or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Customer Service Rant

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
How do you define customer service? Apparently, "upscale" retailers like Williams-Sonoma define it differently than I do.

Just before leaving on vacation we went into the local W-S to buy some knives. I've decided to assemble a culinary travel kit separate from my household stuff. By the time I'm done I'll probably have a thousand bucks tied up in knives and other cutlery and cooking tools.

So, figuring to start with a chef's knife, we asked to see several of them. The clerk rather reluctantly opened the display case (I mean, after all, she managed to show up for work; kind of mean of us to expect that she'll do her job as well).

We choose a couple of models to look at. And then I asked her for a cutting board to work on. "Whatever for? she asked. "So I can get a feel for how the knife fits in my hand when I'm working with it," I told her.

"Oh, no. You can't do that," she replied. "Because then it would be a used knife." We're talking knives from the display case, mind you. And the last time I bought a knife, from a real store, not only did they give me a board to work on, the clerk actually brought out an onion "so you can really feel how that knife works." Obviously, she wanted to make a sale. But the clerk at W-S could care less.

We walked out, vowing to not return to Williams-Sonoma. And, with that sort of imcompetence, it's easy to understand why they're in such financial trouble.

OK, jump ahead. This morning I attempted to contact W-S about that problem. For starters, nowhere on their site do the words "customer service" even appear. But there is a "contact us" navigation button. So that's where I went.

Apparently, W-S is interested in everything except identifying and resolving problems. The contact site tells me how to get a catalog. And how to track an order. And how to send W-S info to a friend. And, stuck on the bottom, is a response form. You fill out your contact info. And then you explain what you want. Except it's limited to 1,000 characters.

Alright, I managed to condense the problem into 800 some odd characters (including spaces). But it wouldn't go through because, the error message said, it "contained invalid characters." No other explanation. But I'm guessing they were confused by characters like "a" and "t" and maybe even "w."

So I sent a semi-nasty comment instead, telling them what I thought of their site, and their lack of customer service. Next comes an automatically generated response with this last paragraph:

>Have you checked out our Customer Service page? You will find order tracking and shipping information, as well as answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about our products and company at: www.williams-sonoma.com/customerservice.<

This is the first time the words "customer service" appear anywhere. And, if you follow the link, it merely takes you back to the same "contact us" page where you started.

I don't know who Williams-Sonoma's target audience is. But it obviously isn't serious cooks who know what they're doing. And whatever they're definition of customer service is, it doesn't fit any definition I'm familiar with.

Phui!
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #2 of 19
You hit it right on the head there. Not their target market. I've been cooking for over 20 years and I would never think to go to a place like that for knives. Maybe a beautiful platter or a unique corkscrew but never a knife.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Sadly, they've got the most in-depth knife inventory in the area, which is why I went there. Anyplace else is several hours away.

But based on that service I wouldn't even go in there for a platter or an off-beat corkscrew. I can find those thinks on the web, if necessary. And, unlike knives, they don't require that I actually feel them in my hand. Nor that I pay those bloated prices.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #4 of 19
About 10 years ago I went to Williams Sonama to look around, possibly buy some new gadget..so I am at the check out and the cashier says to me.."and how are we going to pay for that"..my response was.."I don't know how you are gonna pay for it, but I am going to use my credit card"..she sniffed the air as if I didn't belong there. At the time I lived in the Hyde Park section of Tampa which is supposed to be all high and mighty..and I guess I was not dressed in appropriate clothes (shorts and t-shirt)....she asked me for my zip code..and when I told her her attitude changed very quickly.
Yeah, they are not great on customer service.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
>Yeah, they are not great on customer service.<

And if you check their recent financial statements, not so great at getting customers, either.

I can understand why.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #6 of 19
Forget the internet. This is what the USPS is for. Print this page and send it to the top!
Then maybe you will get a response!
Here is the contact info you would need!

Williams-Sonoma - Company Overview - Hoover's


(I love sending letters to CEO'S!)
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
Reply
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
Reply
post #7 of 19
I've not been to a Williams-Sonoma in years. Found them to be a little pretentious (and expensive).

Definitely send a regular USPS letter to the CEO or President, and be sure to send a copyto the store manager as well.

shel
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
One of the other ironies, Shel, is that nowhere on the W-S site does their corporate address appear. Anything to make it difficult to contact them, I reckon.

