Do we get what we pay for?

  Forum Editor 23:39 21 Dec 2005

Time and again in our forum we see complaints from consumers about the way that their customer service calls appear to go unheeded, or are treated as an irritating intrusion by the very suppliers who were so attentive when the order was being placed. Not all suppliers are found wanting when problems arise, but it's undoubtedly true that many people are driven to distraction by broken promises, unreturned phone calls, refunds that take forever, or just plain lack of interest when it comes to sorting out their just complaints.

Of course there are inefficient businesses, and without doubt there are lazy employees, but surely that isn't always the root cause of poor after-sales service? Is it the case that there's some underlying problem, some common cause that affects the whole computer retail industry?

Elsewhere in this forum there's a thread running which involves a customer service complaint, and I was struck by one response which I think touches on the real problem here:-

"Sad, but since we force the makers to lower their prices and continually seek the cheapest deal, what do we expect? You get what you pay for and we certainly don't pay for exemplary service anymore."

Many people might be surprised if they knew just what narrow margins most big computer manufacturers work on, and I wonder if the market has to some extent been the architect of its own problems in this respect. Have we all been so intent on driving manufacturers into savage competition with each other that we've left them with virtually nothing in the kitty when it comes to paying for a customer service operation? Company after company has gone to the wall, and yet we still look to our suppliers to cut prices to the bone. We want rock-bottom prices and yet we continue to demand high levels of customer service, and I wonder if we can realistically have both. Consumer laws in this country are excellent - we probably have the best legislation of all European countries - and ultimately we're protected against most of the things that can go horribly wrong with a purchase. That's not much help to someone who's been waiting two months for a failed hard drive to be replaced, however.

What do you think - should we continue to seek out the cheapest deal in town,and battle the suppliers when things go wrong, or should we be prepared to pay a slightly higher price for our technology on the understanding that it might bring a better world in terms of after-sales services?

I think I know what you'll say, but let's see.

  DieSse 00:19 22 Dec 2005

Your analysis is spot on. All we ever see are "where can I get the lowest price on XYZ product."

Suppliers who work on wafer thin margins must necessarily make their profit somewhere - this is usually by spending as little as possible on after sales service.

It's also pretty evident that many businesses seem to think that a good sales and marketng plan is all that's required - and to get going, it can work. Proper business plans include a well thought through after sales plan.

I susapect the eventual answer may be that the retailer simply does not do after-sales - they can discharge their responsibility adequately by relying on manufacturers more and more.

  Belatucadrus 00:56 22 Dec 2005

Very true, but there are also suppliers who charge quite handsomely for support packages and in some cases this support appears almost as slapdash as those intent on minimum compliance with statutory legislation.
With today’s market being as cutthroat as it I, it's clearly a difficult balancing act with bankruptcy on one side and cheesed off clients on the other. Just remember Dan computers, regularly at the top of many magazine customer service surveys, didn't save them.

  rupie 02:26 22 Dec 2005

I tried to compare the computer business to others like ryanair, British airways, audi cars, jewsons builders, Tesco. Good service is very important and will always boost future sales. British airway and Tesco are expensive but customer service is excelent so customers come back. Ryan air is cheap, they have no customer service dept. like it or go somewher else. People come back Jewsons are trade and dirt cheap but only return faulty goods. people come back what service do we want as consumers? There will always be people keeen on ripping others off and I bet the company YOU work for have done it in 1 way or another. Cheap comes at a cost. I am fed up with people going on how they want trade deals but when they mess computer things up they expect full customer support. If i bought a new audi and fiddled with it Audi would not honor my deal. BUY TRADE AND DEAL WITH IT OR PAY RETAIL AND STOP MOANING!!!!!!!

  jack 08:54 22 Dec 2005

Alas human nature being what it is, wants it always- buyer and seller alike.
Buy it cheap and if it does not work you jolly well fix it or else!
FE is absolutely right- We buyers push seller into a corner and expect all the back up - The sellers do the same to their suppliers- in any industry.

Would a paid for 'Help service' independant of the major retailer but paid for by them through their sales ,work?
That is a 'trade' help service that major retailers tap into at no cost to themselves but sell on, built into their sales costs
How does PCA's paid hor 0900 service shape up ?
to caller and the the firm, does it pay?

