Who’s qualified to speak for you?
Many forward thinking companies know the value and
importance of offering a strong warranty on their products and
services. They understand that customers who feel confident in the
company’s desire to back up their products will be more likely to
purchase from them.
But for many manufacturers, it is not always possible to have direct contact with the people who purchase their products. This is especially true for companies who’s products are sold through retailers.
I recently had an experience with this type of situation. I purchased a license plate cover a few years ago from an automotive parts retailer. This retailer has hundreds of locations across the country, so I would assume they would have some pretty established internal policies regarding product warranties.
The plate cover was made by an outside company and came with a life time warranty. The warranty did not specify any limitations or conditions. I confirmed this checking out the packaging of the same plate cover currently sold at the same retailer.
I spoke to the girl at the customer service counter and explained the situation. She said all I needed to do was bring back the old damaged cover and they would replace it with a new one of the same type. “Now that’s what I call great service!” I said to myself.
The next day I came back to the store with the damaged plate cover. There was a different girl at the customer service counter. She told me that unless I had the receipt there was nothing she could do. “You could have bought the cover anywhere.” she said. Although that statement is totally true, the fact is that regardless of where I originally purchased it, the manufacturer would still have credited the retailer for the cost of the replacement cover. I ended up leaving the store with my broken cover.
Beyond not receiving what I believed to be good customer service, what really bothered me was the fact that first I was told I was able to make an exchange, then that I was not by two people who both worked for the same store. Was there not a set policy? And is there was, which girl knew what that policy was? I called the retailer’s customer service line to find out more about how a lifetime warranty claim is handled.
The representative told me that the lifetime warranty only covered workmanship and materials, not damage due to normal use. I asked how workmanship and materials could apply to a product that was made from a single piece of plastic with no moving parts? She said that if I happen to notice that the product was cracked for no reason, then that would entitle me to a replacement. Needless to say I was shocked to hear that plastic could crack for no reason and that she knew the conditions of the warranty when those conditions were not even printed on the product’s original packaging. After a long and pointless conversation, I called the manufacturer.
It turns out that the lifetime warranty covers any form of structural damage regardless of cause. In fact all I needed to do was fax over my receipt and they would replace it for me right away. As I did not have the warranty, they said I could send them the damaged cover and it would be replaced.
So here we have a manufacturer that provides a no hassle lifetime warranty on their product making it a worry free experience to purchase. And yet the retailer negated the warranty by not supporting it. My guess is that this was due to a lack of product knowledge by both the service representative at the store and the one on the phone. Regardless of the reason, the manufacturer, having put in the effort of creating a life time warranty policy, did not experience the benefits associated with such a policy. And since their brand of plate covers is almost double that of other brands not offering life time warranties, it could be argued that there is no point in spending the extra money of the warranty is not honored anyway.
There are two lessons to be learned here. First, that the product knowledge of the seller is essential in being able to differentiate your product from another. As a manufacturer, you must ensure that everyone who communicates to potential buyers on your behalf understands all the features and benefits of your products as well as your company’s customer service policies. Second, make sure that all pertinent warranty information is included with the product. It should detail what is covered and the process involved in making a warranty claim.