Sure, corporate names and addresses are easy to track down. But there's almost a correlation between companies who provide them readily and who have good customer service; and the opposite.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #9 of 19
I've only bought a few items from them and yes, knives was 1 of those few. Funny thing was, I bought a 5*Professional Series Henkles cleaver from them with an $80something price tag it scanned in at $69...I didn't complain nor brought it to their attention, I was happy and left.

I can't say I've had bad experiences there and I do rarely ever buy kitchen stuff from them, can't say they really fit my budget 100% of the times but I noticed that every WS locations here in Toronto are at those very trendy, upscale places like Yorkdale mall and York Ville area (a number of celebrity hangouts there) and tend to attract a similar crowd. I occasionally overhear people's conversations about how all they need to finish off their KitchenAid kitchen is a KA blender and spatula in matching colours.
post #10 of 19
I've had to deal with that with a few companies, and I know how frustrating it can be.

I agree 100% - there should be no need to track down corporate contacts.

It's hard to fathom why a business wants to make it difficult for customers to deal with them. Y'know, every customer complaint is a chance to make a loyal customer, increase business, and improve a reputation.

scb
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
>It's hard to fathom why a business wants to make it difficult for customers to deal with them.<

Something else just occurs to me along those lines, Shel.

You know how I feel about All-Clad. Well, when you walk into a Williams-Sonoma store what confronts you is a wall full of All-Clad stuff.

Could it be a case of birds of a feather? That retailers who have lousy customer service stock merchandse from manufacturers whose customer service also leaves something to be desired?

Just a random thought before my second cuppa.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #12 of 19
I'm out of coffee this morning, and I'd really like a big cuppa joe. :( All I've got is tea, which I'm not in the mood for.

Your idea that retailers who have lousy customer service stock merchandse from manufacturers whose customer service also leaves something to be desired doesn't fly with me. BB&B has great customer service and, at least around here, stock and prominantly display All-Clad.

Speaking of All-Clad, I'm beginning to believe that their quality has suffered over the years, and that several other manufacturers offer good or excellent quality at better or similar prices. Some Calphalon Tri-Ply is the equal to All-Clad and substantially less expensive, and just a couple of days ago I looked at the top of the line Demeyere skillet which seemed to be superior to the comparable All-Clad model, and which was about the same price.

scb
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
My tongue was so far in my cheek with that one, Shel, it's a wonder I could talk at all. But reversing the argument doesn't change it. I didn't say all retailers who stock goods from a company with poor customer service must have poor customer service themselves.

What I said is that if we could judge by Williams-Sonoma, retailers who do have poor customer service also stock products from manufacturers in the same boat.

I agree that BB&B has great customer service. Around here (that is, the two stores in Lexington) All-Clad is just one of the brands they stock. There are at least three others---four if you consider Emeril a seperate brand from All-Clad.

That 1-quart Simply Calphalon saucepan you bought on my recommendation came from BB& B, for instance.

The Williams-Sonoma store in Lexington, on the other hand, only stocks and displays All-Clad. You have no other choices.

So maybe there's something to my tongue-in-cheek suggestion?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #14 of 19
Some other posters said to mail an actual letter to the store manager and head office...I agree. For some reason, real letters seem to scare companies and I've always had a fast response. One time I logged an official complaint through a call centre and was told "the complaints department will review it...it will take about 6 weeks". The following day I posted a letter and the whole thing was sorted in a week.

And let's not forget that staff at big department stores just aren't used to serving people who care about the functionality of a product. Ninety-nine percent of their customers just want something that looks shiny and expensive :D

From my experience, spending $1,000 at at places like WS is equal to spending $500 at a store that supplies the pro cooking industry, and you get better service and a wider range of products.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
I wouldn't generalize how corporations respond.

True, I have had cases were a letter to the top man got quick results. But I have had just as many cases where such a letter is ignored. All-Clad is a case in point where, I believe, the poor attitude on the customer service people's part is merely a reflection of the people at the top.

In this case, a letter to the store manager likely would do little good. As it turns out, W-S has no policy against people playing with the display knives. In most of their stores, in fact, they have a pull-out cutting board just for that purpose. So the clerk was merely trained poorly. And that's the managers problem.

Frankly, I was less concerned with her attitude then with the responses I got from the so-called customer service people. When they send you an email saying that such a problem is none of corporate's business then there's a real problem with the company.

I'm very aware of W-S's high prices. But when you live in a culinary wasteland (Lexington doesn't even have a restaurant supply place), and it's a product you insist on handling before you buy, then you're kind of locked in.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #16 of 19
Hello Shel,

Thank you for contacting Williams-Sonoma.


