Posted by: Bill | July 7, 2009

Customer service winning streak

I meant to write this post a few weeks back when it was fresh, but I still feel the need to share my recent customer service winning streak. I won’t spend time debating the cause. Maybe it’s the recession, maybe I’m intimidating when I write emails or maybe it’s luck.

Case #1: Black and Decker with a dose of UPS Store – The secondary handle on our string trimmer buckled and broke at the end of last summer/fall. I loved our trimmer. It was cordless and held enough juice for me to trim/edge the yard on one charge. I struggled through the last use of and figured I would just order another handle over the winter. Sadly, spring was approaching and a little research revealed that they no longer have this handle anymore. When I called to make sure this was correct, a rude customer service agent confirmed it for me. I followed up with an email and Black and Decker replied that they would happily send me a new trimmer if I would send them the old one.

I estimated about $50 to ship them the old one and the model they would send is about $75. A fair amount of effort on my part is included here, but it still beat buying a brand new one. (UPS Aside: I shipped from one of their stores and the Black and Decker people shipped the new one right back to the same store. An alert employee there remembered me, looked up my number and called me to come pick it up). In hindsight, the new trimmer does not have as much juice as the old one which is sad. I also have storage issues because the new unit does not have a separate battery pack. However, it is lighter allowing me to get to some hard to reach areas by using just one hand.
Slight Edge: Customer

Case #2: Accel Gel – For those not familiar, Accel Gel is part of a family of nutrition products for athletes. It’s similar to Gu, Gatorade, Hammer Gel, etc. I tried it out last summer while prepping for the Half-Ironman that was washed out by a hurricane because it had a bit of protein mixed in with the carbs. This is good for longer workouts/races (keeps you from getting hungry) and also aids in recovery. I was happy with the results immediately and the Vanilla gels tasted like pudding.

Rather than constantly buy 5 or 6 Gels at a time, I ordered two cases from my favorite running store. Sadly, it seems they went and changed the flavor right around this time and I wasn’t happy at all about the “improvement”. After a little bit of work, I tracked down an email address and sent them an email asking about the change. I received a response the very next day from the “VP, Innovation” explaining the rationale for the change and also offering to send me another case as they had made some additional improvements. He followed through and sent another case along with some other samples. This included some samples of the chocolate flavor which has since become my favorite. I have since even gotten used to the new Vanilla flavor and henceforth am a committed evangelist for Accel products.
Big Win: Customer

Case #3: Verizon FIOS – Our service was down. The router looked fine to me, but the all important “Internet” light was an ominous orange color. After running through my own troubleshooting routine, I noticed the outlet where the ethernet cable plugs in was yanked out of the wall a bit. I called the technical support line, got through to a human being pretty fast and after a few troubleshooting steps, they identified the router as the issue. They would be sending me a new one in just a few days. Not bad at all I thought and I get a new router out of it.

The new router arrived two business days later (well done). I installed it and…no dice. After another, longer troubleshooting session, they deemed a technician must come to the house. Happily, one was available the next day and was able to meet us around 6:30 PM (no work hours missed). He diagnosed the issue as the actual box on the outside of our house and replaced it within the hour. Good times. 5 business days, 1 new router, a new box and, happily, no damage to the ethernet outlet. This was, by far, one of my best Verizon experiences ever even if their initial diagnosis was incorrect.
Slight Edge: Customer

Case #4: Earl’s Sandwiches – I have noted before how much I love Earl’s food. However, the french fries have had issues in the past. I have sampled them several times as have some friends and we’ve never been happy. I emailed via the web site and asked why his fries never seemed to be cooked. I received a very nice, somewhat corporate-sounding reply explaining how they are now experimenting with different cooking methods for the fries. I was also invited to introduce myself next time I was in the shop. I have returned many times since then, but am not yet ready to try the fries again so this one gets a TBD.
Edge: Customer

I will now leave you with a contrary example. One of our departments went across the street for a team lunch not long ago to Mai Thai. There were 5 or 6 at the table and, apparently, the staff did everything short of kick them out once they were done eating because “they wanted the table”. According to witnesses, it was not crowded at the time. I have never been a fan of their food, but now the restaurant is dead to our entire staff. If only I had been invited to that lunch, my winning streak may well have carried the day.

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