12 May 2014 ~ 2 Comments

Customer Service Highs and Lowe’s

For a company with a marketing tagline of “Never Stop Improving”, Lowe’s may need to start an in-house home improvement project…

A couple weeks ago my mother bought a new dryer (around $400 or $500) from Lowe’s. During the order/checkout sequence the clerk asked if she needed a vent/dryer duct hose (about $15). Since the older dryer she was replacing had been there for a number of years it made sense to swap out the old vent (surely filled with lint) for a shiny new one that the Lowe’s delivery guys could install when they dropped off the new dryer a week from now. The sales clerk asked if she needed a duct vent longer than 10′ and she said “no” because the dryer sits right next to the vent at the top of the basement ceiling — and since the ceiling isn’t 10′ tall that length seemed plenty.

Fast-forward a week to delivery day and the Lowe’s truck shows up with her shiny new dryer.  The delivery guys take the dryer to the basement and discover the 10′ vent isn’t quite long enough. She ordered the wrong length and no they can’t install the new vent with the new dryer. Sorry. Thanks for buying Lowe’s. Sign here for delivery. Buh-bye.

So now my mom has a new $500 dryer hooked up to a ten year old dryer vent that has a new retail price of less than $15.

Lowe’s missed their chance to be awesome.

This can’t be the first time a customer has guessed at the wrong length of a dryer duct for installation, right?  Instead of telling the customer who just spent around $500 that there isn’t anything you can do for them, why not plan for the fact there is a 50% chance they’ll get the length wrong and be prepared with a WOW response.

Here are three better options they could have responded with (in descending order of awesomeness)…

  1. duct-dryerYou bought the wrong length of dryer vent, but that happens all the time and we keep a stock of three or four different sizes on the truck with us — we’ll use one of ours and trade it out with the one you ordered. It’s only a couple dollars difference. No problem!
  2. Oops! The dryer vent length you ordered just isn’t long enough to connect. There’s a Lowe’s right down the street from your house (literally less than 1-mile down the road from my mother’s house), while Install Guy #1 attaches the power cord and disconnects the old dryer Install Guy #2 will drive up to the store and switch out the short vent for a longer one.
  3. You ordered the wrong dryer vent and we won’t be able to attach it to your dryer, but if you go out and buy the correct length after we leave, we’ll circle back here after our next delivery (or last delivery, or make you our first stop in the morning) and connect it for you.

The electric tumble dryer was invented in 1915.
Lowe’s was founded in 1946.
This is the year 2014.
Lowe’s should have improved on their customer response to this problem by now.
I’m guessing a few thousand people have gotten the required length of their dryer vents incorrect over the past 68 years.  A $500 dryer, a $15 vent, a $5 difference between the two duct lengths — and a world of difference in the customer’s loyalty potential, future purchase decisions, and their after-sale word of mouth based on how Lowe’s decided to handle the situation.

Lightbulb Moment

  • Sure, Lowe’s should have a better response — but how’s your response?
  • Your customers are experiencing a similar issue over and over again within your own company and the services/products you sell.  Rather than rolling your eyes and complaining to each other internally about how the customers are always getting that part of the transaction wrong — take steps to leapfrog the issue by solving the problem in advance (“we find that customer’s usually underestimate the length of dryer duct they need, so I’m going to order you one size longer just to be safe”).
  • Be prepared to solve the problem in a wow-they-knocked-my-socks-off way that begs to be retold by the customer after the transaction is over.
  • Make a list of the top three customer problems that tend to occur within your company and then come up with 3-5 solutions to use these instances as opportunities to reinforce the reasons why buying from you was the best option — now and the next time they need to buy.