Archive for March, 2011

Who thought that customer service is dead?

This one is going to be a short one (That was what I thought when I started writing), but I believe that it was worth saying something about it. We all know that once in a while a product we buy, the services we procure or experience we live when dealing with companies does not always work out the way we want it or expected. Sometimes products shows up DOA, sometimes the service is really bad and painful. Even if the bar is low and/or sometimes the experience in getting those little annoyances resolved become a mammoth pile of disappointment and frustration.

That is why sometimes we, the customer, keep building the paradigm/filter that prevent us sometimes going over the trouble of taking some action to get the issue resolved.

*Is the pain/trouble worth the few dollars?
*How much is my time worth?
*Will I get treated like they do not care? Like always happens?
*I am a human being, why they treat me like that? Iam the customer.

     These and many other questions run thru our brains every time we have to deal with some issue that involves customer support. You get passed along the next representative that makes you go over the same list of questions that the 1st representative asked or items that you already covered. Things like “Power it off”, “press reset button”, “Did you check that the cables are connected”, “the problem is not with our product, is the __________ (insert your preferred topic here: operating system, network service, health plan you have, you know what I mean).

I have to say that there are rare pleasant occasions in which you get totally the opposite. Once, long time ago I bought a Gateway computer and it was basically kind of a DOA, giving an error and not booting up. (This is back to probably to Windows 95 age, not that long ago) Just to give a reference of my level of computer knowledge, I am not a super expert in computers but I have built few top of the line computers gaming systems from scratch with success. Ok, now that it is out of the way, let us go back to my experience; I was able to figure out that the cable to the floppy disk drive (The floppy disk drive was essential for the computer to work at that time) was not fully inserted. Either due to shipping or was improperly installed, easy fix. But still it won’t boot up and the BIOS was getting interrupted. This issue, since it was an out of box problem and I was unable to quickly find a solution, I decided to call service support.

      This is where I would love for other companies to listn to this, learn something from it an implement similar approach. The representative quickly asked few initial questions, but it was different than any other traditional service support. He 1st took some time accessed what was the issue, listened and asked about what I have already try, asked my opinion, suggested a few theory of what was happening and asked to whether or not I was comfortable in opening the case and mess with few stuff inside the case. All this before happened even before any instruction was given to do or perform any task.  To end the story here after changing a few jumpers in the motherboard we were able to fix my issue and I was an extremely happy customer. My point is, the customer support took the time to connect with me, gauged my technical knowledge and inquired information relevant to the problem that allowed him to provide sound solutions and resolution to the problem. He took the time to treat the customer like a customer. No irrelevant checklist was used; no impersonal process flow and definitely no treating me like one more to go or one more for the metrics. To summarize the experience, it was very cooperative, pleasant experience. We are talking about a product that was DOA and I felt that we were part of a team, being part of the solution and that my opinion counted. Kudos to Gateway for their customer support structure and service back in the 90’s.

     Today’s problem is not the geographical location of the customer support or whether or not they are completely fluent in your preferred language, is that the support is no longer support. It is how support is being address, once customer support becomes a checklist that you need to follow and can not deviate it becomes impersonal and non-inviting, it is starts to be a recipe for disaster and disservice to the customers. I have plenty of bad stories that I can share, but today is for the good ones, not the bad ones.
     And it does not have to be a person responding or interacting with you to make it a good customer support/service. Take for example this other anecdote, the one the prompted me to write this time. Everybody has a daily routine, I do too and when that gets interrupted it is a pain. One of mine is that I like to, at the end of the day, watch a little bit of TV, few shows and then done for the day. I have been a customer of Netflix for some time. I like that I can watch my shows and programs when I find the time at my leisure. Two nights ago something went wrong with the service; it would not load the list or the selections for me to start to watch the shows. I tried few things to make sure the issue was not at my end and verify that it was indeed Netflix not something else. I was curious of what happened, but did not though much about it and went on to find the alternative plan for the evening. The next night while setting up I remembered what happened the prior night and was ready to figure out what action I was going to take if the same situation happened. But everything worked out just fine and the routine continue like it normally and religiously do. So no big deal, very happy with service and all is forgotten, so far so good, right? Well to my surprise today I received the following e-mail,

“Recently you may have had trouble instantly watching TV episodes or movies due to technical issues.
We are sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused. If you attempted and were unable to instantly watch TV episodes or movies yesterday, click on this account specific link in the next 7 days to apply a credit to your next billing statement. The credit will be 3% of our $7.99 a month plan that lets our members instantly watch unlimited TV episodes and movies. Credit can only be applied once. “
“Again, we apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding. If you need further assistance, please call us at 1-866-XXX-XXXX.

                                                                              –The Netflix Team”

     When I read the message and I thought, WOW! They did not have to do this at all. Without asking for anything or explanation (I did not check forums, facebook, tweets or other media to see if people were commenting or complaining, so I do not know), an email apologizing for the inconvenience? Providing a credit without me asking for any? Now, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprise and it was completely unexpected. Yes, I have to click to get the credit and is from the $7.99 plan regardless of the plan you have but hey, they did not have to do or say anything at all (like plenty other companies will do) It was very good to see that things like this happens. To see, companies taking responsibilities for their action and or issues to care about their customer base. I can also say that this will increase my desire to keep the service, they accumulated lots of points. Netflix, you did well here, very nicely done.
We all have bad stories, thing going terribly wrong, but do you still have those glimpses of good service and good customer care. Care to share a few of those?