Customer Service — Can you keep customers if you don’t have service?

The rational response is a resounding “no.”  Customers expect value and expect service.  Clearly, the “fit for use” argument comes into play.  The service I expect from Burger King is clearly different than what I expect from a 5-Star restaurant.  Yet, those businesses that astound me with unexpected, great service lock me in for life; and, those that don’t commit me to a life of sharing their horror stories of bad service and annoying automated phone prompts.  I share one of each with you here.

Three or four laptops ago, I purchased an IBM (Lenovo) ThinkPad.  After a year or so of brutal usage, my monitor expired.   It was a quick painless death, but a major tragedy since my business life is in my computer.  Naturally, I was on the road and stranded.  I called IBM and told them my problem (customer service lesson #1 – I got to speak with a real person).  I explained my situation.  The customer service representative told me they would have a box shipped to my house the next day (Saturday) and that the courier would wait while I packed my laptop for shipment to an IBM repair depot (customer service lesson #2 – recognize and acknowledge the customer’s urgency).   The box actually did arrive on Saturday (customer service lesson #3 – follow through on your promises), but I decided to have my IT person backup the hard drive before I shipped it.  So, instead, I called the courier and shipped the faceless laptop on Monday.  With a lump in my throat, I waved good bye to my laptop and my business, not knowing when or if we would ever be reunited.

What occurred next was astounding to me.  On the following day, I received a voicemail requesting my signature for delivery of my repaired computer.  Unfortunately, I was not home and wisely they would not leave the computer on the doorstep.  So, on Wednesday morning they delivered it – 100% healed and ready for more abuse.   To this day, I cannot fathom how they received, repaired and reshipped my laptop in less than 24 hours (customer service lesson #4 –exceed your customer’s wildest expectations).  Because of IBM’s (Lenovo) outstanding customer service, I am a customer for life (or for as long as they meet my expectations).

Now, fast forward to the present.  I recently upgraded to a new ThinkPad and started installing upgraded software.  I could not find my security software information and was getting quite frustrated.  I tried to talk with a representative of Panda Security Software – I now believe they do not exist.  After wasting too much time trying to find a phone number, I gave up and decided to just purchase new on the website.  With great difficulty, I eventually was able to install the newest, greatest, globalist security software they had to offer.

Within two weeks of using the software, I was hit with a virus that corrupted my Windows 7 profile.  All my execute files were freaking out and my laptop was rendered unusable.  My IT guru checked it out and discovered that this virus was several years old.  How could that be?  My security software was new and improved.  So I started my attempt to contact Panda.  I reviewed my sales receipt, their website, everything.  No phone numbers for support, only a sales number.  Maybe they could put me in contact?   Optimistically, I called the number.  I answered the annoying IVR questions, pressed the various numbers and waited, and waited, and waited.  Doing other work, I kept the line open.  After 90+ minutes on hold, I gave up.  And, this was for sales!?  How silly of me to think I would ever get a real person for customer service.

Not willing to gamble my business on security software that didn’t keep my laptop secure even against the old stuff or to gamble on a company that provides no customer service, my IT guru removed Panda and replaced it with NOD 32.  I then started the process to request a refund from Panda for “returned” software.  Now, all of a sudden, I am receiving an abundance of email – answer this survey, no we can’t refund, here is the refund form, etc., etc.  Panda once was my security software of choice.  Now, with no service, no customer.

Have our customer service expectations dropped as a result of the Internet?  Is it just too costly to service the products sold?  Or, are engineers and accountants running the businesses and cannot comprehend human contact?   Maybe they need to understand that technology is not the consumer, humans are.

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