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Sofa so bad! When good customer service is actually rubbish customer service...

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
May 20, 2015


Sometimes it’s the case that a company does everything apparently right when a customer complains.

Its team explains company policy clearly. They apologise. They are unfailingly polite. They send experts to check that their product is as it should be. 

They respond quickly to a complaint filed on A Spokesman Said. They couldn’t do more.

Except that they’re completely failing to do what customer service is all about.

Instead of solving a customer relations problem, they’ve made it worse. 

And they’re doing that by failing to understand than sometimes discretion is needed. Sometimes, putting aside the rule book will hugely benefit a company.

Take the case of Lee Clayton’s sofa, for example.

It’s a classic of the genre.

Here’s a guy who has bought an expensive sofa from Loaf, the London-based furniture retailers.

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Above: the offending sofa. 

The Pavilion Chaise Sofa, made to order in seven to nine weeks, cost £1845 and it’s a very handsome sofa indeed.  

Lee and his partner Kate install it in their new West London home. 

Meanwhile the couple travel a lot, and journalist Lee is often away for work, so the sofa doesn’t get used much, if at all.

But, after a few weeks, Lee gets a chance to relax on it a few times to watch TV and finds it really does not suit him at all.

In fact, he finds it downright uncomfortable. So much so, that after long sitting sessions, Lee develops a bad back for which he has to see his doctor and is prescribed pain killers. 

Basically, for him, the sofa is unusable.

He goes back to Loaf and explains the position and asks if can please return the sofa and have a refund. 

And a very, very long email dialogue is entered into that goes on for several weeks.

All the while Loaf is polite but firm. 

They have a 14-day exchange policy and it’s expired. The can no longer take the sofa back. They send out inspectors to look at it. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just that it doesn't suit Lee and his partner.

All the while Lee becomes increasingly frustrated and fed up.

Finally, after hundreds of words spent in emails, that each pretty much restate each other’s position, deadlock is reached. 

Lee brings his complaint to A Spokesman Said. 

Lee tells us: “Kate finds it uncomfortable, because of the 'slope', which you can see from the images. 

“She is pregnant and cannot use the sofa in the manner we intended. This has been explained to Loaf and they 'apologise'. That helps!

“Their 14-day return policy is not enough time to figure if it is comfortable, especially when we both travel for work and pleasure and we are rarely at home for 14 days in a row. All of this has been explained to Loaf.

“They contacted me around 48 hours after the sofa had been delivered to see if I was 'satisfied'. That's like asking a diner if he is enjoying his dinner before he has finished his first mouthful!”

Once again, Loaf are prompt in responding to Lee’s complaint and once again explain that they have a 14-day exchange policy.

Deadlock again.

Loaf have done everything text-book right and they’e done it in the right way by addressing the issue head on politely. 

But, in the process, they’ve also created one very angry and dissatisfied (former) customer.

Was that worth it, for the sake of one sofa sale?

Wouldn’t it have been easier – and a smarter investment – to have shown some discretion? And, in the process, to have created a throughly impressed customer?  

One who would tell the story over and over of how utterly brilliant Loaf’s customer service is?

If you've purchased a piece of furniture that you're not happy with, make your complaint now. 

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