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“The customer is always right.”

A bit of a rant . . . This morning I was sent through the run-around with Washington Mutual (WaMu) Bank. I had converted one of my accounts to another type of account about a year ago, in-person, when I went to one of their local banking sites. However, I discovered, last week, that the account had not been changed! Then, I noticed a service fee had been charged to my account every month since May 2007 — $10/month. Apparently, the mistake that they made did not penalize my account until one of their bank policies changed in May to start charging service fees.

So I went to a local bank branch, last week, and sat down with the assistant manager to correct the issue. She converted the account, to stop future charges and redirected me to a call with the WaMu bank that I had opened my account with 20-some years ago. They said they would call me back the next day to see what they could do. I didn’t hear back from them for over a week. So I called last evening. The representative said he would reverse all five of the charges from May until the present. “Excellent, ” I thought. I checked this morning, he reversed the last one but forgot to reverse the other four charges.

Customer Service

This morning, I called again and ended up waiting on the phone for quite some time, as I was put on hold and redirected several times. I ended up talking with a manager and asked that the mistake (they made) to my account be corrected and the service charges be corrected. I mentioned that $10 out of the $50 had be refunded but I would like the rest corrected as stated by the representative the following evening. They said, “We can’t do that. It’s a matter of policy that if there’s a mistake, we only correct it within 30-days.” What? It’s their mistake!

I mentioned that the representative had said all charges from May until the present would be refunded but he accidentally only refunded one. I told them I have been a loyal customer for over 20 years and I am asking that they fix their mistake to my account as a matter of principle. “No, it’s a policy”, they said, “we can’t do anything about it.” What? YOU CAN ALWAYS DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Over a $40 difference, they are willing to risk losing a customer that has been banking with them for more than 20 years?? Wow.

Apparently, for some companies, policy is more important than principle — even when they’re in the wrong. Whatever happened to “the customer is always right?” A lot of times companies forget that they don’t always have to meet their customers all the way. Sometimes, the customer is wrong. But perhaps, a “We normally can’t do that because of our policies, but I’ll see what I CAN DO” is a better answer than, “Sorry, you should have caught our error yourself.” Even if the company cannot fully refund an error, they CAN DO something to meet the customer halfway. Maybe offer some other incentives to at least create the illusion that the customer is right. But by not doing anything and arguing, the customer is often left livid, like I was.

Goodwill

Goodwill goes a long way towards customer loyalty. While a customer is not entitled to anything, they will feel an affinity for a company if they are treated with respect and cared for. When Steve Jobs lowered the price of the Apple iPhone by $200, he was making a move to squelch the competition in the smart phone market. At the same time, he offered a $100 refund to the early adopters of the iPhone to try to present them with goodwill. (While, some will still gripe and complain, it was a generous gesture).

Google is a beloved company, because they give most of their services to customers for free. Free service, yes they are powered by advertisements, but to the customer they are given a free gift. It’s that “beyond the call of duty” that make Apple and Google trusted brands. That promotes brand loyalty. Whether you love them or hate them, they are respected for that.

I’ve heard many stories where someone’s Mac or iPod was faulty or a repair was still incorrect. They had been on the phone lines with customer service and the issue was still not resolved. They wrote a letter to Apple, and Steve Jobs (or one of his representatives) made a direct reply to correct the issue and, as an aside, compensated the customer for all the trouble with a free iPod or some other product. Do you think the customer respects Apple now? Most likely, no matter what anyone else says about Apple, they are a loyal Apple customer forever. Not only that, but that customer will be a walking/talking advertisement, which is great for public relations.

Conclusion

The way customers are treated will have an effect on most businesses in the long-run. Eventually, it will have an impact on their bottom-line. As a business owner, you want to provide customers with every incentive to continue purchasing your products and no reasons to switch to something else.

Does how you are treated as a customer matter to you?