Lutron Brightens Up Your Day With Good Customer Service

Peter noticed that several of the 25 Lutron Maestro dimmers he installed three years ago while renovating his 120 year-old home had started to fail. The dimmers were expensive, $30 a pop, so Peter sent them back to Lutron expecting some sort of response. Soon after, one of Lutron’s product managers called with a seemingly innocuous question…

I would like to tell you an incredibly positive customer experience, because I feel like there are so few out there.

In a renovation a few years ago, I installed ~25 expensive Lutron Maestro switches – they are these dimmers that slowly turn on and off your lights and remember the dimmer setting you left. Anyway, these are $30+ switches. Compare that to the 50 cent standard switch.

Regardless, three years after that renovation, a heavily used switch started to fail. Then another, and then another. Based on the pattern, I thought that about three more might go out on me. My house is almost 120 years old and I have original switches from when they first wired this house that still work to this day. Three years for a $30 switch was outrageous!

I packaged up my three switches and sent them to Lutron expressing my disappointment and my concern about the next three switches. I did not hear from them right away.

Much to my surprise, I got a phone call from a product manager at Lutron. He talked to me about my problem, and told me that they had a defect with some of these switches and that he would replace the three I sent and send another three for the ones I thought might go. He then asked me how many I had in the house and when I installed them. I told him I had about 25 and that they were all installed at the same time. He said that was interesting.

A week later, a package arrived in the mail. It contained 25 brand new switches! That’s about $800 worth of product!

What’s amazing to me, is that as an individual homeowner, my total lifetime value to Lutron could never be that much. How many renovations / builds does one person go through in their entire life? If I were a contractor or designer, sure, I’d potentially be of high value to Lutron. Nevertheless, they chose to serve their customer in the best possible way, and that to me deserves to be shouted from the mountains. Why do only squeaky wheels make noise? We should be sure to celebrate the great stories as well!

Peter

Don’t doubt the value of goodwill. Lutron could have replaced the dimmers as they failed, or not at all, but that wouldn’t have earned them a shred of respect. By taking the extra step and owning up to their defect they secured a customer who is willing to share his positive experience. Excellent response, Lutron!

Comments

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  1. zippyglue says:

    Lutron is a local company based in the Coopersburg area of PA (40 miles south of Philly). I interviewed there to be a co-op in the 80′s. They were really big on quality and testing of components before they are used in their products. While I was disappointed that they didn’t pick me to be a co-op, I was still impressed with their commitment to quality products. Seems like they are still committed! Great customer service Lutron!

  2. mopar_man says:

    That’s incredible! Good job Lutron!

  3. tcp100 says:

    And kudos to the OP for letting us know about a company that does right by its customers.. I don’t know a damn thing about switches, but one thing’s for sure — when and if I ever do have to know something about them, I’ll remember the name Lutron.

    That, if anything, is worth something – and what companies these days seem to forget.

  4. NightSteel says:

    Obviously, Lutron views quality and customer satisfaction as ordinary costs of doing business. If only more companies had this view.

  5. zenmoused says:

    I live in Coopersburg- Lutron sponsors lots of community programs and gives quite a bit of money to charity. They’re a fantastic company!

  6. FessLove says:

    Nice to hear a positive story.

  7. balthisar says:

    EXCELLENT response. Bravo, Lutron! When my cheap, $10 X-10 switches start to fail (one already has), I will definitely consider Lutron (who also makes X10 compatible switches). Heck, they’re not even that expensive if I do them one at a time (like the FA, I replaced all my switches at once, so $10 vs $30 at the same time was outside my budget).

  8. jfischer says:

    If you disassemble your broken switches with a small torx screwdriver, you will likely find a plastic finger that has broken away from a U-shaped plastic base. The plastic finger provides the only “spring” to resist the pressure of your finger and return the switch to its normal position.

    These are easy enough to fix with Super-Glue, but it is nice to know that they admit to a problem, as I’ve had to glue 2 out of 4, and like Peter, I expect an expensive solid-state switch to last longer than a cheap mechanical one.

