Leadership optimize

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?

20 comments
reisen55
reisen55

Dell Computer bet on Bangalore and lost heavily when the transferred support calls to this infamous land of cheaper,faster,better (which seems to be one word these days, which is why I wrote it so). Bangalore is bad service in 90% of the cases. And these firms wonder why they have bad customer rapport??? American information technology consultants provide superior customer service and support and we can beat the pants off of India any day of the week. Anybody listen to FOAMY THE SQUIRREL rant on IT support???

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Ohh!! I have lot of experiences with services and providers. Dell: Amazing service. When something goes wrong, they just send a tech and replace the device. Just make sure you have a warranty coverage or extension HP Printers: Good service as well. They fix it next day for sure. Be sure to have a care pack!! Ricoh: This is the most amazing service ever. 4 hour response, this guys even have an small stock of spare parts in our office. Is just amazing, I always recommend the Ricoh service. Fidelus (Cisco): This guys are the top masters in Unified Communications. If you have Cisco, make a contract with this guys, they know from top to botton everything related with Cisco. Amazing. Other Mexico providers (not only IT related) Orange: Bad service Pillar: Bad service Volvo: Inexistent Honda: Good service Telcel (cell): Horrible Telmex: bad service LG: slow but good Sony: bad service I believe customer service is the main thing we see for contracts and not only price. When we hire a new vendor or brand, we prefer better service than better prices.

Wild Card
Wild Card

All of our in house PCs are Gateway. About half are under a repair contract. If I had a problem with one of those, Gateway would send the part with a tech and it was usually repaired the following business day. They have since sold their business licence to another company. Now the only way they will come to site is to replace the motherboard and that takes up to 2 weeks time. If the mother board is the bad part, I have to go through replacing everything before they will send a tech out. The process is something like: 1. Call for service 2. Receive RAM 3. Install RAM, still not working, call for service 4. Receive HDD 5. Install HDD, still not working, call for service. 6. Reseat ram, verify test with a known working monitor while on phone. 7.Receive motherboard 8. Wait 1 to 2 weeks 9. Service person comes to install motherboard. Worst part is, if I change the motherboard myself it makes the service contract on the PC null and void. Luckily, the contract on the remaining PC runs out next year.

Tig2
Tig2

The SO's Mom wanted high speed internet. She signed up with Qwest who happily signed her to a year contract and sent her a modem and line conditioners. The SO and I installed it. Very early in the game she had problems with the DSL dropping out. So she called Qwest. They opened a ticket. Then they closed the ticket claiming that they had fixed the problem. Not so much. They never called her back so when the problem continued, she called back. Her contract is over in about a month. Guess what? The only way Qwest was able to keep her service running was to reduce her speed and send her a new modem (that they charged her for even though they told her the problem was with the modem that they sent her initially) and new line conditioners. They acknowledged that the problem was theirs but a year later they are no closer to fixing it. Most importantly, she has had to initiate all contact with them. She's a bit tired of the way she's been treated so very soon, Comcast will have a new customer. But Qwest isn't just losing her as an Internet customer. They lose her business as a phone provider too. Bad customer service will impact your bottom line every time.

yquintana
yquintana

HP printer support has convinced me that it's time to consider another brand! We purchased a CP1518ni laserjet in September and the collating function has never worked. Yesterday was call 3 to 'support'. After 45 minutes and transfer to a supervisor, they have no record of our other two calls and refused to replace the printer unless we repeat all of the troubleshooting steps we've completed 3 times! This while having to spell everything repeatedly because they can't understand us. Shame on you HP!

reisen55
reisen55

There was a good quote from the Ferengi Book of Acquisition: Good customers are better than latinium, treasure them. Actually, there was a ton of wisdom in these Star Trek sayings too. But customers are the end and beginning of business, ignore current ones at your peril, develop new ones as your trade and do not feel the loss of those you lose over time. But by keeping your feet on the ground and your ear tuned to each separate, individual need, you are in business. I have posted these often: I will do so again, the three IBM rules of business.... Respect for the individual (my customer and staff) Go the extra mile to do a thing right Spend alot of time making the customer happy. Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

jmcgachey
jmcgachey

Dell...I'm not happy with the consumer side of their support, but the enterprise support has always worked for me. One Sunday morning at 0600 (Grand Rapids, MI) a PERC card failed on our main database server. Had the part, a tech and was back on line by 1000.

