Sunday, May 27, 2007

Customer Service - Up In Flames 1

This weekend, we're looking for a new dishwasher because it turns out that the one we have could catch fire. Given that spousal unit Dad and I frequently load up the dishwasher in the evening after dinner and set it to run later at night when we're asleep, that's a bit of a problem. More of a problem has been trying to figure out what to do about it and part of that has been due to less-than-stellar customer service.

When the recall was first announced, I just happened to catch it on Google's news aggregator and read the first "details" in stories like this one that didn't have a whole lot of information beyond the hotline phone number - not even the links to the recall notice with the list of affected appliances or the right place on the GE website to get more information. With only basic description available that matched the basic circumstances of our dishwasher, it seemed prudent to check to see if ours was one of the affected machines. Good luck!

My first stop was to the General Electric website. Nada. You don't think fire-breathing dishwashers that they tell you to stop using immediately don't warrant "front-page" coverage?

Follow the main site link to Appliances (and from there to Dishwashers/Compactors/Disposers), there's still nothing. Another week into this story, and now it's possible to find links to the right appliances page - look for the link to the Dishwasher Recall at the bottom of the left column. At least it's orange and "above the fold".

Still... it makes me wonder just how dangerous this dishwasher really is.

While I had to do a search on the GE site for recall information to find it, I have to say that once I landed on the right page, they at least made it easy for me to get what I really wanted - information on whether the recall affected me or not. The answer is yes, it does. I'll have to thank our ex-wife for getting me addicted to rinse aids.

So, now I get to choose - free repair of my 6-yr-old dishwasher (an appliance, that according to one website has an average lifespan of 7-12 years - or this one that I've trusted a lot longer says it could go as long as 11-13 years), $150 toward on a dishwasher style that's different from the original style we bought (and doesn't include the highly-coveted stemware rack), or $300 toward a truer replacement model that will result in $400 or more in out-of-pocket costs.

Wow, that's about what we paid when we bought this one - I was shocked to find prices have gone up nearly a 100% in less than ten years! I'm guessing not all of those costs are due to increased costs in production. No wonder they feel like they can offer $300 rebates out of the goodness of their hearts.

Suddenly, I'm feeling less like they're trying to make up for a hazardous design flaw, and more like they're trying to jack up sales of durable goods. And before anyone suggests that I repair and sell the old one (or sell as-is with full disclosure of the problem so the recipient can pay to make the repairs him/herself and know it's done right), catch the fine print - if you go for the rebate, you're supposed to attest that you have destroyed the problem machine. I'm guessing a trip to the dump with a major appliance is going to set me back a few bucks too.

While I'm a bit conflicted about what to do about the dishwasher, I am very clear that customer service could be greatly improved - starting with making it easier for customers to find the information that they need. Sadly, this performance is already a far cry better than what Whirlpool/Maytag customers have already been through on a similar recall. Ouch; at least they're learning - though exactly what it is that they're learning and whether it's any real help to us consumers is still a mystery to me.

Send your suggestions, if you have them, to me at along with any thoughts you have about how customer service could be improved in these situations - questions about the recall(s) should probably go directly to the company involved. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, I'd of course be interested in that.

What risks are you willing to take for what you really want?

Kimm Viebrock is an ICF-credentialed Associate Certified Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organization, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.