MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedDirectoriesMarketplaceDates & Results
 
April 6, 2011

Customer Service

Photo by Sara Lieser.

A new horse came to me on April 1, a gorgeous mare that—because of the way the sale market is going—the previous trainer had been unsuccessful in selling.

Naturally, as soon as she showed up at my door, one of the previous trainer's clients called and said, “Oh no, she's gone? I simply MUST have her! Get her back, and here's a check.”

The owner called me and asked me what I thought. "Take it!" I told her. "I can have her ready to go in 10 minutes. When are they picking her up?"

What surprises me is how impressed the owner is. She seems stunned that I would actually do my job, which is to do the best thing for the horse and for the rider, whether it benefits me or not. She tells me that she's so impressed with my ethics. And I can't help but think, “My goodness, what sort of nasty people has this poor woman been hanging around?”

I've been thinking a lot about customer service lately. My navy blue boots were never really right, but they started to really come apart about six months ago, past the one-year mark. The manufacturer told me I was out of luck, but just in case, I got in touch with Dover Saddlery, from whom I ordered the boots originally. To my great pleasure, they said, “Bring 'em back. We'll get you new ones, from whatever company you like.” Simple as that.

This is, by the way, the second time Dover's gone to bat for me. I was floored, and I told the representative so on the phone. Her answer was the same as my response to the mare's owner: This is our job, to do right by our customers. Taking care of them is our rule, not an exception.

This is not the case at Verizon Wireless, where I was on the fifth version of the same phone because they kept having complete product failures through no fault of my own. Rather than replace each one with a new model—and it's not like I use an expensive smart phone, I prefer dumb and cheap phones—they kept sending me the same yucky one, and when version 1.5 broke down a few weeks ago, and I came to the store to return it, I was told I was out of luck, as I'd bought the original phone, version 1.1, more than a year ago. I could get a new phone cheap, but it would require extending my contract, and as I'm already quite fed up with Verizon, I'd already decided I wanted to split with them when my contract is up next February, not extend my frustration any further. 

(By the way, after talking to two different people, one on the phone and one in person, both singing the same wretched song, I got a hold of Brooke, who took great care of me, set me up with a new phone at a great price, and then gave me her personal email address in case I had any problems. Brooke, I hope you get a raise and then get an even better job working for AT&T.)

Because I like people, and I like making people happy. I believe customer service is the Right Thing To Do. But it's also the financially wise thing to do. The lifetime value of a client is much higher than whatever quick buck you might be able to make by peeving them off.

I'll make far more money off a client by making them happy and making them want to stick around than by burning them once and never seeing them again. I recently had this conversation with a manager at Wells Fargo, the company that put a hold on my credit card five times in Florida because they couldn't seem to get the memo that I was, in fact, in Florida. I don't think he understood, which is why I'll be discontinuing my relationship with Wells Fargo, as soon as I cash out my rewards points to buy something I probably don't need. Maybe I'll get the Dover credit card instead.

The horse is on her way to her new home, and that makes me feel great, even though I wasn't really involved, because I know it was the Right Thing To Do. And I don't know if I'll ever see this owner again. But I hope that if she ever needs a dressage horse, a dressage lesson or a dressage clinic, I'll be high on her list of phone calls. Isn't that what we all want in business?

LaurenSprieser.com
Sprieser Sporthorse

JRevolution
3 years 28 weeks ago
Wish we could name names
I wish everyone operated this way in the horse industry! Kudos to you for doing the right thing! I was completely taken by a breeder and breeder representative regarding a young horse last fall.... Read More
.natalie.
3 years 28 weeks ago
If only everyone operated this way!
As someone who just got royally screwed over by a sorry excuse for a "professional", I sure wish more people made the effort to do the right thing. They didn't disclose a major preexisting condition... Read More

Comments

Catherine Haddad
3 years 28 weeks ago

Excellent blog, Lauren!

Excellent blog, Lauren!  Right in line with my own thinking.  Integrity is your best asset in this business.  Good on ya!  Catherine

Catherine Haddad
3 years 28 weeks ago

Excellent blog, Lauren!

