The day you bring home a shiny new food processor can be the best of times--or the worst of times.
Consider the case of two fictitious customers, Audrey and Brian. Both of them have decided to buy new food processors. After consulting our report, Audrey selects the top-rated Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus DLC-2011CHB (*Est. $200), while Brian settles on the Runner-Up KitchenAid KFP750PK (*Est. $160). At first, both of them are very happy with their new kitchen tools. There's no reason not to be; both machines get very good scores for performance in professional tests, run quietly, have dishwasher-safe parts and are generally well rated by owners for ease of use. Then unexpectedly, after about a month, both machines break down.
Audrey calls up Cuisinart's customer service department to find out how to get her machine repaired under warranty. Like many of the customers at review sites like Amazon, Viewpoints and Epinions who had problems with their Cuisinarts, she initially has trouble getting through. First she tries sending e-mail through the Cuisinart website, but days go by and she gets no response. Then she tries calling the customer support line, but it's usually busy and she is disconnected several times.
After two weeks of repeated calls and e-mails, during which her brand-new food processor sits uselessly on the counter, she finally succeeds in getting through to a live customer service rep. The surly rep listens to her problem with suspicion and asks a series of questions to figure out whether Audrey is somehow at fault for using her new food processor improperly. When he can't find any way to pin the blame on her, he informs her that the only way to get her food processor repaired is to ship the 19-pound machine back to Cuisinart at her own expense, enclosing an additional $10 check for return shipping. Audrey does as instructed and then waits for the repaired machine for months. Audrey is furious and vows never again to purchase anything from Cuisinart.
Meanwhile, Brian has called up KitchenAid to ask for help with his food processor. His experience is typical of that reported by other KitchenAid owners at Amazon; his first call gets him through to a courteous customer service rep, who asks about the problem and explains how to fax in a copy of his receipt with a service order number. Within 10 days, he has received a new machine and a prepaid FedEx receipt to return the old one. Brian is delighted with this hassle-free transaction and declares himself a loyal KitchenAid customer for life.
These stories are fictional, of course, but they're based on many reports we read of actual consumers' dealings with these two companies. Those who sought warranty service from Cuisinart were almost inevitably disgruntled and posted comments like, "I could never recommend a Cuisinart product to any of my friends after this experience." By contrast, typical comments about KitchenAid's service included, "They have earned a customer for life."
The moral of this story is that good or bad customer service can make or break a customer's overall satisfaction with a product. The food processors that Audrey and Brian bought are both excellent machines, with very similar overall ratings. Yet Audrey (and the real-life customers who provided the basis for her story) has now sworn off Cuisinart for life, while Brian (and his real-life counterparts) is now a loyal customer. This suggests that when you're making a decision about buying a food processor--or any other product that comes with a warranty--customer support should also be of consideration. Naturally, your hope when buying a product like this is that you won't have to deal with customer service at all, and the majority of customers never do. But if you're one of the unlucky ones, the quality of warranty service can mean the difference between having a minor problem resolved quickly and seeing it turn into a months-long headache.