Customer Care....where are you?

I received a Montblanc pen.

It was my birthday. It was from my husband. It was the gift that answered the question that I had not asked. My husband explained that it was to replace the old one that I had received years ago as a graduation gift from my aunt. A thoughtful gesture but not exactly the “targeted to my taste” gift. This was the same pen that my husband had usurped from me years ago…and then broke. So years later, belatedly remembering a need for a birthday gift- dashing through the airport- he bought me a Montblanc pen.

It was very sweet of him and I immediately took pen to paper to sign my name with a flourish only to discover the pen didn’t work. The pen didn’t work. I changed the paper, pushed a bit harder, feverishly made lines until ripping said new paper. I licked the ballpoint; I tried to write on my skin (not clear what the thought process was there); I took a lighter to the tip to “loosen up” the ink. To no avail. The pen didn’t work.

I have to say, I was peeved. This is, as you know, not a BIC pen. The least expectation I have of any pen is that it works. The bare minimum, a hygienic is you will. This expectation is exponential for a pen that is exponentially priced. I pulled out the ink charger. It said it should work until Jan 2017. It was January 2016. No excuse ink charger.

I went to the website to get the customer care number. When I called a recording informed me that the number had changed and to please write down the new number. That was rich. Let me get my Montblanc pen for this. Oh wait no, I guess the Bic will have to do. So I called the new number and had someone on the line. I explained the problem. She asked if my husband could go back to where he got it. I reminded her that no, he couldn’t as he had bought the pen in another country at the airport. She asked if I could go to their store in Geneva. I said well no, I live in Lausanne and I have no reason to go to Geneva. At this point she was out of suggestions.

I suggested mailing me the ink. She said no they couldn’t do that because it was too costly to send it to Switzerland. I asked if they had a reseller at the Geneva Airport and if they did perhaps she could send me a note offering a free ink recharge at the airport store. She thought it was possible but first needed the bill from the pen sale. I scanned and sent the bill. This was Friday morning. I thought for sure I would here back by the end of the day. Radio silence. I write again. Nothing.

By Saturday I contact Mont Blanc by Twitter asking for an update. I also go to their Facebook page. Strangely you can’t post anything there all you can do is reply to existing comments. Which I did. With my complaint. I noticed that other Montblanc owners reverted to the same tactic as well.

Radio Silence.

On the Monday I call again. The woman I had spoken to on the Friday was out sick. I was now speaking to someone else. She told me that I shouldn’t have contacted the SM channels because they are not connected to customer care. Upon which I quickly check my calendar to confirm it was 2016. I explained again that I was waiting for a voucher for a new ink charger. She excused herself explaining that she didn’t know how to help me and it was best to wait for her colleague to come back in a couple of days.

The Thursday her colleague did get back to me to inform me that she couldn’t provide me with a voucher so she would finally send me an ink cartridge. I provide her my contact details and waited…2 weeks. Nothing.

I wrote again. She said it would definitely be sent. But nothing.

Now this happened months ago and frankly I couldn’t afford to stop my life in a futile quest for an ink charger. But it does highlight the incredibly poor service provided by a well-known highly esteemed brand. How could a company that lives off brand reputation and loyalty treat its customers so poorly? How could a company not know that a poor experience with a brand trumps a good experience 10 to 1? Had I received working ink I would be happily using my pen and think nothing of it. Had I quickly received new ink and possibly an apology, I may have spoken the praises of Mont Blanc’s customer service. But unfortunately, my reality with the brand has left a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t hesitate to share with anyone who will listen.

So a reminder to companies big and small:

  1. Social media accounts are not just one way – just because you still have a siloed approach to organizational structure doesn’t mean consumers care. If consumers are reaching out to you – listen and develop your structure and customer care according to their needs not yours.
  2. When a customer reaches out to you with a problem – be solution-oriented particularly if it is your fault.
  3. Your brand name is everything. If premium brands take their customer based for granted, there will not be much value left in the brand name.

In the end, I had to buy the new ink cartridge myself. I am happy to say the pen now works but I can’t use it without ever thinking about my lost time and the fact that a luxury brand treated its customer shabbily.

If there is anyone reading this from Montblanc, I would be happy to support you with your digital transformation.