Maany questions and very few answers

  Stuartli 09:43 22 Dec 2005

I've pointed out countless times in the forums that low prices and first class after sales service are just not compatible.

It's compounded by the fact that many products these days, because they are manufactured to fit particular price levels, no longer have the built-in quality and reliability expected.

In addition, because retailers have to sell so many more products and at lower prices than in the past, maintaining financial parity has become more and more difficult.

My best mate owns an independent audio/visual/appliances retail outlet and I don't envy him in the slightest. I'd never even contemplate being involved in the retail field, especially putting up with some of the customers and time wasters he has to deal with.

I've been in his shop when someone has come in and asked to see a demonstration of a particular product and, afterwards, revealed their intention was to buy it slightly cheaper at another outlet that didn't do demos...:-)

You can imagine the reaction and expressions after this particular individual left the premises.

Retirement can't come quickly enough so he can put the constant day to day stress behind him, relax at last and give up being a Gordon Brown punch bag.

  961 09:50 22 Dec 2005

Time and again in these forums you will come across the discussion about virus checking software. Should we pay? Or is the free one just as good?

Go round the computers of those home users that post here and you'll find many if not most of them use the freebie. The reason is quite simple. It is the ultimate value purchase.

We are, of course, living off the back of the commercial user who pays, and the investment of the supplier in the marketing argument that the small percentage of us who go commercial will stay with the product

Open Office is the ultimate value purchase when compared to Word. Zone Alarm is the firewall to have.

And that digital camera? One high street camera retailer after a disappointing year has begun to compete aggressively on the web. They hope to recover the customer who goes in to look, and then Googles for a cheaper price. The end result can only be a reduction in their high street sales AND service staff

We are all at it, I'm afraid. And there's no sign of us changing. Does it affect quality and service? Of course it does. But there really is no indication that paying more for better service and quality necessarily produces the required result, because the supplier is on this Googling treadmill and can't get off. Those who try to swim against the tide, like Dan, mantioned above, are simply swept away

The French (don't we all love them) aren't into this. Go into any French supermarket and compare the quality of their fresh fruit and vegetables to your local stuff at home. It's a different world. But the prices aren't cheap. They are set at the cost of real food. It's fair to add that the shops still close on Sunday and many still close for lunch

It is perhaps fair to observe that we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Service is the big loser. The manufacturer or retailer cannot afford it anymore, because the customer just will not pay for it. Those who would just cannot find it anymore because it has been priced out of the market

By us

  Newuser38 10:08 22 Dec 2005

I'm feeling guilty now.
I spent some time yesterday trying to persuade a large international company, who produce portable data transfer devices, that their rule in US and Europe that they would not give free support on oldproducts (in my case 7years) was unreasonable as I am a good customer and had recently bought 2 more of their products. They do have a very good webbased live question and answer system, and I did get some useful lateral answers after ensuring that I was not getting at the advisor but the company policy.

However on reflection I should have realised the cost implication for them. Also the fact that the 3 products came from 3 seperate retailers and were not direct purchases did not make it better in particular since the old faulty, probably worn out, machine came from Software Warehouse who were good on customer service through their shop outlets but....went under.

I used to work for a large national co-operative organisation providing service and product to our owners. When the owners are the customers you have to learn about customer service fast, but the cost of ensuring you meet those demands are very big and I will remember that in future.

  jimv7 10:56 22 Dec 2005

At the end of the day, no matter what the cost, part of the adverts to the customer is good after sales service, if this is not forthcoming then the customer has every right to feel peeved and let down.

A 3 year return to base warranty should be just that, not pay high priced phone calls to be told to reinstall the computer by yourself.

Ok, a lot of errors are software related and keyboard virus's, but in the case of hardware faults where is the support then.

Even the best manufacturers have had negative posts on this forum, as the FE has said, 'broken promises' do not make good customer support especially when this was part of the sales agreement.

  Ikelos 11:23 22 Dec 2005

to add my bit, yes, you get what you pay for, nothing worse than waking up in the cold grey light of morning knowing you have done a wrong'un.

all for trying to save a couple of bob...

  david_uk 13:58 22 Dec 2005

these companies will still be around and doing good business regardless of what philosophical discussions are engaged in here. you would miss them if they were not.

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