When 88-year-old David Johns started to find it difficult to hear conversations in noisy environments, he thought it was time to consider buying a hearing aid.
The retired Denmead brewery manager had realised for some time he couldn’t always hear what people were saying, even when they’d normally be close enough to be easily understood.
David finally took the plunge last May, when he read a feature about hearing problems in a national newspaper.
He wrote off asking for further information and promptly received a reply from the Southampton branch of Hidden Hearing Ltd, a national firm specialising in hearing care products.
David was impressed to learn the firm offered an extensive range of hearing aids backed by a compelling customer mission statement – ‘we listen, you hear.’
It stressed the importance of complete customer satisfaction and a business culture of honesty and integrity.
He was equally impressed when a dispensing technician turned up with a battery of specialist diagnostic audio equipment to test his hearing.
Just two days later the technician returned with a hearing aid and, after paying a £400 deposit, David was finally able to try it out.
It was explained to him that it might take a little while to get used to wearing and using the aid.
To ensure complete satisfaction with the £1,998 product, the company offered a 60-day full money-back guarantee from the date of fitting.
David paid the balance in full and looked forward to a better hearing experience.
But he discovered the experience wasn’t at all positive and hadn’t lived up to his expectations.
David said: ‘I told Hidden Hearing I wasn’t completely satisfied, so a young lady turned up and took further hearing measurements and made adjustments, but it didn’t really make any difference.
‘She more or less said there wasn’t anything that could be done to make a complete disappearance of the background noise. It wasn’t technically possible.
‘I then thought I can’t afford to lose nearly £2,000 and not get anything out of it, so I decided to get in touch with Streetwise for help and advice.’
David turned up at the column’s regular Gosport Tuesday surgery clearly worried the trial period had now expired and he’d made a disastrous mistake.
We were aware of Hidden Hearing’s mission statement claiming it always acted in the customer’s best interests and behaved with integrity and honesty.
But we also had to take into account the technical limitations of improved hearing products and the fact that it may not be possible in David’s unique circumstances to deliver the degree of background noise reduction he was expecting.
Some of the technical difficulties were formidable, because of the way sound waves are transmitted, their frequency, and the hearing thresholds of the wearer. It could be difficult to argue in law the product wasn’t fit for purpose.
Proving he had a right to reject the hearing aid might turn out to be a formidable problem.
Streetwise sounded out the firm’s top boss Richard Boyd at its Maidstone head office and explained David’s dissatisfaction.
We expressed the view it wasn’t a case of buyer’s remorse, but genuine concern that the product wasn’t delivering in line with his expectations.
We were soon to learn that Hidden Hearing’s customer mission statement wasn’t just a sales gimmick. It really meant what it said.
‘We don’t like dissatisfied customers,’ Mr Boyd confirmed.
‘We want people to be pleased with our service, that’s why we offer the 60-day full refund guarantee because we understand it takes time to adjust to wearing a hearing aid.
‘I’ve spoken to our Southampton office and arranged for Mr John’s guarantee to be extended to mid-August. If he’s still not satisfied he can return the aid and we’ll refund him in full.’
A relieved David confirmed the firm had been in touch and he’d accepted the offer to persevere with the aid for the extended trial period. If he still wasn’t happy he’d return it as arranged.
Despite making good use of the extra time, a disappointed David felt compelled to call it a day when he was confident the product was not going to make a significant difference to his hard of hearing problem.
He returned the aid as instructed.
A week or so later he e-mailed Streetwise saying he’d received a cheque from Hidden Hearing refunding all his money with no questions asked.
David said: ‘I’d like to thank you for your help.
‘I’d appreciate it if you’d mention how courteous and efficient Hidden Hearing were to me at all times. They certainly lived up to their customer care promise.’