It started as a routine matter of replacing a 20-year-old door in a Halifax home. But the installation was so bad icicles formed on the inside of the door.
Seven frustrating months of calling and emailing didn't get retailer The Home Depot's attention. However, just hours after CBC News brought the matter to the company, Stella and Bill Robertson received an email telling them a new door had been ordered.
"I was getting nowhere," Stella Robertson said of her odyssey with the company. "Absolutely nowhere."
The couple purchased the door from Home Depot. The company provided an installer, what it terms a "service provider."
Total bill was $5,200
The total bill for the door and installation was $5,200. The work was completed Dec. 11, 2017.
The couple realized immediately there were issues.
"There was condensation on the inside of the door, down the side of the door," Stella said.
There was an open space at the bottom where you could slide through rolled-up papers. Light came through the top of the door.
"I came through one morning and I looked and I said, 'Bill, you're not going to believe this. There's an icicle hanging on the inside of the door,"' Stella said.
The couple first contacted the installation company. A representative came to their home and said he would return to make repairs.
"We haven't heard from him since," Stella said. The Robertsons have learned he no longer works with The Home Depot.
They contacted the store manager, who told them he had sent the issue to the "customer service escalation team."
Since then, the Robertsons have been trying to get the problem resolved. They provided CBC with emails showing they communicated with four different people at The Home Depot.
Promises were made but never kept
"I'll follow up," Stella said of the communication. "I'll get back to you today. I'll get back to you tomorrow."
She said, in the end, she always had to follow up.
Emails indicate the store manager and the district manager were aware of the situation.
That didn't help correct it. Home Depot sent another service provider to check out the installation and write a report in May.
"I never saw the report but I did glean from his actions and the few words he said that he was a little shocked at the state of everything," Stella said.
But, again, nothing happened. She said she spoke to a supervisor who promised to get back to her, but didn't.
She started to get anxious this month because the couple ordered the first door in August and it wasn't installed until December. She wanted the problem fixed before the cold weather returned this year, so she contacted CBC.
Home Depot apologizes
Within five hours of CBC contacting Home Depot, the Robertsons learned from the installer that another door had been ordered.
A few hours later, they received a voicemail, followed by an email, from David Cresswell, a customer care and escalation specialist for Home Depot. He apologized and said he wanted to discuss a solution.
"Your experience was not typical of the level of service you should expect from Home Depot and the people who represent us," he said.
The couple returned the call, agreed to the solution and received an email the following day outlining the plan.
Home Depot has offered to expedite the manufacturing of the door.
"Our installer will complete the new installation as outlined in the original contracted scope of work, to industry standards and the manufacturer's guidelines," Cresswell said, adding he is now their contact with the company and will keep them updated on progress.
Customer complaints are a 'gift'
The Robertsons situation is not uncommon. CBC frequently receives complaints from customers who say companies are not responding to their complaints.
Wendy Vrooman of Sandler Training said her company teaches businesses that "when a customer brings you a problem, they're actually offering you a gift."
She says rather than never calling and just complaining to others, customers who go directly to the company are giving it an opportunity to resolve the situation. It can result in the complainant becoming a loyal customer and telling others how great the response was to their complaint.
Asked why some companies do not respond to customer complaints, Vrooman said it comes down to the corporate philosophy and training.
"I think customer service and truly serving somebody is becoming a lost art," she said, adding some people may not see the importance to the company of resolving customer complaints.
"If you look at the amount of revenue they [customer service reps] touch, it's often more than salespeople," she said, adding they are the face of the company and it's a critical role. "They are the brand and that's what people see."
'This is Business 101'
Ed McHugh, a business professor in Nova Scotia, said he's seen an increase in the number of companies that don't seem concerned about customer complaints.
"As we move more and more toward electronic communication, companies are missing the boat all over the place," he said.
He said the shift in power in the marketplace has moved from the merchant to the consumer in many ways, thanks to social media.
"I find it absolutely ironic that we're seeing increasing numbers of these kinds of stories when in fact what [companies] should be doing is jumping on this the minute it comes in," he said. "Because every problem in business is an opportunity to turn it around and regain a customer and maybe even gain a few more."
McHugh said the Robertsons did everything right, including trying to escalate their complaints to management.
"Get inside that company and ratchet it up because someone inside that company is not doing their job somewhere," McHugh said. "This is Business 101."
As for the Robertsons, Stella said: "If they do what they say they're going to do and the installation is satisfactory then we would be happy.
"I'll just be glad when we have a new door and there's no icicles hanging from the inside and where we can't see the daylight," she said.
Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia