Customer service, two words that when put together strike dread into people. It conjures images of interminable waiting and terrible automated phone systems. Heaven forbid if you have to send something back to be fixed. Have you your proof of purchase? Warranty? CCTV footage of you buying the product? Good, prepare to wait a few weeks for a repair, if we decide that it’s covered by the warranty and eventually get round to fixing it.
It seems most companies treat customer service and after sales support as a chore, when in reality it’s an opportunity. Too many companies see the sale as the end of the road, when it’s just the start. After sales is when a company should be showing a customer why they were right to buy whatever the product was, and turns a customer into a loyal customer.
The Wrong Way
This isn’t always the case however. Most people who know me, know that I’m not a big fan of Apple products. It may come as a surprise that I used to love iPods, and had an 40GB iPod 4th Gen. It suffered badly from the infamous ‘click of death’ and had to be sent back multiple times to have the hard drive replaced. It was massively frustrating. It was eventually resolved by the problem reoccurring a few days after the 30 day repair warranty, which resulted in the customer service reps refusing to even speak to me on the phone. I’ve haven’t bought another Apple product since (excepting picking them up for others in the US). These days I’m told that Apple support is now the best around, but that bad experience put me off their products and it’s what I remember.
The Right Way
On the other hand, I got a set of Shure headphones as a gift last Christmas (thanks Cian..) and loved them, for a year they’ve had heavy use. Last month though, they developed a fault so I contacted customer support. As it was a gift, I didn’t have the receipt, which wasn’t a problem, the serial number proved that they were still under warranty. Sent them back, and a brand new set arrived after about a week. Emails to the reps were answered quickly and the whole process was painless. I’m delighted, and next time I go to buy headphones, take a guess as to what brand I’ll be buying..
The Other Way
“Shane” I hear you cry, “Apple can’t be blamed for hard drive failures, they’re the least reliable of all computer parts.” I know, as an Electronic Engineer I understand that products have problems and break all the time. It wasn’t the actual failures that irked me, it was the attitude of the customer support who treated me as an irritant and didn’t seem to want to help. It is possible to handle hardware problems properly though.
I have a Dell XPS laptop, the M1330, which contains the Nvidia 8400GS graphics chip. Do a quick google search for the words “nvidia dell” and you’ll see why this is a problem. Mine has failed 3 times now. This could be a big rant about how terrible this is, but Dell win back points by how they handle XPS support. When the laptop breaks, I phone Dells 24 hour XPS support line, and they send out a repair guy (we’re on first name terms now, nice fella) with the replacement part and you’re back up and running in 24 hours. I love it, even if there are problems with the product, they fix it promptly and with minimum fuss. Since something like a laptop is so essential, you can’t beat a bit of piece of mind, I wouldn’t be able to function if I had to send it away and wait a couple of weeks to get it back.
If you want people to buy from you more than once, invest in your customer service. It’s not hard to gain lots of loyal customers, who’ll defend your products to the death and recommend them to all their friends. It’s something that in theory is relatively easy to get right. Common sense and empathy go a long way, couple that with prompt communication and you’re set.