elangomatt
elangomatt

At the college I work at, we have been purchasing PCs from the same organization for at least 10 years now. The original company got bought out almost 5 years ago now, but the customer service has remained very good up until relatively recently. Even now, the actual tech support is still good, but the manufacturing has recently moved to Mexico and the RMA department can't seem to send out parts in as timely a matter. If it wasn't for the fact that the company recently filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, I would still like to stick with the company since historically the customer support has always been 100% in the USA and do great work. We however are being forced to explore other options though now since the delivery time of new systems and RMAs has skyrocketed and the future of that company is questionable. I just hope we won't lose our 5 year warranties for all of our existing systems.

rromanowski
rromanowski

Mujibar was trying to get a job in India . The Personnel Manager said, 'Mujibar, you have passed all the tests, except one. Unless you pass it , you cannot qualify for this job.' Mujibar said, 'I am ready.' The manager said, 'Make a sentence using the words Yellow,Pink and Green.' Mujibar thought for a few minutes and said, 'Mister manager, I am ready' The manager said, 'Go ahead.' Mujibar said, 'The telephone goes green, green, and I pink it up, and say, 'Yellow', this is Mujibar.' Mujibar now works at a call center. No doubt you have spoken to him. I know I have.

Tig2
Tig2

I've never heard of Foamy the Squirrel but would love to hear the rant. Is there a link?

showard2007
showard2007

I live in MN also and boy does quest residential suck up here. When helping customers and clients provision new circuits I NEVER recommend Quest. Comcast isn't as bad, but their not great either.

dcollar
dcollar

I am co-owner of a small IT support company based in Indy. We are always amazed at how many outfits (large & small) provide such lousy service. When we provide a client with h/w or s/w it is always in our best interest to get it from a reliable high quality source (breaks less) with good support (easier to get it fixed if necessary). Those of us who provide great service can get mighty rightoeus when we don't get good service ourselves. Recently I retired my 5 1/2 year old Compaq laptop for a MacBook Pro. When I had first bought the Compaq they were high quality and if one did fail I could get it fixed in 3 days max. After their support and quality went downhill I didn't even bother looking at them when it came time for MY new laptop. Since I have clients who run all sorts of operating systems (OS/X, XP, Vista, Unix, etc etc) I thought I'd try the Mac/Parallels route so I could have it all. My laptop puts the roof over my head and food in my mouth, so when the drive died four months after my expensive purchase, I was concerned about what MY customer service experience would be like. I delivered it to a local Apple store on a Sunday late afternoon and they had me running in less than 24 hours. Now THAT was service. If this one lasts me another five years I'll be happy. The jury is still out whether the hardware will last but my first service experience has been good.

sgill
sgill

My wife and I are threatening to write a book based on the bad customer service incidents we've had, most recently with banks and our phone company. Also, because we were both job hunting a couple of months ago, we wound up with literally dozens of stories concerning "online employment applications". Why do so few companies use generic applications? Good grief! It would be a simple matter to generate an XML model for employment applications. You'd think. Les Schwab Tires has one of the best customer service models in the world. I'm rambling; time to go.

