CXO

Customer service isn't just one thing, it's the only thing

When considering the purchase of a piece of equipment or a service from someone, the quality and price of the product is a big consideration, but it's not the only one. The biggest consideration, at least in my opinion, is the level of the customer service behind the product - in fact, it's priceless.

When considering the purchase of a piece of equipment or a service from someone, the quality and price of the product are a big consideration, but it's not the only one. The biggest consideration, at least in my opinion, is the level of customer service behind the product — in fact, it's priceless.

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What follows are three instances about my experiences with customer service.

Instance One:

I used to buy nothing but ViewSonic monitors. For years I'd come to rely on the great quality of the product, and regardless of price, I'd always select the ViewSonic model of the day that provided the best bang for my buck. Whenever I did have a CRT monitor fail, which wasn't very often, ViewSonic Customer service was always quick, friendly, and accommodating to repair or replace the defective unit.

Fast forward to the day of the LCD monitor, and I naturally stuck with my preferred brand. But unlike their CRT predecessor, I seemed to have a very high failure rate with their LCD screens. They did carry a three-year warranty, but I had some instances in which I'd send the same monitor back three or four times. I even went so far as to request (later demand) a different model. Only once did they agree to accommodate that request. It almost became a joke around the office, because I was sending so many monitors back for warranty repair. And when the telephone hold-time with their customer service started to be measured in hours rather than minutes and when letters of complaint fell upon deaf ears .......... well, I'm sure gonna' miss that neat-looking Toucan logo.

Instance Two:

Antec has always been my computer case of choice, specifically the Sonata model. They're sturdy, they have ample working space inside with enough drive bays to suit my needs, the power supply provides ample wattage for the components I was using, and they utilize quiet fan technology, something everyone likes. When the Sonata I model was discontinued, I stayed with them and started buying the Sonata II — a similar case, but with improved features. My latest Antec case of choice is the Sonata III, a sharp-looking case with all the desired features. I currently have about a dozen of these cases scattered about my office.

Out of those dozen cases, however, I have an issue with several of them randomly rebooting. I blame the case because these same boxes also have a tendency to reboot when a user plugs a USB device into the port on the front panel — in fact, we can almost count on it. Antec has confirmed there's a grounding issue on the front panel, and they've agreed to send me a replacement front panel that will presumably fix the problem. The guy was kinda' hedging when I wanted a commitment to get nine of these front panels instead of just one (one trouble ticket, one panel), and I'm not crazy about spending upward of an hour per case to replace that front panel (not to mention the downtime for the user). At this point, Antec might be treading on thin ice with me, but the jury is still deliberating.

Instance Three:

I don't host my own e-mail, but rather rely on a local company to host it for me. I use a company called Indra's Net, based in Boulder, Colorado. I continue to be amazed at the high level of customer service they provide, even though my particular account generates very little revenue for them. In my mind, these guys have set the bar so high for their level of customer service that other companies would be hard-pressed to meet it, much less exceed it. I almost feel bad when I ask them to help me troubleshoot an e-mail problem, but they're always more than willing to do whatever it takes to help identify what might be going on, even if it's not on their end. Bending over backward or jumping through hoops or any other cliche you can think of certainly applies to these guys.

I have some plans to create a personal Web site in the near future, and there's no question who I'll ask to host it. Even though Web hosting is included in my ISP's package, I'll go with the company with a proven track record in providing top-notch customer service. I don't often enthusiastically make product or service recommendations, but in the case of Indra's Net, I always make an exception.

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I try to keep all these things in mind when providing customer service for the users I support, which is, in essence, exactly what I do. These examples not only illustrate what I should not be doing but, more importantly, what I should be doing.

How about you? Do you have any customer service experiences, either good or bad, that you'd like to share?

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