Last week, I experienced two drastically different consumer transactions. The tone of customer service played a large role in both. In one instance, I had been left cautiously … we’ll just say not pessimistic. The second instance won me over yet again as a customer for life.
The key thing here is that customer service isn’t just about being polite and friendly. Sometimes something goes wrong, and sometimes it’s up to a company to make it right. I don’t just want a friendly, “that’s just the way it is.” I am not going to throw a tantrum in public about it, but I might make you think I am about to after something like that.
I am naming companies in both cases. I might leave some details out due to privacy, but you will be left with a mostly clear picture of each experience.
The first is a decidedly non-equestrian situation. (If you came here for horses, too bad, suck it up.) I took my Toyota in for service at the Toyota dealership, where I have been a customer since like 2006. I went in for a regular maintenance package, as I have done every few months for years. I diligently keep up with vehicle maintenance because I expect my vehicles to last a long time. I left my car in the service drive after discussing what services were recommended. I thought it was a bit weird that there were two services we were 20k miles overdue for …. I really wish someone had mentioned them then …. but no matter, the car was running great and I’m not going to not do something my car needs, so I agreed.
After a few minutes in the waiting area, free cappuccino in hand, the service rep — who was extremely polite, forthright, and helpful and remained so the entire time — came back with a few additional things the car needed.
One was front brakes. Fair enough. And, Toyota had indeed mentioned this to me during the previous service visit, so I wasn’t too surprised and expected to replace them soon.
The next thing …. my exact reaction was “HAHAHA that shit ain’t happening.” Let me point out here the car is a 2017, just outside the mileage to be covered under warranty. Here’s an approximation of our conversation:
Rep: Do you know if you have an extended warranty?
Me: No, I don’t think so. I just bought out the lease.
Rep: Are you sure about the warranty? Did your husband buy the car?
Me: <glaring through narrowed eyes> I don’t have a husband. I bought the car.
Rep: Okay, sorry. Yes, of course. Forget I said that.
Me: So explain the problem … ?
The rep, polite as she ever was, did explain what was going on with the car, but I did note that the paperwork said that I had complained of a squeak or rattle, which was NOT the case. (I did ask why my car no longer beeped when I set the alarm and asked if it could be fixed. Misinterpretation?)
Anyway, I made it pretty clear that, that day, I would not be doing the brakes or the other service related to the squeak and rattle I hadn’t mentioned. The problem, as explained, meant taking the engine out of the car to fix it, and the estimate for labor was comparable to what, let’s say, a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon might charge for surgery:
The rep started walking back pretty quickly. Then the rep said since I was a valued, loyal Toyota customer, she would pull all of my service records, contact the appropriate people, and see if there would be any leeway on the warranty, considering the circumstances.
It was here I began to question whether this thing was even wrong with my car.
I also remembered the labor from a previous instance on a similar issue with my previous Toyota. This current labor quote was 4x the previous one, and the previous one wasn’t exactly pocket change. In both instances, the engine had to be taken out of the car to fix it. With my older Toyota, it was a 200kmiles+ 4runner from 2004. Why does the engine of a 2017 even need to come out? And maybe it does. And I get that it’s a big job. But it is not neurosurgery.
Ultimately, Toyota agreed to cover the entire cost, and offered a loaner car for the day at no charge. On its face, this is pretty much excellent customer service. The rep solved the problem at no cost to me. Toyota preserved our relationship.
Maybe. … I, uh, take issue with the labor quote. I am perplexed by the assumptions the rep made about me, polite and helpful and accommodating as she was — truly, she gave me excellent service… but … I am still not sure where someone got the idea I complained of a squeaky rattle (or that I was married lol). Yes, my car got taken care of. I got taken care of. But something about the whole situation was almost satirically off kilter. I am proceeding with caution in any future transactions with Toyota for now. 10/10 service but with an asterisk.
The second instance, thankfully, left me with a feeling that awesome people still exist in this world and shopping with a small business that cares about its customers is 100% the way to go. And this is an equestrian apparel business! So here’s your horsey moment!
You will not be surprised about how much I love my Botori riding pants. I have multiple pairs. I wear them a lot. I may or may not have slept in them. Or sneakily worn them to work. But, unfortunately, a specific production run of some styles didn’t meet the company’s standards, but that wasn’t apparent until after people had already been wearing them.
Botori’s response was swift and transparent — we sold you some pants we need to replace for you. Here’s how you do that.
I actually did have one of these pairs, but had not experienced the defect until last week. Botori honored the exchange, of course. But even better? Some new styles were released over Memorial Day weekend and a few days later I ordered one of the new styles. The genius behind Botori, PJ, refunded my shipping for the new pair and would send the new pair and replacement pair together. Yes! This! Honestly, my hope was that they would be sent together, because small though it may be, one shipment has a smaller carbon footprint and less packaging than two shipments. I did not expect to be refunded shipping, as I had ordered something new I fully expected to pay shipping on. So thank you, PJ! You have a customer for life! Which … I probably was already, but this is exactly the kind of transparent and generous customer service I greatly and genuinely appreciate.
So customer service, to me, is not just about being courteous and trying to solve problems. It’s about honesty and transparency and preventing problems in the first place. I KNOW I get all this from Botori. I think I might get it from Toyota (?), but now I want to know what y’all think!
Also, work craziness is mostly over so I hope to get back to regular typing and dumping of pictures and video. Thanks for being patient with me, those of you who stuck around.
As an aside, I am slightly wondering about Toyota design and why the engine has to come out of the car for some maintenance and repairs. I drove Chevys prior to this and don’t remember that being a thing.