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What to do when things go terribly wrong?

I've never met a manufacturer whose intention was to purposefully defraud their customers

Damaged Compression Chamber

If you were to come hang out with me for a couple of days here in Lake Havasu City (anyone’s welcome to come over by the way!), you’d see that I wear a lot of hats.  Here’s a short list: I review guns for various airgun related companies, I consult on quality control and customer service, I work on new product development, I provide sales and training advice, and the list goes on and on.

One of the most critical function revolves around quality control and customer service.  In the years that I’ve been working in the industry, I’ve never met a company whose intentions were to purposefully defraud their customer base.  It just does not make sense.  Unfortunately, mistakes happen in manufacturing.  And those mistakes, if a company’s given a chance, can generally be taken care of by the customer service department.

How things work…

I’m amazed at how many products have come to me with issues right out of the box.  Some of the worst offenders have been the inexpensive import rifles, but some of the expensive PCPs have also been defective out of the box.  The truth of the matter is that manufacturing is not perfect.  We are certainly NOT perfect no matter how hard we may try to be, we are going to make mistakes.  The test of our character is how we handle those mistakes.  The test of a company’s commitment to their customers is no different.  How a company handles their mistakes will tell volumes about the core philosophy of that company.  One thing to remember, is that OUR attitude in the midst of seeking a resolution also speaks to our character.

The customer is always right, right? Well, not always.

Example of end user custom seal and “airgun tune” that went terribly wrong…

As I mentioned above, one of my “hats” is to help with customer service related issues for various airgun companies.  I learned right away that customers are not always truthful.  This usually starts the whole customer service experience out on the wrong foot.  You see, the company wants to have happy customers and they want to resolve issues, but they can’t if the customers are not truthful about the cause of the problem.  I’ve heard some real doozies over the years.  One of the most common is “I was shooting my gun and my stock just cracked in half.”  9 out of 10 times that’s actually code for “I was cocking my gun and could not handle the force necessary to fully cock the rifle. The barrel slipped out of my hand and broke the stock.”   The next best is: “it was shooting fine and now it shoots 10 inches high at 15 yards.”  Can you guess what actually happened?  Yep, the same thing as before only the stock held together and it just bent the barrel.   Another one is: “My gun won’t cock all the time and when I can get it to cock it won’t shoot.”  You see, this one is code for: “I was adjusting my trigger and now I can’t get the gun to work correctly.”  It could also be: “I was trying to modify my trigger like I saw on youtube and now my gun won’t work correctly.”  There are many, many more examples.

Most of the time these products come back and they are evaluated for the causes of the failures.  When a company finds that most of the issues are caused by user tampering or misuse, the investigation stops there.  Sometimes there’s a reason that the customer is trying to change something, i.e. really poor trigger, harsh cocking, etc., and it’s something the company should take a look at.  But, because the company is flooded with failed attempts of customer’s self-repair, that root cause is seldom addressed.

Are you telling me that the customer is always WRONG!

Piston seal damaged from improper installation at the factory

On the other side of the coin, there are a plethora of examples where physical defects exist in abundance. What I would say to the customer is “always” question is simply; “some customers are right and some customers are not.”  For someone in customer service, this makes things pretty difficult.  Going back to the beginning, I’ve never met an airgun company that’s purposefully tried to defraud their customers.  If both parties, customer and company, come to the table with a truthful account of the problem, then there’s always space for an amicable solution.

Some examples of problems that I’ve had in the years.

I’ve seen a lot of duds come across my desk.  I’ve seen a lot of bad seals, poorly lubricated pistons, lose barrel joints, bad trigger assemblies, leaky air cylinders, faulty magazines, and the list could keep going on.  In the beginning I started just returning things for a new one, but that really never guaranteed that I was going to get a good one the 2nd time around.  There were those handful of times that the replacement was as bad, or worse, than the one that I had originally sent in.

Bad Piston Seal pulled from brand new gun.

In my next article I’ll share some of the experiences that I’ve had with various manufacturers and their customer service departments.  Overall, I’ve have great experiences with all the major vendors and manufacturers.

One more thing, I haven’t forgotten about part 2 of the Gamo Silent Cat or Part 4 of our HW50.  We’ll get back to those real soon!  Remember that we WANT your comments.  So please don’t be shy to jump in and participate.

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If you were to come hang out with me for a couple of days here in Lake Havasu City (anyone’s welcome to come over by the way!), you’d see that I wear a lot of hats.  Here’s a short list: I review guns for various airgun related companies, I consult on quality control and customer […]