  9. uchari says:

    My question now is if those $30 switches are really good. Still is good to hear about those kind of actions.

  10. Lutron is a great company.
    I took a Lutron training course to sell their products at my store a few years back. One thing I loved was a story they told me.
    Several years back, Wal-Mart wanted to sell Lutron dimmers. Wal-Mart gave them a price quote which was much lower than what they could sell them to Wallyworld for.
    Wal-Mart told them to move their plants to China and make lower quality goods. They refused, and Wal-Mart started selling some crapy GE dimmers.
    The company said they will always stay in PA,and will always make high qulity goods.
    That is nice to hear.

  11. GearheadGeek says:

    I think Peter underestimates the value of excellent service and overestimates the real cost to Lutron of providing the switches. Obviously these $30 retail switches don’t cost Lutron anywhere near that, or they’d be bankrupt.

    Lutron is betting that Peter will a) continue to use Lutron switches in his homes, b) tell other people how well he was treated and how happy he is with his “theater-dimming” switches, and their bet really paid off when he posted an account of their excellent service on an internet site for many people he doesn’t even know to read about. Their investment was worth every switch they sent.

  12. Eric1285 says:

    Nice to see it’s still the case that when you go high-end, you get high-end service. I’ve gotten fantastic service from some high-end suppliers of boutique quality parts. Usually takes nothing more than a polite email or phone call explaining the problem, and in a few days I get a free shipment of replacement parts for whatever went wrong.

  13. kittenfoo says:

    hooray! my faith in humanity is at least partly restored!

  14. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I think what really should be done here is people should use this story as an example to other companies in similar situations. This story should be the standard-setting example of not only good customer service, but standing behind your products.

  15. timmus says:

    Interesting to hear that anecdote about Wal-Mart lowballing Lutron. What’s revealing is that apparently Wal-Mart just wanted to acquire a quality name rather than selling quality.

  16. shades_of_blue says:

    I have friends who work at Lutron, and I can tell you that they have lots of ‘bad batches’. Their quality sucks, point blank. But man do they have some sweet lighting panels. One of them has a $1400+ panel from there controlling his whole living room and it’s expandable to control the entire house!

  17. rg says:

    It’s incredible and un-heard of these days for a company to stand behind their product even after they are out of warranty. There is a warranty period, and then there is a period of time where a product should be expected to work properly. I agree with the poster, 3yrs for a $30 switch is definitely not long enough, especially when a plain old wall switch lasts pretty much forever.

  18. lenagainster says:

    It’s a shame that those dimmers won’t work with most compact flourescent bulbs. Hopefully by the time incandescent bulbs are outlawed (or severely restricted/limited), they will invent dimmable CFs. Right now, all I see on the market are 15 watt equivalent (3 watt) dimmable CFs.

  19. Pink Puppet says:

    Lutron, huh? I might have a renovation project coming up soon. Now I’ve got a good name to keep in mind.

  20. It’s great to know there is a company like this. I will be sure to seek them out for my future home renovations.

    @lenagainster: I hope this day never comes. While I realize that recently bulbs are more eco-friendly and use less energy, in my opinion the light they give out isn’t as good and makes me strain my eyes. Just my opinion, you can beg to differ if you must. ;-)

  21. miran says:

    My entire house has CFs. I too really want dimmable ones. Then I might spring for some Lutron switches.

  22. TuxRug says:

    I’ve been considering getting a lutron maestro dimmer for my bedroom. This amazing display of customer appreciation has just about sealed the deal. Only thing keeping me from it now is that I’ve never installed a light or dimmer switch before, but from what I read, it’s not horribly difficult. I’ve taken my laptop apart and put it back together a few times, so it’s just the high-voltage and high-amperage that scare me. Yes I’ll turn off the breaker, but what if there’s a short? ooooo nooooo do not want house burnie downie

  23. spinachdip says:

    @lenagainster: I just did a quick search on Amazon and found 15w (75w equivalent) dimmable CFLs.

  24. @ceejeemcbeegee: oh cripes, I meant “I realize the flourecent bulbs…” Darn spell check didn’t recognize the word ‘flourecent’.

