An American Editor

May 21, 2012

And Then There was One: Redux

Last week I wrote about my experience with Barnes & Noble’s customer service and how frustrating I found B&N’s attitude. Ted Weinstein twitted about the article and received back a suggestion that “Dan” at B&N be contacted, with an e-mail address. Ted was kind enough to post that reply as a comment to the article.

So I did write Dan and I commented, in reply to Ted’s comment about the response I got. However, the story does not end with that reply.

I’m a firm believer that when an effort is made to rectify a situation, that effort is deserving of attention, just as the original complaint was. I think the failure of much of the media and many of our fellow citizens to acknowledge that their complaint was heard and addressed or of acknowledging it in such a way that it is never really heard speaks volumes about how ill-mannered a world society we are.

As to Barnes & Noble, the e-mailed response I received, which was not a very helpful response, was followed a day later by a telephone call from “Stephanie”, who is a high-level executive in customer service. Stephanie assured me that steps are being taken to retrain customer service representatives based on the lack of service I received. She said that the records of my calls were being pulled and the responses given by service representatives to me were being used to illustrate exactly what not to do.

And unlike earlier representatives, Stephanie told me that regardless of whether the problem with delivery was B&N’s fault or that of the New York Times, it is B&n’s responsibility to address and fix the problem. Stephanie assured me that I can expect to see significant improvement in this regard now that the problem has been brought to her attention.

Stephanie also gave me a separate telephone number to call should I continue to have a problem with either Times delivery or with a customer service representative. This number will connect me with the people who report directly to her and should I wish to speak with her, rather than one of her colleagues, all I need do is ask.

In addition to apologizing and telling me that there will be service improvements and that B&N, indeed, does want to put the customer first, Stephanie offered me a $50 B&N gift card for my troubles, which I declined. I am not interested in making money off B&N and nothing occurred that warrants giving me a $50 gift card. I do not make my complaints lightly and when I do make a complaint, it is not in hopes or expectation of being financially rewarded. What I do want is good customer service and my Times delivered timely, and if you are not going to deliver the Times timely, then a credit for the value of that issue of the Times as I have already paid for it in advance.

While on the telephone with Stephanie, I told her about my “adventure” in getting the Nook Tablet and the Times subscription originally. I noted that in that case customer service was fine, it just couldn’t solve the problem, which should have been an easy problem to solve. (See The Tablet and Me: The Nook Tablet.)

Will there be an improvement in B&N’s customer service? I hope so because I would like to see B&N survive. I consider this response a good start and I feel better about continuing to deal with B&N. I also think that B&N deserves a few kudos for making the followup effort.

The flip side is that B&N shouldn’t have had to make the effort to reach out to me and an Internet complaint shouldn’t have been necessary to instigate that reaching out. Yet if B&N makes the transition from a B&N-centric to a customer-centric organization, it could become a formidable competitor to Amazon. Unfortunately, it will take more than Stephanie to make the transition, but every great movement has to start with a first step.

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