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Customer Experience – Washing Machine Blues

LG F12U1TCN4

Excellent customer service is not the same as an excellent customer experience.

You can have a great customer service but customer experience reflects the whole journey and may leave your customers feeling incredibly frustrated. They may have other negative emotions, far worse than just feeling frustrated.

This was my experience.

Before diving into this short story, it’s worth remembering what customer experiences may impact, here are some of the key principles which will be expanded during this true story;

·         Customers Identity ·         Provide a Stress-Free Experience
·         Higher Objectives ·         Indulge the Senses
·         Leave Nothing to Chance ·         Be Socially Engaging
·         Set and Meet expectations ·         Put the Customer in Control
·         Provide an Effortless Experience ·         Consider the Customers Emotions

 

Our experience of buying this super-duper LG washing machine was initially very good. We bought the machine from Currys PC World, and it did its job very well for about seven months. It was much quieter than our old Bosch and could hold a bigger load.

I was attracted to it for several reasons, form and function were both important. As was the extended guarantee of 5 years for the whole machine, and 10 years, for the direct drive motor.

Getting the extended guarantee was not as easy as it could have been. One of the phone numbers wasn’t working and the process was confusing and required more effort than we had anticipated (Provide an Effortless Experience).

An Error Code Pops Up on the Screen

The machine performed as expected from the time we bought it up to the 18th December, 2016. It develops a fault called dE1.

Our assumption was that this fault/problem would be easily repaired. I first looked at the LG website, found the error code and went through the machine reset process. This comprised of removing the mains plug and pressing one of the buttons for 5 seconds.

Despite trying this several times the error code kept showing up on the machines front screen.

I then decided to report the fault via the on-line system. So, created a login and waited until the next day to see what kind of response I ‘d get. In defense of LG, I booked the fault on the day it occurred which was a Sunday.

Monday morning and heard nothing so I decided to call the support/help desk. The support people informed me that the earliest time to get an engineer was Thursday 22nd, so I went ahead and agreed to be at home that day.

The engineer arrived late on Thursday 22nd and explained that the only thing he was told was that the machine had a door problem. This was despite that fact I had already booked the fault on-line as a dE1 error and had told the support people about the on-line booking and the error code.

I was left feeling disappointed at the lack of communication between LG’s fault booking system and the front-line engineers.

The engineer did a full diagnostic of our electrical mains system as well as the machine. Can’t fault the diagnostic checks as they seemed very thorough.

His feedback suggested, it can only be one of two things, either the door locking mechanism, or the PCB (printed circuit board).

He said that LG, don’t allow the engineers, to hold much, in the way of spare parts (why not)? He ordered the parts and said they wouldn’t be available until January the 4th. It was a lot worse than I had been led to believe (more on this later).

An Email to LG Support

Bearing in mind that it was fast approaching Christmas and washing which has a habit of building up, the wait till the 4th of January wasn’t helpful. The season of good will it might be but it’s also the season of stress, my wife was more than a little stressed at the thought of Christmas and our laundry mountain.

My reaction was to call LG support again the next day to see what could be done. I called on Friday the 23rd and was told that nothing could be done. I asked that I speak to someone higher up.

The help desk gave me another email address and suggested I contact this higher-level support as they have more power.

I emailed the new email address on the 23rd December to ask that they take another look to see if spare parts could be found quicker.

The reply came on the 28th of December, below;

“Good Morning,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

We are sorry to hear of the problems you have experienced with your LG Washing Machine. All of our products are manufactured to the highest specifications and compare favourably in terms of reliability with our competitors, regrettably as with all electronic appliances faults can occur at any given time.

 

Whilst we do understand the frustration and inconvenience of being without such a machine for a period of time, we do believe this repair to be within a reasonable time scale. Please do take into account the time of year and the several bank holidays that are also included in this time frame.

 

We do understand that it cannot be helped that a fault has occurred with your machine at this time of year, please accept our apologies that we are not able to speed this up for you and your family.

 

If you require further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.”

This response left me somewhat frustrated. To be told that “All of our products are manufactured to the highest specifications” etc, etc is like pouring salt into an open wound.

As was the other part about a reasonable time frame. Reasonable for who exactly?

In between these emails, we contacted some friends to borrow their washing machine and arranged to pay a visit to the launderette.

I followed up with another email to explain things from where I’m sitting.

Next day, I got an email, the contents of which were a tad surprising see below;

“Good Morning,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

Please do accept our apologies for the inconvenience you have suffered and the frustration that has been caused as a result of this.

 

We have contacted the engineers to see when parts would be available and they have advised us that the parts required for your repair are out of stock and there are no alternatives available.

 

As such, we have deemed your machine beyond economical repair and are writing it off. You will receive a letter from us in the post which is known as an uplift letter, and this contains a code which essentially acts as store credit. You are able to take this into Currys for a replacement machine up to the value you paid at the time of your original purchase and depending on their stock availability, you are able to choose a new machine.

 

This will be processed today and you should receive your letter in the post from us shortly. Once you have received this letter, you can take this to Currys and they will be able to assist you further with this.

