Live Experiment: A breakthrough with Whirlpool?

I think I finally have a resolution after contacting Whirlpool 16 times to update an expired credit card. And, I've also confirmed my suspicions that there was a broken link in the chain. As I've written before, your service is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.


My wife and I had a subscription where Whirlpool automatically sends out a new water filter for our refrigerator every six months and bills the credit card they have on file. Our credit card recently expired, but so far we've been unable to give Whirlpool the updated information. 


Yesterday, I exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Chris, a Whirlpool employee who monitors their customer service Twitter feed @WhirlpoolCare. This led to a phone call where I explained that between my wife and I, we had now contacted Whirlpool 16 times in an effort to update an expired credit card. Chris listened, apologized, but like everyone else we had interacted with, he told me he was unable to help me. However, unlike everyone else so far, Chris offered an alternative solution and explained why he was unable to fix my expired credit card (more on the credit card in a moment).

The alternative we agreed upon was that Chris would send us a complimentary water filter as a gesture of goodwill. It would then be up to me to re-establish a new online account with my updated credit card as a workaround to the problem. (I could also find an alternative source for the water filter.)

This is huge because, as I explained to Chris, I have a house full of Whirlpool appliances. Before this incident, I wouldn't consider another brand. Now, I wouldn't consider Whirlpool unless this was resolved. If the filter arrives as promised I'll consider Whirlpool back on my list of preferred appliance brands (their appliances are really, really good).

The Broken Link


Chris also revealed the broken link in their chain. The water filters are fulfilled by a third party, so Whirlpool customer service employees have no access to that company's fulfillment system. The only tool they are given is the instructions on using the website that they can relay to customers. This explains why each customer service representative we've encountered has been unable to help. Apparently, the system's designers never imagined the system could break so there were no contingency plans for handling this sort of situation.

Unanswered Questions

I didn't want to press my luck by asking Chris too many question since I was his last customer of the day and he had stayed a little late to talk to me. My top priority was getting a resolution and I had that now. However, there are a few unanswered questions that could be instructive.

What is the escalation procedure? If a system is broken, someone should be able to escalate. Why couldn't (or wouldn't) Whirlpool's customer service employees escalate this issue to someone who was empowered to fix it?

Where is the process broken? The specific problem was technical, but was it on Whirlpool's end, the fulfillment company's end, or both? When two parties encounter a problem, the instinct is often to point the finger at the other party, which means nothing gets resolved.

What's the full impact? I have to imagine my wife and I aren't the only ones to experience this problem. Is this problem really an iceberg? In other words, how much business is Whirlpool losing due to situations like ours?

Jeff Toister is the author of Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It. The book is available in paperbook, e-book, and audio book formats.

You can learn more about the book at or purchase a copy online at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Powell's Books.

Live Experiment: Still no resolution from Whirlpool

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged about my efforts to resolve a customer service issue with Whirlpool, so I thought I'd provide a short update.

We have a subscription where Whirlpool automatically sends out a new water filter for our refrigerator every six months and bills the credit card they have on file. Our credit card recently expired, but so far we've been unable to give Whirlpool the updated information. (You can follow previous posts here.)

A customer service representative called me and left a voice message offering to help. We played phone tag for a few days until he stopped calling. One thing I noticed is he said he returned calls in the order they were received and could take up to one business day to respond. The last voice message I left him contained dates and times when I would be available since I wasn't going to be around the following day. This probably threw off his system of returning calls at his convenience, which I imagine is why he didn't call again.

My wife and I have now contacted Whirlpool a total of 13 times in an affort to update our credit card information. It's beyond ridiculous that they can't fix this, but I can guess at the real culprit. If you were to pry open the Whirlpool's customer service and parts fulfillment operation you'd find a hodge-podge of broken systems. Silos between teams, computer systems that don't talk to each other, and pointless policies. It's just a guess, but it's hard to believe my experience is all that unique.

I wish I were David Allen
David Allen is the author of one of my favorite books on personal productivity, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

He also has a bit more social media clout than I do. Check out this Tweet from earlier this week: 

Less than 24 hours later he sent out this Tweet: 

If you are on Twitter, check out the full conversation that includes replies from some of David Allen's followers. Some of them are spot on. You can also see a few Tweets from Adobe in the mix.

Live experiment: the cost of poor service

I've been trying to resolve a very simple customer service problem with Whirlpool, but their customer service system is so hopelessly broken that I can't get any help. After my wife contacted them five times with no success, I decided to blog about my efforts to try to get a resolution.

Today's post contains an update and an examination of how much this service failure may end up costing Whirlpool.

We have a subscription where Whirlpool automatically sends out a new water filter for our refrigerator every six months and bills the credit card they have on file. Our credit card recently expired, but so far we've been unable to give Whirlpool the updated information. (You can follow previous posts here.)

My wife and I have now contacted Whirlpool's customer service 11 times with no resolution. It boggles my mind that a company's customer service team couldn't figure out how to update a credit card expiration date after 11 contacts, but some how Whirlpool has managed to pull it off.

