It is possible that this incident was an irregularity in the way it was handled both from Sony customer service and from Service Net but the way the calls and questions seemed scripted and the excuses that were provided to me imply otherwise. Obviously what follows is my opinion but it is an opinion based on my experience dealing with them.
My attempts at escalating the issues within the call trees and even directly with the people I was able to get on the phone met consistently with dead ends. I am convinced that their business model is to receive a cut of the extended warranty money and then do whatever they can to not provide any service that costs them money. If that means that they make excuses and refuse to escalate to the decision makers within the standard contact paths then so be it. I wouldn't even be surprised if the CS people on the phone are compensated based on how many calls they handle without incurring additional expense to Service Net. Their choice of questions asked and manner of interpreting them implies to me that their primary focus is to use semantics to get out of meeting their contractual obligations. The fact that they have such prominence on an "adjudication" group at their web site implies to me that they place more focus on shirking responsibility than fixing customer issues.
I bought this laptop in a store and purchased the $~500 extended warranty with accidental damage because I wanted the additional protection that I mistakenly thought it offered. For that matter the entire reason I spent the premium on a Sony laptop instead of saving the money and going with another company was because I believed I would have better service. I have 6 kids and it was not unreasonable to assume that some significant accident would happen to it over the course of 3 years so the accident insurance would have made sense if it was reasonable to expect it would be honored. In the end even when all I wanted fixed was a $5 to $20 part they tried to weasel out of that and used the fact that they were two separate entities to redirect responsibility (or at least make the call short).
It wasn't until I put up a blog post and got dozens of hits from addresses in Japan that I got any semblance of help. Shortly after that I got contacted and the issue was taken seriously. The address I got contacted at was my blog email address and not the one I left several times with the various customer service people we called. You'll have to forgive me if I have trouble believing the issue would have been satisfactorily resolved without the blog. So I guess blogging is the real hero here.
So for productive advice. I have run successful service centers before so perhaps they should listen.
If I was a manager at Service Net I would
- Make sure there is a clear escalation path for customer complaints that is known to the call center people.
- Before any possibly disgruntled customer gets off their first phone call they know what that path is.
- Customers should never be told in a service call that there is no further point of contact beyond the person speaking especially if they have only spoken to two people and neither of them could resolve the issue.
- I would add a process at the end of all calls where the customer is asked if their needs and expectations were met and if the answer is no I would have someone contact them the next day.
- Make sure Customer Service Reps do not provide contradictory information during the call or provide multiple different reasons for disapproval. (that happen to sound like grasping for straws to avoid work)
- I would increase training for the Customer Service team and the management team that runs them.
- Extensively audit customer calls for the last several months to determine if this is systemic or just an irregularity.
- If the audits show it was an irregularity contact to customers that were effected and apologise (both the client companies and direct customers).
- If it is systemic have a massive overhaul.
Then again the focus of my call centers was actual customer service and not limitation of liability so perhaps they don't really need to listen.
If I was a company that was trusting in Service Net to provide customer service to me I would
Quick note here this company services many customer service accounts including Dell, CDW, FuJitsu, Sirius, Toshiba and several others. It is possible that customer service problems with any of these companies are due to this one source.
- Request a log of all calls related to my account for the last three months and call and ask the customers if they were happy with their service.
- Randomly perform customer service test calls to ensure they are properly treat customers that view them as supporting my (the company calling) brand.
- Audit their practices and books associated with the account.
If I was a customer I wouldn't bother to buy extended warranties or accidental coverage. Here is why.
The other day on my drive in (1 hour + each direction) I added up all of the Sony products I have purchased in the last few years. 2 Large flat screen TV’s (50 something and 40 something inches) one wall hanging LCD TV, a stereo, three small TV’s, 2 PSP’s, a DVD player and my laptop. All in all close to $20,000. I am not sure how much of that money went to extended warranties. My guess is close to $2000 perhaps more.
Next time I will just put that $500 in savings. Over time I will clearly be better off.
In any case I will probably never willingly or directly buy a Sony product again unless it is truly needed and there is no other vendor. I certainly won't buy their extended warranty. I am certain that at dinner conversations over the year I will be happy to talk about how crappy their customer service is as well so perhaps the lost revenue won't be limited to me. Yes I will try to make it funny and not angst filled. No use ruining dinner.
So now I am done. I don't intend to bring this up again unless something else happens bad. Blogging should pick back up over the next few days until I am back to normal.