Archive for Customer Service

More bad service: Warwick

I’ll keep this one brief. Basically, several Warwick employees and representatives have treated me like crap over an extended period of time, and I want nothing more to do with the brand.

I asked for help finding some bass parts on the Warwick forum, and was met with ridicule and a totally dismissive and condescending attitude, from two forum moderators, a Warwick dealer, and a Warwick “assistant production manager”. I tried to place an order with the NYC custom shop, and I got ignored, lied to, and blown off by them (including the store manager) for almost five months.

Eventually an employee at the NYC shop gave me the email address of the VP of Warwick USA, and emailing that VP did finally get me the parts I needed. But it should not take an angry email to the company’s VP just to get a basic amount of customer service; and having gotten the parts at last does not make up for the repeated mocking and crappy attitude of the company representatives I had to deal with up to that point.

As far as I’m concerned, Warwick –the whole brand– can go fuck themselves and die in a ditch.

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For balance: brands with GOOD customer service!

Writing about my negative experience with TC Electronic (that wasn’t the first time, by the way) put a sour taste in my mouth.  So now I want to name brands that have done the right thing; companies or individual artisans who have demonstrated that they know how important it is to earn the respect of their customers.

Hipshot.  They have bent over to help me so often and so promptly that I can’t even believe it.  They will do anything to make the customer satisfied.

Genz Benz.  Their customer service is legendary.  I haven’t bought any of their products yet, but I would and I will with the fullest of confidence in their support.

Diamond (pedals).  Responsive, generous, and helpful.

Mouser.  On the few occasions that they made a mistake in a delivery of components, I called and they sent me the replacement items with no questions, no hesitation, and no hassle.

AMI/TAB Funkenwerk.  I bought one of their items used, and it got damaged in shipping from the previous owner.  I contacted Oliver, and with no hesitation he said “send it in”, and he repaired it at no charge.

Euphonic Audio.  Exact same story as AMI!  Plus the chief engineer was quick to respond to each of my emails.

Musician’s Friend.  I know they are a corporate machine owned by a corporate giant that may not always do the right thing, but I have to give credit where credit is due and say that any time I have had an issue with an order from MF, they have corrected the problem or accepted the return, with no trouble at all.

Aguilar.  I have criticized them many times, yet the owner took my criticisms with good humor, maturity, and a genuine eye to setting things right.  He responded positively when he could have responded negatively, and I deeply respect that.

Source Audio.  A batch of one of their products turned out to have a defect, and rather than waiting for people to complain, Source pro-actively posted a message explaining the situation and making it clear that anyone who received a defective item would be taken care of promptly.

Dave Hall Amps.  I have communicated with Dave several times, by phone and by email; he is always very personable and very responsive to customer questions.

FEA pedals.  Frank is a really good guy, and he stands behind his products 100%.  Very helpful, and offers upgrades whenever he improves a model.

I’m sure I’ll think of more examples as time passes, and I will add them to this list.  Consider this list not only a roster of good people and good work, but also a stern rebuke to the many companies that seem to think their customers are only a nuisance.

Edit: I removed Pigtronix from this list.  Dave used to treat me well, but the last few communications from him have been terse, unfriendly, and unhelpful, for no reason I know of.

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T.C.Electronic: bad customer service

In the post “the noise you are hearing is perfectly normal”, I brought up how some manufacturers will simply deny there is a problem, when you ask for assistance with a problem you experience.  Recently, T.C.Electronic has taken that to a new level.

I had already been somewhat wary of TC because when their pedals break, they are nearly impossible to fix, and TC charges a very high price for repairs. And every one of their pedals that I’ve owned has broken, or some function does not work.

I bought one of their reissues of the Sustain+Parametric EQ for review, because I liked the tone of the original version so much. Right away I ran into problems with this reissue: both the Sustain and the noise gate would only engage at the maximum clockwise end of their knob rotation, rendering the whole pedal useless.  Naturally I figured it must be defective, so I returned it to the retailer, and they sent me a new one (different serial number)—and it behaves identically to the first one. I decided to contact TC and find out what the deal is: is this a known recurring problem with this pedal; can they explain to me what went wrong with it; is it actually defective, or is this the normal behavior; can I exchange it with them directly to avoid hassles from the retailer; or any information at all that might help me know what to say in my review.

It turns out there is no phone number anywhere on their website. There is a user forum, but very few of the questions there from other users have been answered.  There is one email address for the company—a generic “info@” address–and they specifically say “do not use this address for customer service”. There is no actual contact information of any kind on the “contact” page of the service section of their website, only an “interactive support” text field, kind of like “chat”.

I posted my query there as clearly as possible. A week goes by, with no response—so I post again. This time a service representative named “Eric” responds, saying he is not familiar with this pedal, he knows nothing about it, and he will ask the guys in Denmark for help. Two more weeks go by, so I post again asking for an update. The same day Eric replies that he just heard back from the guys in Denmark, and that they are not familiar with this pedal either, or how it is supposed to sound. I kid you not, and I’m not exaggerating. Both the US and Denmark “customer service” departments know nothing about this recent-production pedal or how it is supposed to work.  Not only were they unable to actually diagnose the problem, they were not even able to guess what about it might be “working” or “not working”, so they had nothing further to say.

