My wife and I have been waiting for a total of 11.5 hours now for a tradsperson to arrive to fix our dishwasher. When we can send a man to the moon – and are told customer service is all in the modern economy – how come this keeps happening?

I've just got off the phone to someone responsible for what can only loosely be called "customer service". This is not the first, second or even third time my wife or I made such a call, all in an effort to get a Haier dishwasher fixed by Fisher & Paykel.

Calling them 'customer service' people is laughable. So let's label them as what they are: Time thieves.

So long has passed now it's hard to remember – who was Prime Minister when this all started? – but at least three weeks ago we contacted Fisher & Paykel customer service (snort) to arrange a fix for our broken Haier dishwasher.

The first time my wife arranged to leave work early, changed childcare arrangements and so forth to be home at an agreed time. The technician turned up two and a half hours early and asked her to leave work then.

It was explained (belatedly) that they work on a four hour window (four hours!) and you had to wait obediently at home for half a day to be there when they called (contrary to arrangements on the first call). But, the person on the phone said, because they'd messed up the first time they'd fit us into a two hour window. So again my wife altered work, children and life to sit and wait. No show.

Again they apologised, but said there were no notes about coming within a two hour window, and they couldn't really do that anyway because – don't you know? – they work on a four hour window. They really can't be any more precise than that.

So a third time was arranged. Today. Again, despite the protestations last time, we were promised a two hour window. Notes were diligently recorded on our file, we were told. Further, we were promised we would be the first job of the day.

By 9am it was clear that obligation hadn't been met. By 10.15, I rang again. Sorry, they said, but they couldn't find any job under that name and address. After a few minutes searching they found the job under street number 62, not 63. Oops, typo. But the phone numbers were correct.

So they went to the wrong address and didn't call, I asked astounded? No, they just haven't got to us yet. Still. They work to a four hour window, you know.

So yes, when the offer was made by the support desk person, I said yes I would like to speak to customer service. As had my wife before me.

Sorry, she said. Can't understand how this would have happened, she said. Perhaps his earlier jobs had gone long, she said. If you can't meet the agreed window, even after two stuff ups, perhaps you're in the wrong bloody business, I didn't say. (Although I did point out that the two hours was agreed and wasn't it ridiculous to make such an arrangement and fail it for a third time, I said. Yes, she said).

I also pointed out that we had been promised the first job of the day, so it shouldn't have been an issue of jobs running late. The technician usually does your area late morning/lunch time, she said, so no idea why the other people would have promised you the first job. And yet they did, I said. And it was meant to be in the notes.

Hmmmm, I scribbled down in the note file in my head, perhaps you don't need four hour windows if you know that your technician does certain areas at certain times. But there was no point pushing that boulder uphill any further.

I also pointed out that my wife had been told that they were the only people who could service their machines; an odd claim certainly, I concede, but one we stupidly took at face value. Now this 'customer service' person said we could always go elsewhere. Charming.

She then proceeded to try to put blame back on us, saying we had missed a call from them this morning. As she went away to check, I called my wife. When the time thief returned, we agreed we hadn't missed any call, as my wife had just informed me. But there was no apology.

My final question was how they intended to compensate me for 12 hours of my family's time. She said there was nothing she could do. So, not really customer service then.

If I welched on a contract or missed my deadline three times, there would be consequences. Financial for my employer probably disciplinary for me. But not in this world it seems.

Those are work hours lost, chores not done, childcare compromised, dog not walked, hair not cut, groceries not bought and everyday life disrupted three times because Fisher & Paykel can't run the logistics of its own service centre.

The bigger picture issue is that, while most tradespeople don't miss three agreed appointments, they do all seem to think it's OK to work in these big "windows", asking you to put huge amounts of time aside to wait on their convenience.

This experience has rammed home to me how insane it is that while the rest of the workforce has become incredibly flexible and utterly customer focused, this one sector – tradespeople and any service folk who come to your house – is still behaving as if it's 1956 and the little woman is at home all day willing to wait for the tradie to come.

Surely if outfits such as Fisher & Paykel can invent dishdrawers, they can figure out a system to be more precise about their service times. And that goes for all tradespeople. Why is it they get to work in a way completely out-dated for modern living, where so few families have people at home during the day? How do they think it's OK for us to sacrifice our time and money in our busy lives, to suit them?

Every other service I can think of has moved to provide customers with precise times, terms and conditions, yet these people still think a four hour window is acceptable.

They are living in a time that's gone, working to a schedule no longer fit for purpose. It's time to buck up.

