, it is a somewhat standard customer service experience.

After a brief hold, the woman returns on the line: Now which part is supposedly missing?”

Woof. “Supposedly”?

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Our words can make such a big difference. Whether you are in customer support or own a business (or are a parent, spouse, or friend), they can make or break an interaction. For a customer, a word like “supposedly” is like pouring a glass of ice water down their shirt. No matter how skeptical you are of the story, it is probably true to the customer! Furthermore, they are in a sort of crisis, even if it is unimportant to you. 

Customers experiencing an issue have questions that need to be answered and concerns that need to be set at ease. 

“Did I waste my money?”
“How can I start my project now?”
“How much of an inconvenience will this be?”

You can help them or raise even more questions with an unwisely chosen word. 

A far better response would have been simply, “What is missing? Let’s see if we can figure this out for you.”

Lowe’s for the Eventual Win

Despite the rough start, they eventually identified that the part was sitting in the warehouse portion of the store, but by then, Dad had already re-purchased the part. Ultimately, Lowe’s came through for the extra hassle by discounting the whole order! That discount instantly morphed a bad experience into a great one. 

1. Choose your words wisely; a careless word can agitate a situation further.
2. It is never too late to create a customer success story. (But don’t expect every customer to become a raving fan at the end.)