  25. kerry says:

    This makes me glad we chose Lutron switches for a recent renovation. Only 5, and not super-fancy, but they’re all dimmers and weren’t cheap.
    I bought dimmable flood lamp CFLs for my living room, to replace two that had burned out. The lowest setting was brighter than the lowest on the traditional bulbs, and the brightest was dimmer. I was very disappointed. Also, they took several minutes to “warm up.” I stuck them in the outer hallway. They were about $25 apiece.

  26. mmbb says:

    Is it possible that they replaced the switches to preempt any sort of liability in the event of a fire, shock, or some other electrical damage?

  27. spinachdip says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Psst, that’s fluorescent, like fluoride, not flourescent, like flour.

  28. ShortBus says:

    Just curious… does anyone actually verify these stories of good customer service? As heavily trafficked as this site is, it would be a *very* cheap piece of PR if someone shilled with a believable story. Not saying that this particular story is suspect, but every time I see one, it makes me wonder.

  29. spinachdip says:

    @mmbb: I don’t think anyone would suggest that Lutron replacead the guy’s light bulbs out of pure altruism – when corporations do nice things, even the most naive amongst us understand that they do so out of self interest. It’s just that some put more value into customer service, and understand that taking a short-term loss can be a long term gain, or help them avoid bigger losses in the future. Good customer service and profit seeking aren’t mutually exclusive, and in fact, go hand in hand more often than not.

    Which is to say, I think you’re missing the point when you question Lutron’s motives, because it’s really irrelevant here. Even if their true intent was to avoid liability, they would still get points for snuffing out a potential problem before it became one. And ultimately, whatever sinister motives they had, they made a customer happy, and that’s the key here.

  30. diggtatorship says:

    This is great! I love hearing stories about companies actually taking care of their customers. We’ve been doing renovations to our house, changing out light fixtures, and installing a few ceiling fans. I am definitely buying Lutron switches after reading this.

  31. AD8BC says:

    @lenagainster: Fear not. Although incandescent bulbs are being outlawed, it is likely that halogen replacement bulbs will still be around as they are more efficient than incandescent bulbs yet they work just as well, especially with dimmers. And, Philips has invented an even more efficient halogen line called the Halogena Energy Saver — it will satisfy all you treehuggers out there as well as the rest of us who care more about the quality of light and the ability to dim it. Look here: [www.nam.lighting.philips.com]

    And yes, they have dimmable CFLs now. but they are awfully crappy — they only dim down to about 20%, they don’t act consistantly, and they take a few minutes to warm up.

  32. AD8BC says:

    One time one of my Lutron Skylark dimmers failed in my old house (started popping and smelling of burned wiring) — it had been installed four years prior. I didn’t expect a warranty replacement, but I did send an email to Lutron asking if they wanted me to ship it to them so that they may do an autopsy on it (I am an engineer myself and I know I would appreciate the opportunity). They told me if I shipped it back to their lab they would send me a new one, and, in fact they did.

    Lutron makes a very nice product and I have their switches all over my house, they run lights and fans that are not a part of my Insteon home automation system.

  33. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Kudos to Lutron for outstanding customer service and standing by their products.

    It’s pretty sad that there’s only one of these posts to 30 negative ones.

    Next time I have to buy a dimmer, I’ll remember Lutron.

  34. pfeng says:

    Add another Consumerist reader to the list of people who will be buying a Lutron next time she needs a switch :)

    With all the pledges in the comments so far, I think they’ve easily made back that goodwill gesture!!!

  35. @spinachdip: duh! thanks…

  36. Me - now with more humidity says:

    To all the “they couldn’t possibly be that nice as to replace them, their must be some evil motive behind it…”posters: STFU!

  37. MYarms says:

    @ShortBus: Not only that but I was wondering if the guy actually had 25 in his house before he received 25 for free. Sounds almost too good to be true.