In the meantime, I had to go to Best Buy to purchase a new filter for my refrigerator since I couldn't wait any longer for Whirlpool to get their act together. It cost me 30 extra minutes of my time to make the trip and I paid about $5 more at Best Buy than I would have under Whirlpool's subscription service. Not the end of the world, but very, very annoying. (Service shout out to Best Buy in Santee, CA. They always provide me with attentive, helpful service!)

Yesterday, I did get a voice message from a customer service representative at Whirlpool. He asked me to call him directly, but had left by the time I received the message. He indicated he wouldn't be back in the office until Monday, so I'll try to call him them. That will bring the running total to 12 contacts, but I hope this will be the last.

Lost Value
At this point, I'm asking for three things from Whirlpool to satisfactorily resolve this issue.

  1. A free filter to compensate my wife and I for all of our effort.
  2. An apology sent directly to my wife for their poor customer service.
  3. Updating our credit card expiration date so we won't have to go through this again.

To put this into perspective, let's take a look at what's at stake for Whirlpool:

It costs money each time one of their customer service representatives has to respond to another inquiry.

My home has 7 Whirlpool appliances. One of them, my clothes washer, is near the end of its life. In the past, I may have automatically bought a Whirlpool. Now, I wouldn't consider them unless this issue is resolved.

I will continue to post updates on this blog about my experience. (I'll also gladly post any positive developments.)

How hard can it be to update an expired credit card, Whirlpool?!

Yesterday, I shared a service failure I was experiencing with Whirlpool. You can read the post here: "Will Whirlpool fix their service failure?"

I thought it might be interesting to share everything my wife, Sally, and I have done so far to try to update the credit card they have on file for us. It's amazing that in 2012, something so simple and common can become an extremely frustrating and impossible task.

We have a subscription where Whirlpool automatically sends out a new water filter for our refrigerator every six months and bills the credit card they have on file. Our credit card recently expired, but so far we've been unable to give Whirlpool the updated information.

The whole process started when Sally received an email telling her that the credit card we had on file need to be updated. Here is a list of our unsuccessful attempts so far:

1. Online. Sally attempted to update the credit card online but their website wasn't working properly.

2. Chat. Sally initiated a chat session to get help. The chat session was disconnected before Sally could pose her question.

3. Chat. Sally initiated another chat session. This time, the person attempted to walk her through updating our credit card online but it still didn't work. The customer service rep then provided a phone number where Sally could call customer service.

4. Phone. Sally called customer service. The customer service rep informed her that he didn't have access to our account and could only walk her through the steps for updating her credit card online. It still didn't work.

5. Email. Sally emailed Whirlpool customer service and explained her multiple attempts to update her credit card information. She received a response instructing her to go online. It still didn't work.

6. Twitter. I sent a tweet to @Whirlpoolcare asking for help. I also mentioned I wanted an option besides online because that wasn't working. They gave me a new phone number to call.

7. Phone. I called the new number and, after being transferred, was told the only way to update my credit card was online. 

Now Sally and I back where I started. If you were me, what would you do?

Will Whirlpool fix their service failure?

My wife, Sally, recently experienced an incredibly frustrating and annoying service failure from Whirlpool. She contacted them no less than five times to resolve an amazingly simple problem with no results. I hope you can understand that when your wife is angry about a service issue and you are a customer service consultant with a blog, you are obligated to write about it!

We have a KitchenAid refrigerator (manufactured by Whirlpool) that needs a new water filter every six months or so. Up until now, it's been a simple process. We're signed up for automatic re-order where Whirlpool simply sends out a new filter and charges our credit card when it's time to replace the old one. This is a great example of the type of anticipatory customer service Micah Solomon refers to in his book, High-tech, High-touch Customer Service.

Last week, Sally received an email letting her know it was time again to send a replacement filter, but the credit card they had on file for us had expired. Updating an expired credit card should be a simple process, but this is where the trouble began.

Sally contacted Whirlpool a minimum of five times in an attempt to provide our updated credit card information, but each time she was stonewalled by a broken system and ineffective customer service reps. The end result was our credit card information never got updated, our order was cancelled, and we don't have a new filter.

The Experiment
A couple of years ago, I blogged about my attempts to resolve a customer service issue with Avis (Live Experiment: Will Avis finally try hard enough?). It turned out pretty well in that it caught the attention of the right people at Avis who finally fixed the issue. I've actually been a loyal customer ever since, so I am hopeful I can get a similar result from Whirlpool. 

My plan is to use my blog, Twitter, and my personal network to detail my efforts to get Whirlpool to fix their service failure. I also invite your suggestions and comments along the way.

My Demands
Nobody should have to go through as much hassle as Sally has to do business with a company. I have two requests from Whirlpool to fix this problem:

  1. A replacement filter, sent free of charge. 
  2. An apology sent to Sally.

If you'd like to know what happens next, you can stay tuned by subscribing to my blog or following me on Twitter.