Eric did however say that TC would not deal with it themselves, and that I should just return the pedal to the retailer for a refund. I asserted that that was an unacceptable answer; that the retailer was not at fault for having bought these bad products on good faith from TC; and that it was TC’s responsibility to make it right.  Once more I asked if I could send the pedal to them so they could test it to see if it was defective or not.  Eric again replies that it is not their problem, there is nothing they will do about it, and I should just send the pedal back to the retailer—let them deal with it.

I asked him for his office contact info so I could give that information to the retailer, and Eric refused to give that information, saying only that the retailer could contact TC customer service through their normal sales channels.  I asked to speak to his manager, and he did give me the manager’s phone number—but when I spoke to the manager on the phone, he was a total jerk to me.  He talked over me, would not listen to what I was saying, would not acknowledge any of my concerns, and steadfastly defended Eric for failing to provide any customer support.  I started to tell him how I think customers should be treated, and opened with “I have been in retail for a lot of years”–but before I could continue, he interrupted with “yeah well I’ve been doing this for 30 years!” in a very rude tone of voice.  He insisted that I could not send it to them, and they could not look at it, and they have no information to give.  At the end of the call, all he would say to me is “if you feel like you weren’t treated well then I’m sorry, but we were just following the channels that were open to us.”

Needless to say, I am ready to blow my lid. TC has lost me forever as a customer.  I know I should be offering some constructive advice right about now, but if they don’t know how to talk to customers at this stage in their company’s existence, then I can’t stop them from digging their own corporate grave.

Update: After I raised a stink about this situation around the web, one of the product managers from TC in Denmark contacted me.  He was respectful, helpful, and timely in his responses to my emails.  His team was able to test a couple of these pedals that they found in their “museum” (this pedal was bought brand new just a few months ago!) and determined that the lot of them were identically faulty.  This was the type of informative response I had hoped to get in the first place; and even if they hadn’t ended up being able to provide that level of answer, the fact that the product manager actually talked with me about it—instead of blowing me off completely, the way the CS at TC Americas did—showed a decent understanding of how customer service is supposed to work.

Further update: The “RH450″ amplifier that TC makes, and markets as a 450-watt amp… turns out it is only a 235-watt amp. TC’s official explanation is that even though they knew perfectly well it was only 235 watts, to them it “sounded like” a 450-watt amp, so they figured they may as well say it was in fact 450 watts, and they went as far as to put “450 watts output” in the specs section of the product’s user manual. Of course this has nothing to do with my original complaint from when I wrote this blog post, but I felt it was worth appending here as a footnote, showing more of what TC is like as a company.

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The noise you are hearing is perfectly normal.

I hate unintentional noise.  Background hiss, hum, buzzing, and the clicking-beeping noises of cell phone signals bleeding into the audio path, all drive me nuts.  There are a great many potential sources and causes of noise, and an equally large number of ways to prevent or mitigate the noise.  Here’s a great article on that subject.  But what really makes me mad is when a product is excessively noisy under normal and proper use, and the manufacturer refuses to acknowledge that there could be a problem.

T.C. Electronic, Audere, T-Rex, Glockenklang, Presonus, and Metasonix are all companies that have pulled this crap on me, and I’ve read that Phil Jones plays this game too.  How it goes is: I buy their product, and it is just too noisy, usually with a high hiss.  I contact the company to ask for advice, and they respond “our products have no noise” or “our products have lower noise  than any of our competitors”.  I respond that in fact I’m hearing a bad noise; they reply that I must be using the product incorrectly.  I ask them how they intend for it to be used correctly, and of course they describe the exact same normal usage as I was already doing.  Audere has a FAQ on their site about noise from their product; when I told them “I’ve read the FAQ and followed all of its advice, but I’m still getting hiss”, their actual response was “you should read the FAQ on our website”.

In each company’s case, after I insist that I have done everything they suggested and followed all the instructions carefully, and I’m still getting an unwanted noise, they all end the discussion with some absurd dismissal.  Audere said “you must just not like active electronics”, implying that all preamps normally have the same hiss.  Metasonix would not openly answer when I asked if his products normally had the loud hum I was hearing, but he said “for $150 I can cut some traces on the circuitboard, that might help”—implying that he knows there’s a problem, but it’s not his problem.  T-Rex and T.C. Electronic just flatly denied there could be any noise, end of story—implying that I am just imagining things.

For my part, I am willing to grant that there may be something particular to any one rig or environment that causes noise in a given new piece of gear, so conceivably what I’m hearing is not the “fault” of the item that sounds noisy to me.  But that concession loses most of its value when I change my rig and change my environment, yet the noise persists.  In trying to solve these mystery noises and “prove” the cause, I have bought many different preamps and listening devices, new cables, and a variety of power distribution systems; I have isolated each item’s chassis with non-conductive material; I have tried different outlets, different rooms, and different neighborhoods; and I have tried to get help from electronics experts.  Out of all of those experiments and efforts over the years, there were only two times where the noise problem was solved in that way—and neither of those times was with one of the brands I mentioned earlier.

Even so, I always make it clear when I’m calling or emailing a manufacturer that I know the levels of complexity in tracking down noise causes… so why do they refuse to show me the same respect? Why do they just insist there is no way their product could be noisy—and then why do they backpedal and try to say that the noise I am hearing is perfectly normal?

Manufacturers:  Don’t try to cover your butts in the short term, trying to avoid dealing with this sort of complaint.  You only alienate and anger your customer that way, ensuring that they will never buy your products again.  Instead, work with them—acknowledge that they might be right—and earn their respect.  That way, even if they never solve the noise problem with that one product, they will still think well of your brand, and buy other products from you in the future.

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