How to deal with a dissatisfied customer you don't agree with?

Well, it's been a awkward time, and I'd like to have your opinions as pro luthiers. A new customer brought his old 100$ (maybe less) classical guitar with terrible plastic nut and saddle. He asks for a improvement  so he can tune with no headache. I make him a new bone nut and bone saddle without changing strings because he doesn't want to spend much money on it. Here come the troubles.

He tries it and find an annoying noise on the strings, while tuning ability is good now. Well listening carefully and plucking in a particular way, there's a tiny little noise. Not a fret buzz, nor rattling or sitar like sound. A bit like a free winding on a string or something similar. Changing strings does not improve situation, shimming the saddle or double checking my nut slots' shape neither. I spent an hour on it trying a lot of things, checking for loose braces, etc.. with no success.

When he comes back, he tries it, tell me that the guitar is not working at all because of these little noises, and that it did not have this problem when he walked in my shop the first time (unfortunatly I can't confirm this, and it's part of the lesson I guess). So to his eyes I'm not good enough and guilty for these noises.

I told him I spent a lot of time on it, and did all I can, but that I did not find the problem's origin. So I charge him half the price of a new nut and saddle and give him the address of another luthier in town who is only building classical guitars for maybe 30 years (I only do this for 7 years as a full time job).

Customer's not happy but what else could I do? It's the first time I have a dissatisfied customer of this kind, and it really is a pain. What would have you done in my place?

Tags: customer, professional, relation

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Rule number 1. No guarantee if the customer chooses to leave out any of the recommended repairs, as in new strings.

Rule number 2. Qualities such as tonality and playability are subjective and therefor not open to guarantee.

Rule number 3. A cheap instrument will always be just that, a cheap instrument.

Rule number 4. Return the money with a smile and post the clients name in the "Do not accept repairs from_____" file.

I like to ask myself, "What would Tony (Soprano) do?"

Thanks guys - so pleased it happens to us all.

How come the problem customers are often the worst players? I've never had a problem with a gigging musician.


How come the problem customers are often the worst players?

As they say, "the poor workman blames his tools".

I have been saying this for a while now. The guys that can't play are coming to you so you can make their guitars play better without them having to practice. I can't tell you how many times a customer plays his guitar for me complaining of it buzzing and then as soon as I play it he says, "well it's not buzzing when you play".

It is hard to convince some people that their right hand is working against them getting a low action. I see folks using a pick that pick 'down', towards the face of the guitar instead of across it. Rattles for them but not me.

 They inevitably have 'another guitar that's fine with a low action'. When I get to see the magical guitar it has a higher action (but lower frets giving the illusion of low action) and 3 year old strings that are so cacked up you couldn't make them rattle if you hit them with a saucepan lid.

 Anyone got any tips on educating these guys? They seem to find it very hard to accept it could be their technique at fault.

 I smile, I patiently explain, I play for them, I suggest giving their money to a good teacher instead of a luthier... it can take a lot of time.

 Any ideas?

Start screaming, "Get out! Get out of here!", pick up a hatchet, start waving it around, shriek inarticulately, start to cry, whimper, "Go, please just go...".

...and there's the customer who came in because there was a buzz somewhere, and hammers the guitar until it, in fact, does buzz again, regardless of what you've done.


You anecdote is a good one!

I must confess I did tell a guy to "take your guitar and f*** off" a while ago. The only time I've ever lost my cool at work. I thought it might make me feel better but I felt terrible after.

 He didn't come back though ;-)

you Know MrGlyn I would tell someone that also but it really has to drag out in a War of Words I have found that Having a Bad Trip aint to good either so I avoid it as much as possible so when the expectations are this high like a guy bringing in a guitar I make him a hell of a Deal whip out frets nuts and saddles and the guy wants more for nothing then tells me to rip out everything that he expects me to rip out my work I just Smile and tell them NO .and to go do it them Dam self's and after it has gone that far I tell them never to return and this seams to work well cause I am still knocking out frets and set up all day Long ...

Jeffery, I am acquainted with a man that has gone through a lot of guitars looking for one that doesn't buzz somewhere on the low E string. He's also wrecked a lot of good setups trying to adjust the "buzz" out of the neck. He was a friend of my late brother, who introduced me then later told that most of their playing friends are convinced that his buzz is in the bones of one of his ears. According to my speech and auditory pathology friends, that is completely possible. 


As odd as it is to me, he just didn't seem to be able to accept that every guitar in the world wasn't defective.





"As odd as it is to me, he just didn't seem to be able to accept that every guitar in the world wasn't defective."


What a lovely line - might pin that one up on the workshop wall :-)



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