 

If you wish to discuss this further or require further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us”.

According to this email, the parts are not in stock and neither will they be in stock, no alternative is available and we are writing this machine off.

A machine which we bought 7 months ago, with a 5 year extended warranty is written off because of a few parts.

I wrote another email and asked for clarification on parts, the uplift letter and what it meant.

The response is below;

Good Morning,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

The parts that are required for your unit and not in stock at the moment and there is no ETA for when they will be available. We would not want to keep you waiting for these parts as we have no way to tell when they will become available again and we believe that this would be an unreasonable time frame to keep you waiting for a repair to your machine.

 

As such, we have deemed your machine beyond economical repair, meaning that we will write your machine off and issue you with a letter that entitles you to a new one.

 

Unfortunately, if the new machine you choose is less than the amount you paid, you will not receive any cash back from this. Alternatively, if the new machine you want is slightly more than the price you paid, you are able to put cash towards this to make up to the total value.

 

As explained to you previously, you do not need to purchase the same machine and it does depend on the stores stock availability. Similarly, it is up to the discretion of the retailer to issue you a refund if this is the option you would like.

 

Please let us know if you are happy with this and we will then process the necessary paperwork for this.

Currys PC World Was Excellent

Samsung ecobubble digital inverterMy wife and I popped off to Currys PC World who couldn’t have been more helpful. We found a replacement machine, Samsung ecobubble digital inverter and they indicated that we would get refunded any difference.

We contacted LG again and asked them to forward the letter as a PDF so we could get the washing machine replaced quickly.

The email arrived later that day.

Back to Currys PC World, the machine we wanted within the terms of the uplift letter was available and booked to be delivered the following day (Saturday). The new machine is a Samsung with similar specs to the LG. No LG machine was available within the price range.

I think there are several strands to this story which are worth exploring.

Did LG customer service respond appropriately? What was the overall customer experience like, from buying the machine, through to final replacement? In what way are LG affected from a profit perspective and as a brand?

Did LG Customer Service Respond Appropriately?

If the goal was to serve the customer the best way they can, within whatever limited remit they may have then it could be argued they have done this. Even if it meant at a steep cost. Lost profit, lost brand loyalty and so on.

Who knows, what would have happened if I hadn’t phoned them after waiting for a response on-line? If I had accepted the engineer’s advice of delivery of parts on the 4th January would LG have contacted me before then to say there may be further delays? Would second level support have come back to me to say the machine’s parts are not in stock if I hadn’t persisted so much?

I happen to think that the helpdesk/support has a limited course of action permitted by management. What these limits are remains to be seen and whether they should be extended or not is surely worth consideration.

What was the overall customer experience like, from buying the machine, through to final replacement?

I’ve got mixed thoughts and emotions on this question. Consider customer experience from our bulleted list, I think some of them are left wanting.

·         Customers Identity ·         Provide a Stress-Free Experience
·         Higher Objectives ·         Indulge the Senses
·         Leave Nothing to Chance ·         Be Socially Engaging
·         Set and Meet expectations ·         Put the Customer in Control
·         Provide an Effortless Experience ·         Consider the Customers Emotions

 

The LG washing machine did identify with yours truly and hit my higher objectives/values.

Extending the warranty was a pain and we extended more effort than was reasonable. The product did indulge the senses (up to the point of failure). Even after failure, I thought the online help to be of some use even though our machine didn’t respond.

At the point of the dE1 error code, customer experience suffered. Going on-line did put the customer in control but when I didn’t get a response I had to call which took more effort.

The initial delay in getting an engineer to visit wouldn’t have been a problem but not having any spare parts made the wait annoying. If the dE1 error had been passed to the engineer would I have found out quicker that the parts needed were not in stock.

I’m left remembering the effort needed to get a successful resolution was the part which stuck in my head.

LG and its channel partner which in this case was Currys PC World had I assume made an initial profit.

Why weren’t parts available in a timely fashion? Should spare parts be available even if the machine is end of life?

LG did provide an uplift letter but I was stuck in as much as I couldn’t get an LG replacement machine as the machines available all cost more. Would LG have done better to have provided a replacement machine which costs more?

On the face of it, no, but my brand loyalty would have shot off the scales and would likely recommend them to others. A machine costing more may even have cost LG less in real terms. Okay, the margin for profit would have been less but perhaps this is worth exploring.

In the end, I’ve got a new Samsung machine with a similar spec. Currys PC World did a great job and were very professional.

As for LG, hopefully, I haven’t been too harsh, in my view customer experience and customer journeys don’t end when the machine is bought, the experience goes way beyond that.

Will the Samsung machine perform as I’ve hoped? If it does go wrong, will I need to apply as much effort to get a resolution? Who knows but I will keep people updated.

I think it’s important to get a perspective on this, no wars were fought, no one died or was injured. This is, a highly competitive commercial world we all live in, customer acquisition can be costly and overall customer experience really does matter.

For those who would like to see my (hopefully) fairly amusing video, its below;

 

About the Author Steve

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