Can't get no satisfaction Featured

10:18am EDT February 24, 2005
Last July, I contracted Home Depot to side my house. I choose the Fortune 500 giant over other, smaller competitors because of its brand, size and, most important, its customer service record.

I've since learned that just because a company's done well in the past doesn't mean it will do well in the present or future.

To make a long story short, Home Depot botched the job immediately, neglecting to obtain a permit from the city of Shaker Heights to work on my house. And, while that mishap cost the company a month after the city kicked it off the job, it was just the first of several mistakes. At one point, the crew walked off the job with no warning.

Everyone makes mistakes. You can't avoid them. But it was how Home Depot responded, or more accurately, failed to respond to its mistakes that caused me to redefine my view of its business.

Experts claim the true sign of a leader is how well he or she performs during a time of crisis. For organizations, that translates into how well a company satisfies an unhappy customer after it makes an error.

More important, what does that company's management do to make that customer whole? And, how much do they care whether the customer has a satisfactory experience with their company?

Home Depot completed the project on New Year's Eve - five months after it began. The job was supposed to take two to three weeks.

While the problems were occurring, Home Depot failed to reach out to me and explain what was going on. Instead, I was the one who initiated contact. And it required three or four phone calls to the regional office each time before anyone called me back.

To make matters worse, it wasn't until November -- nearly four months into the project -- that I finally was given the project manager's name. Even today, I've never met nor walked through the job with him.

In the end, after several more weeks of negotiations that dragged into February, Home Depot finally agreed to compensate me for my troubles and its mistakes.

The problem is, I still don't feel truly whole.