Unlike my father, who could not only fix a toaster but managed to construct an airplane in our garage, I’m not much of a handyman. For a technical illustrator who likes to draw mechanical subject matter, I’ve never been particularly excited about learning how to hang sheet rock or replace the rear struts on the family mini-van. I’m okay with this personality quirk, but unfortunately for me I’ve had to hire the occasional contractor to get some larger projects completed, and my experiences with these hired hands have varied. I’ve been relatively lucky with the quality of work these people have executed around the house over the years, but this hasn’t always been true for the quality of customer service I’ve received. I’m beginning to wonder if the inability to be courteous, return phone calls, or show up for work at a given time is a character trait common with contractors, or is there something else going on. You’d think that with the economy in the state that it’s in, good customer service would be the least thing a business would provide in order to stand out in today’s competitive marketplace.

Recently, I heard what sounded like a gunshot in the middle of the night. After determining that the house wasn’t under attack, I discovered that one of the torsion springs on my overhead garage doors had snapped. After doing a little research online, I decided that the fix wasn’t too complicated but the time required to do it might not be worth the money saved, and more importantly I didn’t want any more “gunfire” waking the kids if I didn’t do the installation correctly. I had to find a contractor to do the work.

After making about ten phone calls and getting only three responses to my inquiry I finally arranged to meet with someone. When this person arrived, he could barely look me straight in the eye or listen to what I had to say. I was left there with my mouth (and garage door) open, trying to imagine how anyone with such poor interpersonal skills could manage to run a business.He wouldn’t provide a quote, and instead offered to “try some springs out” to see if they would work. After I insisted on talking price before any work began, he suddenly threw up his hands, said “I’m outta here!” and stormed away, muttering something about having “thousands of jobs” and “I have no time for this”. I was left there with my mouth (and garage door) open, trying to imagine how anyone with such poor interpersonal skills could manage to run a business.

I ended up getting the job done with someone who provided a reasonable quote and completed the work in an efficient manner. I made a point of telling him that I’d recommend him to anyone who asked, and he seemed to greatly appreciate this.

This is how it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? Sometimes I wonder. Feel free to share any interesting customer service horror stories you have. They can be pretty entertaining.

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