And that goes to you especially, Fisher & Paykel. In the time since I got off the phone from your lamentable customer service people, I've been able to write this blog. And there's still no technician here. I'm still waiting.

Comments (15)

by Raymond A Francis on April 18, 2016
Raymond A Francis

You are so right, not only do they (tradesmen) act as if it was 1956, they act as if they don't carry a cell phone and cannot call to explain why they might be late or early 

Meanwhile when do arrive they spend time, that you are paying for, talking on the fore mentioned non existing cellphone 

One of the mysterious of modern life

by Chris de Lisle on April 18, 2016
Chris de Lisle

This is a first world problem. It seems particularly cruel to focus on the customer service person, who probably has very little control over what happens, who is employed essentially to absorb your disgruntlement, and who has absolutely no interest in taking your time. 

by Matt Smith on April 18, 2016
Matt Smith

Tim, you’re so right. I had a very similar experience with Fisher & Paykel. I didn’t own a car so it was quite a mission to wait around for half a day for them to arrive. When I really lost my cool with them though was when they demonstrated their extortionate parts racket. They wouldn’t quite know what was wrong, but if they supplied me with a new part it might fix it. It’d cost $90 or so and I had to pay upfront. Well, it needed fixing so ok. They install the part and lo and behold it wasn’t that. Hmm. Well we could try replacing this other part?

“Will that fix it?” I say.

“Maybe.”

“How much is it?”

“Only $69.”

“…..”

“Ok.”

  

After they’d done this to me twice, both wasting my time and selling me parts I didn’t need on both occasions without fixing the problem, I lost it. I asked to speak to a manager, and demanded that they come at a pre-arranged time, and that they properly diagnose the problem before they sell me any parts. They did, but I had to let them know in no uncertain terms I wouldn't put up with their sh*t any more before they acquiesced. It didn't seem that unreasonable that they actually figure out what the problem was before making me buy parts, and they'd wasted enough of time with their 4 hour windows that I had no more slack to cut them.

I've never felt so ripped off as I did dealing with Fisher & Paykel, and I'd never deal with them again.

The next time it broke down (F&P dishdrawer. 4 breakdowns in 4 years) I had the kitchen cabinets reconfigured so I could get a model that other repair outfits could service. I will go a long, long, long way out of my way to avoid Fisher & Paykel’s repair crews.

by Rich on April 18, 2016
Rich

I'd recommend finding a local repairperson, ideally one you can trust with a key.

Most CS operations actually exist to drive complaints away, and considerable expense is gone to in order to achieve this.

For instance, when an internet connection won't work, it's actually, on a half-way well designed system, a simple matter to diagnose it to a line fault, modem fault or a problem with your computer setup. You should just be able to go to the CS page on your phone, enter your details and get a message to say they're sending a tech out to fix the line, that you need a new modem, that you need to get somebody to sort out your computers, or that you really need to give up and use a pencil.

The fact that instead they keep you on the phone to somebody in Manila for an hour is purely due to a need to minimise fixing line faults and the way the telcos are allowed to employ people for 50c an hour in developing countries.

by Alex Rahr on April 18, 2016
Alex Rahr

It might be a modern management or IT problem rather than a 1956 era problem. Maybe the person who would put in notes has responsibility for seeing them followed but no power, maybe there's a template which reapplies when they save (& which reverts standard problems to the 4 hour window), maybe it's something else similar.

If so you need to bypass this then you need to bypass the system. It doesn't sound like you know someone there so one likely way to do this is to send a physical letter (not email or phone call); there tend to be different procedures for physical objects received than for information received.

by Alan Johnstone on April 18, 2016
Alan Johnstone

Sounds a breeze compared to dealing with Chorus for a fibre install.

by Robin on April 18, 2016
Robin

I can only agree with Alan. Over 9 months into trying to get fibre installed here. Bigpipe are absolutely incompetent. Chorus seem to have screwed things up too, but as the communications have to go through Bigpipe it's difficult to say. Nine months from Bigpipe of conflicting info, technicians missing appointments, and 'customer service' that's all about indemnifying themselves from taking any responsibility. Still no fibre either. 