Please know Williams-Sonoma strives to offer quality merchandise and service to our customers. When it is brought to our attention that we have not met our customers' expectations, it is disheartening to us.
As the customer's use of a knife may not be covered by the store's insurance, this policy may be set by the individual store.

When customers share their comments with us they are forwarded to the appropriate department for later review, so that new ideas and programs can be implemented if necessary. Unfortunately, our Corporate Departments are unable to reply directly regarding each individual submission.

We truly appreciate the time you took to share your experience with us.


If we may be of any further assistance, please contact us via email. Alternately, you may contact our Customer Service Department directly at 1(800) 541-1262 from 7:00am to 11:00pm (CST), seven days a week.

Kind regards,

Stefan Hone
Williams-Sonoma
Customer Service




--- Original Message ---
From: SCB
Received: 6/28/08 7:53:29 PM CDT
To: feedback@williams-sonoma.com
Subject: Feedback: Other

Name: SCB
Email: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Zip: 94707

Message Text:
I was in your Emeryville, California store and received poor service and
was treated rudely. The clerk wouldn't let me try a couple of knives I was
interested in. When I asked to hold the knives and try them on a cutting
board to see how they felt and if I'd like them, I was told that couldn't
be done because then the knives would be "used." I thought the knives the
clerk showed me were demonstration knives. Shame on you for not allowing a
customer to try a product in the store, especially a knife. As any cook
knows, knives are a very personal kitchen tool, and having a knife that's
comfortable to use and handle can make the difference between a good, safe
cooking and preperation experience and a poor one.

Shel
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Shel,

That line about insurance is a new one. They never said that to me. So you got more response than I did from corporate.

But, as you'll see in my next post, it also runs counter to what a district manager had to say.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 

Update

Just an update on the Williams-Sonoma situation.

Apparently, any complaint filed with corporate is automatically forwarded to the appropriate district office.

A good thing, as the corporate customer service people are the next best thing to useless. I don’t begin to understand why they don’t just say that, instead of sending all the BS messages.

At any rate, I received an email from Lisa Arnold, the Midwest District Manager, who, among other things, said she’d like to discuss the problem. After a bit of phone tag we finally connected.

She was very sweet; very personable. In fact, in addition to the problem, we had a nice talk about food and cooking in general, and exchanged a few recipes.

She apologized profusely for the problem, thanked me for bringing it to their attention, and told me she’s spoken to “her team” in Lexington, to assure it wouldn’t happen again.

She also pointed out that W-S’s policy is to allow customers to handle the display knives, and that most of their stores actually have a pull-out cutting board for that purpose. The Lexington store lacks such a board because it’s old, and smaller than most. But that the clerk should have taken me somewhere in the store where I could have handled the knives properly.

She did not address the clerk’s stupid comment that I couldn’t play with the knives on a board because they would then be used knives. Obviously, the clerk made that up out of whole cloth for whatever reason.

She also indicated that at the next corporate meeting, in July, she would be talking to the appropriate people about making both the web page and the corporate customer service people a little more customer responsive.

Finally, she said, she hoped I wouldn’t let this experience sour me, and that I would give them another chance.

On my end, I pointed out that she was the only person in the W-S hierarchy who seemed to care, one way or the other. And I thanked her for her concern and for following-up. But that given the overall experience I’d had at both the retail and corporate ends, and given the store’s location, it was doubtful I would ever enter it again.

And that was that. Very friendly. And I certainly appreciate her follow up, even though there was no direct resolution of my problem. But maybe some good will come out of it, so that other customers don’t go through what I did.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #19 of 19
This morning I received a reply from the GM at the local Williams-Sonoma. Here it is:


Mr. Belinkoff,

I apologize for any inconvenience we caused your shopping experience at our store. Requesting to use the knives in our cutlery case is an unusual request, but one we should have at least attempted to accomidate you with. We would like to invite you back to fulfill your request. If you would like to contact me personally, I can even set up an appointment. We can offer as much assistace you would like.

Also, you are always welcome to take any of our products home, try them, and return them; if you are not completely satisfied with their performance.

We truly do want to have you back at our store; and hope we can make and continue to make your next visit a satisfying one.

Sincerely,
Alex Niehaus
General Manager Williams Sonoma Bay Street
510-658-6358

shel
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: The Late Night Cafe (off-topic)