Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I Nearly Fell on my Backside- And How One Company's Positive PR Response Restored my Sense of Balance

     My local school board made headlines this week for hiring a new school superintendent. The new guy is  getting $15,000 a-year more than the last guy- with a base salary of $169,000. Immediately after the hiring the school board decided to lay off or demote 20 school employees because of a budget crisis. One board member called the timing "unfortunate". And I couldn't agree more. I think it's unfortunate that my school board was caught napping in PR class.

     Which leads me to a completely unrelated thought. Occasionally, the staff here at SteveBauerMedia enjoys a good home improvement project- who doesn't? Take my recent bathroom renovation. Admittedly, the new tile floor is not exactly what you would call "level". But I did win a grudge match against the sink- thanks to a nine-pound sledge hammer.

     Here comes the segue... It occurs to me that you don't need a sledge hammer to pound out a decent PR policy. (My school board should wake up and pay attention here.) Not that long ago, the customer was always right. Ahhh, the good old days. These days a lot of people think PR departments exist just to put positive spin on corporate misdeeds. Sadly, that sometimes appears to be the case.

     But not always. Which is my segue back to home improvement. About six weeks ago I decided to repaint the back porch- which was a disaster. I decided to do it right, stripping the paint right down to the bare wood. I started with a primer coat before painting with Behr's Porch & Floor Paint. Remember the name. The paint didn't cover particularly well so I had to use two coats. A few days later I stepped out on the deck and nearly fell on my backside.  It had rained overnight and there was some moisture on the deck. It wasn't just a little slippery. It felt as if I'd hit black ice!

     I called Behr's customer service line to complain. The rep told me there's a warning on the can- telling customers to buy an additive to prevent slippery conditions. Remember the name of the paint? Porch & Floor Paint. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I would presume that porch & floor paint is specially formulated for people to walk on. Who would make floor paint that's slippery?

     I asked to speak with a supervisor. That person told me they hadn't had any problems or complaints. But if the paint isn't slippery why is there a warning on the can? Long story short: the supervisor told me that Behr stands behind its product. He promised to make things right. In fact, he offered to refund the money I spent on paint and pay to have my deck repainted. A few days later a package arrived in the mail with the paperwork I needed to get reimbursed.

     As it turns out, it appears there was some residue left over from the paint that made the surface slick- and since I washed down the deck I haven't experienced any slipping or sliding. I'm still not sure this is the greatest paint in the world- but I'm convinced that Behr's response is something to talk about.

     A lot of companies miss the boat here. Repeating the SteveBauerMedia mantra- "Sometimes you have to do the right thing." Behr knows its reputation is valuable and it's clear to me that Behr's has a corporate policy that takes customer satisfaction seriously. I was not a happy camper when I called. But Behr not only took my complaint seriously- the company promised action. What happens when someone calls your customer service department?

Me: "The hair dryer exploded and the cat is now bald."
McAcme Hair Dryer Customer Service: "That's not possible. Our hair dryers are handmade by Tunisian-speaking electricians."
Me: "I'm looking at a naked cat!"
McAcme Hair Dryer Customer Service: "You probably have faulty wiring in your home."

      Sometimes, when I've had problems with a product some customer service rep will say, "I'm sorry you feel that way". That particular line always makes me "feel" like I should get out my sledge hammer. Did I mention that my school board wants to raise my taxes? Talk about faulty wiring...

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