shillblom
shillblom

Somewhere you must have missed the fork in the manufactures road. Warranties are even less concrete than the terms of your credit card contract and consumer goods are supposed to be thrown away nor repaired. Here is how and why this has come to be. Business has outsourced much of its manufacturing and moved into distribution and marketing products branded for them. The few that do manufacture goods, especially consumer goods, typically also brand, that is putting someone else?s brand on a product they manufacture for other people who compete with them. At first this seems illogical but what difference does it really make. If you are manufacturing say 60% of all units sold under any brand name, you have a 60% market share in that industry and probably can greatly influence pricing, competition, and technological obsolescence. Let someone else deal with the consumer we just make them to order (not stock), put them on the dock, and ship. Thus the majority of businesses selling branded consumer goods are in essence are operating as brokers. Brokers outsource risk, liability, and responsibility for product defects, environmental consequences, warranty issue and such. Brokers deal in quantities and contracts that treat what they sell as commodities. Got a problem, contact the manufacture and hope they speak English. The manufacture never made the product to last or be repaired to start with so the simplest and cheapest solution is just to replace it or make the process so complicated that the buyer gives up. Thus business is now more concerned with branding than product specification. Thus product marketing has turned its focus from substance to image, when you don?t really manufacture the product or the components that go into it what else is there to sell but brand and color. Image is what you are selling: you have the newest toy in the newest in color, and you?re part of the in-group. That?s why you wear clothes with logo? s and brand names plastered across one?s butt (BEBE springs to mind as an example). Our basic need for social interaction and fear of being different or scorned by the in-group makes it possible to create demand (want) for new products and brands when there is truly no need. The message is ?you want it and you desire to have it so why deny yourself, you want it now, and it makes others see you as successful, important, or part of the in-group, and besides you have credit so just throw it away and get the latest and greatest. Making goods creates true wealth and economic stability, it is substantive. Branding is image over substance, it is a game mentality motivated by greed rather than innovation, creativity, problem solving, skill and pride of work. Sadly the loss of manufacturing and the wealth, jobs, and economic stability it brings to a country and government is a fair part of the reason for the economic crisis the US now faces.

network admin
network admin

AT&T - We switched from DIA to MIS T1 service. I completed the configuration of our existing routers and servers. Unplugged and replugged... nothing. Called customer service. Spent 1 1/2 hrs listening to different reps say it was a routing or configuration error on our end. Real problem: AT&T forgot to turn on our new service. Samsung: All I was trying to do is have a new (dead) monitor replaced. They asked for the SN and Model #. I retrieved the info from the back of the monitor only to have them tell me the number wasn't valid. "Are you sure it is a Samsung monitor?" Maybe it is just me, but the Samsung logo on the front usually gives it away. I fought with them for a month. Checking and rechecking the numbers to make sure I was right; which I was. Finally, I took a picture of the SN and Model number and emailed it to them. I am currently waiting arrival of my replacement monitor.

salamandrin
salamandrin

Being the house hold computer and trouble shooting guy I have had to deal with many things and as far as customer support I would have to say that my worst experience was the ISP that we had for personal use. Where we live (out in the country) we can not get any broadband access so we have to deal with dial up. The company that we did have really did not know what they were doing at all. we had been with them for years and every time I called about a problem (running out of time, connection issues, slow response time..ect) I would be on hold for about an hour on average, and they could tell me nothing, there were times when I called up and told them what the problem was down to it was on their end and what it was and they just brushed me off. I am glad that now I am with a ISP that does have their act together. I had only one good experience with the old ISP and the person actually thanked me for pointing out the hardware problem they were having, it was kind of nice to see that they had at least one good person working customer support for them. I hope that he has found a better company to work for.

komelia
komelia

I have had 2 differing exp 1. Fortigate UTM - firewall HDD failed, had to send the whole unit back for them to investigate failure, they confirmed after 7 days, a further 14 days to have it shipped back. Phone support not part of contract only email - had to purchase phone support before they would speak to me. 2. Cisco 6509 - ws-6748ge-tx switch blade failed, open priority1 TAC case on web site, had the replacement unit in my hadn 50 mins after opening the case. OK, so Cisco are a big company & we are not, but the attention to detail & the fact that I have a fairly standard 8x5 contract, stuns me in terms of the response time. Fortigate I hear a changing support to be more Cisco 'like' I hope for their sake they get their, I for one walked away from a good device because of the service K D O, Network Analyst London, UK

Breezer85
Breezer85

Being an Indian in the Uk, i feel so intimidated by these Indian call centres. I'm not blaming the people who work there, but these big money grabbing hypocrits who outsourced there! When you ring for help it's so obvious that these guys are reading textbook! Have you tried this, yes, this? yes, that, that, that, YES!!! then when THEY can't find their own fault BANG we're back to step 1! Horrible!

reisen55
reisen55

Here are the main cartoons http://www.illwillpress.com/vault.html There are four tech support rants here, but the first is classic. When we were being outsourced at Aon Group, this little gem kept us in good spirits through the darkest days of despair and loss. Enjoy.