Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.
They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
I WAS a loyal customer of Western Digital (WD) and I always bought WD hard disks even though it cost more and sometimes friends gave other recommendations.
I bought my last WD hard disk in March 2007 with five years warranty, “1 for 1 exchange warranty” printed on the package. “five years warranty” is rare nowadays and it just made me feel so right of choosing WD.
After a blue screen yesterday on my Dell, the hard disk could not be detected. After some testing, I had to announce it, “time of death, 21:20, Oct 19, 2009.” Achieva is the company that is supposed be passing me the new HDD, which is also printed on the package.
As my girlfriend happens to work near Achieva, she gave up her lunch today to get the broken disk exchanged. Shockingly, the staff only agreed to fix it which will take two to three weeks. What happens to “1 for 1 exchange”? She was told “No stock”.
So, when they decided to offer the warranty, did they expect to keep producing the same model over the next five years? My girlfriend was not the only one who was frustrated and felt deceived there today. Not to mention the bad customer service from Achieva staff who even complained to the customer the trouble she had to go through.
I feel deceived too. I’m not sure what’s going on with the five-year warranty, but what I’m sure are:
- I won’t buy WD hard disks.
- I won’t buy any hard disks that comes with an address “Achieva”.
Isn’t it true that customer service in both good times and bad is the great intangible asset of the company?
Customer service can make a business. Zappos is a Las Vegas-based company selling shoes online, did “almost nothing” in sales for 1999, but grossed over $800 million in merchandise sales in 2007, and is projecting over $1 billion in 2008. Zappos has successfully differentiated itself by its selection (some 90,000 styles and more than 500 brands) and a devotion to customer service:
- encouraging customers to order as many products as they wanted in order to “try them on,” then offering free return shipping for a full 365 days
- only listing products on the site when stock was in their own warehouse (which actually lowered sales by 25% at a time when the company was still in the red)
- deciding to run their warehouse operation 24/7 to deliver super-fast turnaround on orders, despite it being an inefficient way to manage fulfillment
- encouraging customers to call them about nearly everything. Their call center takes 5,000 calls per day, and employees work independent of scripts, quotas, or call time limits. The longest call to date has been four hours. Zappos views the phone experience as a branding device, and speaks to virtually every customer at least once.
- deciding to invest in “surprise” (free) upgrades to overnight shipping for most customers. This means that most orders are delivered within 24 hours, despite the web site indicating it will take 2-5 business days.
- shipping and return shipping are free; most repeat customers get upgrades to free overnight or second-day delivery. “With Zappos, the shoe store comes to you,” says Pamela Leo, a customer in Montclair, N.J.
Customer service can break a business, too. Avis, who’s well known in car rental business, once cut customer service and reduced staff. They soon realized that its best “Avis Preferred” customers could make other choices and would. Avis realized its mistake and reversed course within a few months.
Every company knows what they can do to provide first class customer service: listen with heart, support in time, go the extra mile to make their experience unforgettable, and be anywhere your customers expect you to be.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from : Sales without Customer Service is like stuffing money into a pocket full of holes.