Yesterday, the broker/owner of SAS Real Estate responded to the bad customer service issues I wrote about concerning a $300 refund due to me. She was unhappy the story was published, although she couldn’t dispute the facts.
The whole problem would have been avoided if SAS did the Right Thing from the beginning. In this case, the Right Thing would have been to process the refund from the real estate agent’s bank account, rather than leave the customer to deal directly with the property management office. Perhaps not at first, but certainly after there were signs of communication trouble between the real estate agent and the propery management, SAS should have solved the problem.
Small businesses must recognize that it is in their best interest to do the Right Thing at all times, for all customers. That doesn’t mean that the customer is always right. Businesses cannot honor ridiculous or unreasonable requests just to make a customer happy. But when the facts are supporting the customer, and the company is somewhat at fault, it’s worth it to do what it takes to do the Right Thing.
Perhaps much of this is thanks to the Internet. You never know when your rightly dissatisfied customer manages a website that is read by 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 or even 1,000,000 unique visitors each day. A simple problem can turn into a public relations nightmare just because you refuse to pay a customer a refund that is due.
In SAS’s case, the real estate could have paid the refund directly to me from their account and then worked with Inland — through their pre-existing business relationship — to receive the money when Inland is able to process the payment. For whatever reason (as the reason they could not do this was not disclosed to me), SAS Real Estate decided to leave their customer to deal with the property manager (with the help of the threat of a lawyer). By fronting $300 in June or July, SAS would not still be dealing with this issue I’ve considered closed for about a month, and there would have been no dissatisfied customer rant requiring a defensive response by the company.
SAS Real Estate may have lost business due to my “commentary,” but I doubt it. Small businesses live and die by their reputation, which is why what I wrote elicited such a strong response. At this point, all SAS can try to do is damage control; they had the opportunity to do the Right Thing in June and July, but sealed their fate when the realtor accosted me verbally over the phone in August (remember, I never yelled at her staff and I was always patient and friendly, even though the company’s owner said I should have been angry at her staff) and continued to be no help from that point forward.
This is not a good situation for a small business that relies on its reputation. Search for sears elliptical on Google, and the second unique result is Free Money Finance’s experience with the product. I could have google-bombed SAS Real Estate. As it is, if you search Google for SAS Real Estate Edgewater, NJ, my story does list as the second unique result, and that’s without google-bombing.
Published or updated October 11, 2006.