Excellent blog, Lauren!  Right in line with my own thinking.  Integrity is your best asset in this business.  Good on ya!  Catherine

anvilmountain
3 years 28 weeks ago

Customer service

Yeah! Now if everyone else would get on board...

veesutherland
3 years 28 weeks ago

AMEN! on "The Right Thing To Do"

Back in the early 90s, Customer Service and Quality were the keys to success in most companies.  Do you remember the Baldrige Award?  It was coveted by all.  Nordstom, Stew Leonard, IBM, to mention a few, were winners and worked darn hard to achieve that standard.  They all wanted to Delight the customer, not just satisfy them.

A couple of years ago I heard a talk show about customer service and it seems the mantra now is to do as little for the customer as possible without losing them.  Delight the customer?  Satisfy the customer?  Too much trouble. 

It amazes me how I have to call companies at least twice, usually more, to get them to provide their product or service - and, of course I'm going to pay them.  Then, when I get the product or service it's mediocre at best.  When it's broken or blatantly incomplete or just plain wrong, the hours spent on the phone trying to correct the problem go on and on.  It seems that customer service reps are trained to put you in some sort of doo-loop and to keep you from penetrating the walls of the company in order to find a solution.

Meanwhile, China is steadily eating our lunch.  The end of this journey is not going to be pretty.  We as a country are self-destructing - I just don't understand how short-sighted supposed smart people are.

 

cabernet
3 years 28 weeks ago

Pay It Forward!

As a 30-year hunter-jumper client, I have been extremely fortunate to have ridden with trainers who have the exact same philosophy that Lauren is describing.  In these days of gigantic Powerball and Megamillions jackpots, we all have our lottery fantasies.  Mine includes having a 1/2 dozen classy AO Hunters to ride every day.  However, when I think about buying my own farm and living anywhere I want in the country, I have a hard time imagining leaving my ethical trainer.  She would never leave her farm or family to be an exclusive trainer, so I would have to get her referral for who to hire.  Good thing I don't have to worry about every actually winning the lottery.  Instead, I go to work everyday pleased that my horses are in safe hands and will be happy to see me in the evening.  While my trainer time is only on the weekends, I have great rides after work each week because my horses are happy and healthy.  They are only happy and healthy because they get what they need, not what someone might want to sell me.  No unnecessary drama!  Thank you, Lauren, for capturing the essence of horse customer service!

.natalie.
3 years 28 weeks ago

If only everyone operated this way!

As someone who just got royally screwed over by a sorry excuse for a "professional", I sure wish more people made the effort to do the right thing. They didn't disclose a major preexisting condition on a horse I bought, and I lost a ton of money on a horse that was misrepresented in several areas, from his temperament to his medical history. I just sold the horse as he preferred a different discpline, among other things. I disclosed every last ounce of information I had on him, and priced him in a fair range given the inherent risk of his condition. I cannot tell you how many people that inquired about the horse thanked me profusely for being so honest about him. While I appreciate the thanks, it was kind of depressing that honest, ethical behavior is such a rarity that people are surprised by it.

JRevolution
3 years 28 weeks ago

Wish we could name names

I wish everyone operated this way in the horse industry! Kudos to you for doing the right thing!

I was completely taken by a breeder and breeder representative regarding a young horse last fall. Ended up costing me $6000K out of pocket to RETURN the horse to the breeder within 4 days (who would not give me full price back and treated me like an insurance rep telling me "this is my last offer!" even though I was the who'd been hit by the truck! The horse was sold to me as "easy & in your pocket" but ended up being dangerous and such a liability I didn't want any barn help to get hurt. BIG WAKE UP CALL she knew full well the horse was dangerous when the breeder came to pick up the horse and asked to make sure "someone was able to get a halter on him" when she came to get him. Yeah, in your pocket... MY money in your pocket! Took her 2.5 hours to get him in a trailer he was striking out the entire time at her)... very daunting experience with "professionals" and I only wish I could name names. There should be a BBB for the horse industry. Maybe it would keep people in check if potential clients could go to a listing and see complaints within the industry. 

randomness