And Then There was One: Redux

Last week I wrote about my experience with Barnes & Noble’s customer service and how frustrating I found B&N’s attitude. Ted Weinstein twitted about the article and received back a suggestion that “Dan” at B&N be contacted, with an e-mail address. Ted was kind enough to post that reply as a comment to the article.

So I did write Dan and I commented, in reply to Ted’s comment about the response I got. However, the story does not end with that reply.

I’m a firm believer that when an effort is made to rectify a situation, that effort is deserving of attention, just as the original complaint was. I think the failure of much of the media and many of our fellow citizens to acknowledge that their complaint was heard and addressed or of acknowledging it in such a way that it is never really heard speaks volumes about how ill-mannered a world society we are.

As to Barnes & Noble, the e-mailed response I received, which was not a very helpful response, was followed a day later by a telephone call from “Stephanie”, who is a high-level executive in customer service. Stephanie assured me that steps are being taken to retrain customer service representatives based on the lack of service I received. She said that the records of my calls were being pulled and the responses given by service representatives to me were being used to illustrate exactly what not to do.

And unlike earlier representatives, Stephanie told me that regardless of whether the problem with delivery was B&N’s fault or that of the New York Times, it is B&n’s responsibility to address and fix the problem. Stephanie assured me that I can expect to see significant improvement in this regard now that the problem has been brought to her attention.

Stephanie also gave me a separate telephone number to call should I continue to have a problem with either Times delivery or with a customer service representative. This number will connect me with the people who report directly to her and should I wish to speak with her, rather than one of her colleagues, all I need do is ask.

In addition to apologizing and telling me that there will be service improvements and that B&N, indeed, does want to put the customer first, Stephanie offered me a $50 B&N gift card for my troubles, which I declined. I am not interested in making money off B&N and nothing occurred that warrants giving me a $50 gift card. I do not make my complaints lightly and when I do make a complaint, it is not in hopes or expectation of being financially rewarded. What I do want is good customer service and my Times delivered timely, and if you are not going to deliver the Times timely, then a credit for the value of that issue of the Times as I have already paid for it in advance.

While on the telephone with Stephanie, I told her about my “adventure” in getting the Nook Tablet and the Times subscription originally. I noted that in that case customer service was fine, it just couldn’t solve the problem, which should have been an easy problem to solve. (See The Tablet and Me: The Nook Tablet.)

Will there be an improvement in B&N’s customer service? I hope so because I would like to see B&N survive. I consider this response a good start and I feel better about continuing to deal with B&N. I also think that B&N deserves a few kudos for making the followup effort.

The flip side is that B&N shouldn’t have had to make the effort to reach out to me and an Internet complaint shouldn’t have been necessary to instigate that reaching out. Yet if B&N makes the transition from a B&N-centric to a customer-centric organization, it could become a formidable competitor to Amazon. Unfortunately, it will take more than Stephanie to make the transition, but every great movement has to start with a first step.


  1. fjtorres21 May, 2012

    Well, the good news is that it *is* possible to get good customer service from B&N.
    The bad news is who have to be a blogger with a following raising an online ruckus to get attention.
    We’ll have to wait a while to see how it goes for Joe Shmoe from Tupelo… 😀

  2. Tyler21 May, 2012

    I had a similar situation happen to me at Dell three years ago with a laptop purchase. Without going into too much boring details, Dell made it impossible to cancel an order once it was placed even though though they would not be shipping the laptop for many days later because it was “in production”. No one at customer service would help me in two days of phone calls. I ended up finding Michael Dell’s e-mail address and the problem was taken care of right away without much fuss.

    I am in customer service myself. I have always held the philosophy of both how would I want to be treated and how would my parents want to be treated. No matter how irate or unreasonable the person I am handling may be (we know they are out there), I always try to find the quickest, easiest solution to the problem at hand. I try to make sure I don’t lose sleep at night over any customer by listening and just doing what it takes. Another big thing to do is if you say your going to do something, do it. That said, not every company instills great values or gives their customer agents the power to do what it takes to solve a problem. A customer problem can quickly turn into customer loyalty when a problem is fixed. The fact that they are even calling a customer care line, in many cases, shows that they want to remain a customer.

    1. Mike Cane21 May, 2012

      Dell! OMG! I had to go through something similar due to a heatsink that was designed to fail. After no joy with the Mumbai Squad, I tweeted Dell himself and he had an *American* contact me who sorted it all out quickly and I got a replacement heatsink. Outsourcing CS is a recipe for failure. The CS people cannot take any initiative and the cultural differences always make me think that they consider Americans to be spoiled brats even when American *law* is clearly on our side.

      1. Tyler21 May, 2012

        Google Dell and you see all kinds of complaints. Makes Barnes and Nobble look like saints.

  3. Mike Cane21 May, 2012

    I’m glad to see B&N is doing something. Too bad it had to be escalated so far to the top before someone could *do* something.

    B&N went all-out to fix a nagging WiFi bug in the 1.1 update:

    The Nook Touch 1.1 WiFi Issue

  4. digital reader fan21 May, 2012

    Glad to hear they/Stephanie took care of it.

  5. Peter21 May, 2012

    Good for Twitter!

  6. BTMI21 May, 2012

    I feel sorry for B&N…they have a winning product with the Nook with Glow Light and not any to sell. Went to NY B&N store and rocked up to a Nook counter to speak to the poor guy whose sole job was to tell disappointed customers like me that they have no stock and there is no news as to when they will.

    Sucks for me because this week was my only chance to get one (not being from round this part of the world) and the demo unit in store only increased by frustration. So I guess I will have to wait for the Kindle version now.


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