CXO

Customer support intentions (take the poll) and some comments on providing excellent customer support

Some readers are wondering about the motives and intentions of a customer support incident I've been writing about. Considering the history of what happened, what do you think? Take the poll - and in this case, since there's no way to get into the mind of another, it's merely an opinion poll.

Some readers are wondering about the motives and intentions of a customer support incident I've been writing about. Considering the history of what happened, what do you think? Take the poll — and in this case, since there's no way to get into the mind of another, it's merely an opinion poll.

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While I was writing my last blog piece, the very thing that crossed my mind did indeed come up in subsequent discussion comments — which is the suspicion that ViewSonic was merely pacifying a guy who happened to have a wide audience in the IT community. Since there's no way of knowing their exact motives, I can only speculate based on my experience with them. I thought I'd write one more blog piece on the subject, primarily as a reply to discussion messages left and a few e-mails I've received on the subject.

The question: Was ViewSonic merely pacifying a guy who happened to have a wide audience in the IT community, or was this really an attempt to satisfy a long-standing customer? Here's how I'd answer that question.

(The last blog piece can be found here.)

First of all, I didn't get that impression at all — that they were acting merely to pacify me. Just from the tone of the conversations, I didn't think they were trying to buy me off, so to speak, but rather make good on a problem with a long-standing customer. That's just the feeling I got.

Second of all, what did ViewSonic have to lose by doing nothing? The way I see it, they probably had absolutely nothing to lose by simply ignoring my comments. As we all know, these blog pieces might stay in the forefront for a week or two, but they soon get lost when people stop posting comments and newer blogs pieces are written, dropping them further and further down the list — and I certainly wasn't on a crusade to destroy their reputation; it was really no more than a small blurb in a bigger article in an even bigger sea of comments, articles, and opinions. The proverbial cat had already been let out of the bag, so to speak, and they couldn't possibly reel it back in. They knew by my records that I wasn't a HUGE customer, and I purchase, maybe, a dozen monitors every other year. Retaining or losing my business wouldn't affect their bottom line one iota; and they actually had more to lose by shipping me eight new monitors (I did have to pay for shipping to send the old ones back). Coupled with the fact that there was absolutely no presumption that I would write a follow-up story as I did, it seems to me that ViewSonic could have taken the position to simply ignore it and let it pass. Nothing more would have been said, and no further damage would have been done.

Third of all, I have heard about recent problems ViewSonic has experienced with their tech support. I believe they updated their help desk software last year, and some people were struggling to get it to work properly, while others weren't as well versed on using it as they should have been. As such, perhaps this representative knew of the problems I described, and perhaps they actually valued my feedback. After all, in years past, I never had such problems with them, and this was tantamount to a bump in what had always been a smooth support road. This is all speculation, of course, but it does seem odd for a company to go from excellent to poor for no reason at all.

As a side note to those of you with help desk expertise: these kinds of help desk problems are actually opportunities for those who could actually solve them. A phone call to the highest corporate officer you could reach, saying that you could solve the problem they were experiencing, would probably be received with interest. It could be an open door to either a full-time job or a very nice consulting gig.

Fourth of all, I don't think it's a coincidence that I had a huge failure rate on that one model. That kind of thing happens with all sorts of products, and a bad apple drops from the tree once in a while. After all, automobile manufactures actually recall certain models on occasion because of a faulty design with an individual component. And although I've never heard of a monitor recall, I suppose a bad component could just as easily find its way into a certain model. Perhaps they were simply acknowledging that this particular model was a lemon, and this was their version of a product recall with one customer.

My conclusion is this: If they had nothing to lose by simply ignoring my original piece and they had nothing substantial to gain by making the offer they did, why did they do it? Personally, I think they wanted to retain a long-standing customer, and perhaps lay one more brick in the road to regain a reputation of providing excellent products and support. I'm not as cynical as a lot of people, and I think most companies believe the road to financial success is not by cheating people and providing lousy products or service but rather by striving to provide good products and services. Which road a company takes will definitely affect whether they fail or succeed. Can you name one company that has continually provided poor products or services that saw long-term success? Excellence usually prevails — and succeeds — in the marketplace.

Those of us who support computer users are often in the middle — we have to both provide excellent support to those we serve and receive excellent support (and products) from the vendors upon whom we rely. I know that I've stumbled before, and I suppose in this case, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that ViewSonic is doing no more than I would — try to regain the confidence of those who judge me.

In the very least, perhaps a lesson we can learn is how we might behave if, and when, we are ever perceived as providing poor customer support. Should we do what's necessary to make it right? Or should we ignore it for fear of one thing or another? Excellent customer service means we have to both provide it to some and demand it from others. Seeing how it works both ways can only make us all better.

Please share your thoughts in the following discussion.

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