  38. jwarner132 says:

    I interviewed for a job as a software engineer with Lutron in late 2005, and I was very impressed by their attention to customer service. They told me that all engineers and other developers needed to take turns doing phone duty, because all of their customer service is done by the engineers who actually design the products. How cool is that, to have customer service done by the person who made the product rather than some sub-minimum-wage worker in India reading a script.

  39. MYarms says:

    @Me: Go away. Its called an opinion. If you don’t like it, don’t freakin read it.

  40. Buran says:

    @MYarms: It’s entirely possible considering it was a big renovation job hence the simultaneous installation of a large number of switches. My bf has some of these in his house that he bought in a batch to replace the low-quality switches the house came with, and they’re great. I love being able to turn the light on without blinding yourself in the middle of the night with the ones that single-tap to a lower setting than the full power setting you get with a double-tap.

  41. edrebber says:

    If Lutron knew they had a problem with these switches they should have recalled them. Replacing everyone’s switch who complains is still much cheaper than a recall. Many people just throw the switch away and buy a new one.

  42. MPHinPgh says:

    @spinachdip: Thanks for not being too hard on him. I always see that word misspelled, and I can NEVER remember how to spell it correctly. Fortunately, MS Word knows how to spell it…

  43. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @AD8BC: The very first household wiring job I ever did was a dimmer switch. I was 19 and in college and living in half of the lower floor of a repurposed Victorian home. I just asked somebody at the hardware store for a beginner-level book. These days you only need to check the Internet for a how-to.

  44. FLConsumer says:

    Actually, if you’re going to use THAT many dimmers, you probably should have used a Lutron Grafik Eye lighting system. Once you have more than 4 dimmers in one location, it’s time for a real lighting system. Ends up being cheaper too.

    Used plenty of Lutron products over the years. YEARS ahead of the Lithonia & Lightolier crap I’ve ripped out and replaced with Lutron.

  45. cde says:

    @MYarms: If he doesn’t read it, how would he know if he would like it or not….

  46. cde says:

    @MPHinPgh: Cee = a girl. Or woman. Or jezzie. Not male.

  47. puka_pai says:

    Handy to know this, because I think I may have gotten some of the same bad switches. The guy who owned our house before us was an electrician and all the switches are Lutrons. I really like them but can’t afford to replace them at $30 a pop. Maybe I won’t have to lay out the cash after all.

    Thanks, Peter!

  48. Holo20 says:

    I had just bought one of Lutron’s $800-ish lighting control panels for a home theatre setup. I had a fairly specific question about the product and called their “Tech Support” number.

    I was shocked- the guy that answered my call not only knew the product well, but also knew what he was talking about, electrically. Totally answered my question. I was just really impressed that his knowledge of the product was so solid.

  49. homerjay says:

    I bet before he got a response from them he was thinking- “I’m just burnin’ doin’ the Lurtron Dance.”
    :)

    Sorry….

  50. Ragman says:

    Good on ya to Lutron. I’ll be buying their stuff when I’m shopping for electrical components.

    On Wallyworld and its lowballing: the Levi’s jeans they sell aren’t even made by Levi’s. Levi’s said they couldn’t meet the price set by Wallyworld, so instead Levi’s had a contractor make cheap jeans and they slapped their label on it.

  51. arsbadmojo says:

    I just sent them a happygram e-mail at their corporate website. This is such a neat story because not only did a Lutron employee take the initiative to replace all the switches – but he or she was actually empowered to do so!

    I think that’s a great idea that their engineers have to spend some time on the phones; and if on top of all that they also refused to make a crappy product to sell at Wal*Mart then I think I may be in love.

  52. arch05 says:

    they have a good rep in the architectural field as well.

  53. weakdome says:

    It’s the consumer’s fault for…
    Wait. This isn’t a story about someone getting screwed?
    I don’t know what to do.

  54. xmarc says:

    I’ve had incredible customer service from them. I had the $95 remote fan/light switch which was shorted out (probably by my painters). Called them and they replaced with no problem. Great company. BTW Coopersburg is north of Philly south of Allentown.

  55. ? graffiksguru says:

    @FessLove: I know, YEAH! for Lutron
    @weakdome: Ha, ha!

