left Xtraordinary Living At Its Best: Customer Service?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

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Customer Service?

For the past couple of months, my wife Jessica has been actively shopping around for new appliances for our kitchen - yes I finally "gave in" and we are doing a kitchen remodel. She finally found what she was looking for so this morning she called in to give them our credit card number so they could run the deposit for our order.

Turns out that the company she is buying the appliances from has a policy that prevents them from accepting credit cards over the phone. This means that if we want to buy the appliances from this establishment, we need to drive about 45 minutes to physically bring our credit card to conform to their policy. I offered several alternatives and the answer was still the same - unless we drove and physically handed our credit card, they wouldn't accept it. This is a great example of the company doing what's good for the company regardless of the impact it has on the customer. Needless to say, I'm already looking for alternatives because I don't want to do business with companies that operate this way.

Yesterday I wrote a post about some of the challenges that we face at PL&L. Today's experience really highlights the need for us to focus on creating intimacy and relationships with our customers. I certainly hope that nobody feels towards PL&L the way that I feel towards this appliance company. So if you ever start to feel like we don't care about what is important to you, please let me know personally and I will do my best to address this do, please let me know because we'll need to

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rick,

Knowing your appreciation for quality and value, I suspect these are not bargain basement appliances.

Could not a commission based sales person come to you for the CC# and earn the sale?

I know, too obvious : )

Keith Kirby

Rick Itzkowich said...

Sad but true!

Diana Dron said...

Rick,

I went out this weekend looking at appliances for the house I just bought - the appliances will likely cost $6,500 plus tax (via two different places) - I wasn't shocked at that.

What was the real shock however, is when I spoke with one of the sales assistants at EXPO, which I was considering as a potential company to do the removal and replacement. I knew that they were more expensive - I just didn't know how much. She told me that their kitchen demolitions and remodels START at $50,000 and go up from there. With that base price, I am now seriously looking at other contractors. I might buy products from them, but I won't use them as a contractor with that attitude.

Diana

Wendy H. said...

Rick,

I just saw this, so you're probably already through with this process, but if not, please let me know if I can help in any way. I'm sure I can locate someplace that would be delighted to take your credit card over the phone, or point you towards someone who will.

Diana, unfortunately, the figures you were quoted are just gross estimates that probably have nothing to do with reality. In point of fact, that's really probably a *low* estimate of the lower end of the range of kitchen remodels nowadays.

It's not about someone copping an attitude; that's just the reality. Kitchens that cost $200,000 and up aren't all that uncommon nowadays, to be perfectly frank.

Even "inexpensive" cabinetry and countertops are pretty expensive, and no matter what you choose, redoing a kitchen can be a very labor intensive job, especially if you do *anything* other than replace the exact same cabinetry layout. If any sort of plumbing or electrical work is involved, or hidden damage is encountered, you will see $50,000 in the rearview mirror *very* quickly.

Between the labor and the cabinets, that's where the bulk of the expense of a kitchen remodel is, but there are still a zillion other details that go into it that all add up pretty high, even with lower end materials.

You can certainly try to control the labor costs by finding a less expensive contractor, but do remember that you quite often get exactly what you are paying for.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to control the amount of work required for a given design, only the cost of the cabinetry and other materials, and much of what they carry at Home Depot/Expo is definitely at the low end of what's out there cabinetry-wise.

And depending on what's involved in fitting it into your existing space, it *may* turn out to actually be cheaper to go with a higher end line, possibly even custom, that can be ordered to fit much more precisely than with a lower end line that may end up requiring much more labor to get everything to fit halfway decently.

And if you end up with a contractor who isn't as efficient as he might be, or as skilled, that will drive your costs up as well, and very quickly. Be very wary of low bids and choosing a contractor based solely on price, because such lowball estimates often don't even include much of what needs to be done, and the price goes through the roof once they get started.

And speaking of customer service, places that give quotes like this really aren't giving it, either, in a way, because there are far too many variables that go into the cost of something like a kitchen remodel to be able to give a figure that's anywhere remotely near accurate before the final plans are drawn up and everything specified and specifically bid out.

Don't even think of shopping for products or contractors until you've got a full set of plans drawn up, if you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, and to realize the most economical remodel possible that gives you what you most want and need, with as little headache as possible. A good interior designer or kitchen designer can be worth their weight in gold in this process - ideally an independant one, not one who works for a particular store, because they can provide many more options because they aren't locked into particular products like store employees are, and are typically far better trained as well. You will net out far more savings than additional costs in the end.

The complexity of this field is just not to be believed, and you can literally double the cost of a kitchen just by which inserts you choose for whatever cabinetry line you decide on, as just one example of the myriad places you can get caught unaware in this process and drive the costs through the roof. I'm professionally trained in kitchen design as well as general interior design, and it's *still* a seriously complex undertaking to remodel one, even a simple remodel.

You can find interior designers near you through the ASID website at http://www.asid.org, and certified kitchen (and bath) designers through the NKBA website at http://www.nkba.org.

And if you live in California, check out the Contractors' State Licensing Board website at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/contractored/google.asp for a wealth of information on how to go about hiring a contractor, what to look for, and what to avoid. This is actually an excellent general resource for anyone regardless of where they live, with the caveat that you need to look up the specific laws and regulations in your own area.

HTH.

Wendy Hoechstetter
Hoechstetter Interiors

Rick Itzkowich said...

Wendy,

Thanks for your suggestions. The store that wouldn't originally take my credit card ended up taking it and we are on our way to the remodel. Our contractor comes well recommended and hopefully we will have a good experience through this process.