I feel like I've wasted enough time on this and I should be trying to be detached about it, but the service has been so abysmal I'm tempted to see how far the consumer guarantees act goes in a tribunal. 

by Julian Ang on April 18, 2016
Julian Ang

As a regular reader of your blog, I'm a little amused by this post as it comes across more as a rant than an informative piece about social and cultural mores for a particular industry. Most people have had significant delays with some tradespeople, particularly when dealing with broadband issues but ranting about it through this forum doesn't seem appropriate. Perhaps postulating about the structural issues or attitudes that allow such behaviours to fester might be more informative? 

by Rich on April 19, 2016
Rich

Chorus seem to have screwed things up too, but as the communications have to go through Bigpipe it's difficult to say

It would be far more efficient if we had one telco per district, preferably a community owned co-op, that provided an end-to-end solution. There's only one set of wire/fibre, so why have dozens of companies that are mostly just marketing and billing operations.

Same with electricity. The concept of artificial pseudo-markets is really just a form of corporate welfare that keeps large numbers of office workers employed but produces nothing.


by Moz on April 19, 2016
Moz

Finding a tradie is a whole new game as well. We have companies that dedicate considerable resources to SEO and review sites, so anything you find online is almost certainly worthless. I say this from experience, having paid $250 to have an "electrician" come out like so:

  1. use the contact form on their website.
  2. They rang me, but hung up before I could answer
  3. ring their contact mobile number, get office person (who pays? I pay!)
  4. explain what I want. Get told "we can't quote over the phone, we have to send someone out"
  5. electrician arrives on time. Looks at job.
  6. Pulls out the big folder of pricing
  7. says "what you want is $900, but if I do something similar it's $250. No discounts, no price variations. What the book says, is".
  8. I opt for the less rip-off option
  9. he insists that before he can actually touch anything he has to do the "free safety check"
  10. which predictably finds $2000 worth of "urgent" and "critical" repairs required
  11. I get him to fix the actual safety issue I called him out for
  12. He offers me a free movie ticket for a positive review of the company on website X, and a second for a positive review of him on site Y

Total time on site was about 90 minutes, of which about 15 was spent going under the house to remove the exposed wires leading to the stove (rodent gnawing issues).

The good news is that he turned up within 10 minutes of the agreed time, and actually did fix the problem. The bad news, obviously, is the lies about quoting, the heavy push for extra work and over-priced work, and the overall high pricing. But those extra promotion efforts have to be paid for.

by Tim Watkin on April 19, 2016
Tim Watkin

Matt, that sounds terrible. Surely if it wasn't those parts that were the problem, you should have some comeback in law not to have to pay, given you were acting on their advice. Sheesh.

Chris, I didn't name anyone for that reason. But I see no reason not to tell the story because it's not the customer service person's fault. And anyway, if you read the piece you would see that it was in part their fault, telling us stuff that just wasn't correct.

by Tim Watkin on April 19, 2016
Tim Watkin

Rich, we had a local plumber come first, but F&P seem to have the monopoly on the parts. He didn't want to pull the pump out without the parts, so F&P it was.

by Tim Watkin on April 19, 2016
Tim Watkin

Julian, I'm allowed to mix it up sometimes, aren't I? But there actually is a wider point in the post. Customer service is a social issue of import to a lot of people and the lack in this country, including the comments drawn out by others on this thread, suggests attitude problems in how its dealt with. The structural issue I'm pointing to is tradespeople not adapting to a more flexible and larger labour market and the changes to the nuclear family. Pretty fundamental, yet this sector of business seems to ignore it.

by Tim Watkin on April 19, 2016
Tim Watkin

And now the good news. A few hours after this post when up, and I tweeted about it, I had a call from Nick, F&P's national customer services boss. He was apologetic, said he read the blog thinking I must have got something wrong, but checked and found I hadn't. He said one of those three things might be put down to an accident, but this was unacceptable, terrible, not on etc. He said they can offer two hour windows now in some circumstances (I pointed out that message hadn't reached some of his team) and his goal was to make it standard. Three cheers, I said.

And yes, he also offered me a refund. They are sending a cheque.

I said I would tweet and comment here that they had responded quickly and as, frankly, as they should have in the first place. But credit where credit's due I said. We don't deserve much credit in this case, he said.

But it's decent to hear that and so promptly. So fair play to them.

by Rachel Cunliffe on April 22, 2016
Rachel Cunliffe

Ugh, I feel your pain Tim and glad that you have found resolution.

Complaining publicly (blogging, tweeting) is the best way to get fast customer service resolution in New Zealand. 

This would never have happened in the US. Each time we are there, I'm stunned at the level of trouble they go to make you satisfied and ... happy ... as a customer. It goes right down to every little detail.  When I come back to NZ, I long to see it happen here. The first thing I notice when I return are retail assistants complaining about their jobs (or when they're going on break) in earshot of customers. *sigh*

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