  56. marchhare22 says:

    @weakdome: Quick! run into your bomb shelters/homes and hide!!! (All of which should contain Lutron Maestro dimmers.)

  57. weakdome says:

    @marchhare22: I filled my shelter with AquaDots and toys from China.

  58. MrEvil says:

    Lutron sells the only dimmers worth buying. Even the basic round knob dimmers are better than any others you can get.

  59. afterimageB says:

    Lutron is great at customer service. A few years ago I worked at Magnolia Hi Fi here in the Portland area and we carried their products. If there was ever a problem they were always right on top of the situation. We sold a lot of their product and had very few problems with returns or failures.

  60. OsoGrande says:

    A great example of how responsible companies handle customer issues with their product(s)! The manufactured cost of those 25 replacement switches + shipping = a huge return in positive PR for Lutron. I would say based on the number of comments here they had an excellent return on their investment in being responsible for their products.

  61. unklegwar says:

    I used to be an electrician (for 7 years). We swore by Lutron. I would expect nothing less from them.

  62. coold8 says:

    I will write down Lutron, I was thinking about getting dimmer switches myself…. now I know who I’m getting them from.

  63. theycallmetak says:

    I used to install Lutron for an A/V company and anyone who’s familiar with them will tell you this is the norm. Hard to believe but they actually have qualified, personable people who are empowered to do these kinds of things.

    I installed a wireless lighting system for my cousin and one of the dimmers crapped out after about 6 months. One call to them and after describing in detail the issue, in less than 10 minutes had a half dozen things to check to ensure it wasn’t an installation issue. Another call back and he got a new dimmer. That’s just how they work. And this was a $200+ dimmer (Radio Ra, not Maestro)

    To all wishing to dim fluorescents:
    There are 23-27watt dimmable CFLs available. TCP is one I’ve used before. For use with slide or rotary or slide/rotary + switch the dimmable CFLs should work fine. With Lutron style “Smart Dimmers” with a solid state rocker switch it may not be to your liking.

    The dimmers will work but they’re designed for regular incandescent and/or halogens which DO NOT dim at the same rate as the dimmable CFLs. They will output much more light through the dimming range, then shut off more abruptly towards the end.

    True fluorescent dimming usually requires special ballasts and dimmers which end up being much more expensive.

  64. BeardBrigade says:

    If anyone is curious about their motivation beyond the business benefits, I found this on their website:

    [www.lutron.com]

    If nothing else read the five bullet points. I see why their employees are empowered to make things right witht the customer.

  65. Mr. Gunn says:

    We need more stories like this. I’m convinced that in these days of outsourcing, providing lasting quality is an area where American businesses can really compete.

  66. Cranky Customer says:

    Way To Go, LUTRON! I, too, installed over twenty of these things in my newly-built house and I could not be happier. I’m sure glad I popped for the expense, knowing that LUTRON treats their customers like this.

    As an added benefit, I’ve convinced myself that using a dimmer decreases energy consumption and is good for mother earth, too!

  67. fingchillin says:

    While Lutron does have good customer service. They are an awful company to work for. I was a member of the design team at Lutron for the redesign of the Maestro dimmer. (Mainly to cost reduce and fix the plastic actuator button that failed in Peter’s case.) Although they do make a great product, Lutron treats their employees like 5 year olds, with rules about what they can eat, where they can walk, and they even ban post-it notes from the office. Leaving Lutron for $10K less was the best decision I have ever made as an engineer. Customer Service – Great. Employee Service – Poor.

    Also. the dimmer is not made in the Pennsylvania, it’s made in Puerto Rico. In fact, only a few of their consumer products are actually made in the USA, most come from PR and St. Kitts.

  68. Anonymous says:

    I work at an electrical supply house, and deal with lutron. Took a week course up at lutrons factory. Real stand up
    company, and has always delivered for us and our customers.

    Regarding the dimmable cfls, all i can say at this point dont waste your money. its actually cheaper to use halogen bulbs, and dim them. just taking down your lights 20% will double your lamp life, and replacement bulbs are still in the 5 dollar range. Just my two cents, as a lighting professional.