Defining Customer Service

Hi Folks:

There’s a saying that goes, “When I do something right, nobody notices.  When I do something wrong, everybody notices!”  It does seem that in our society there’s a greater trend to complain than to praise, but there are companies out there that continue to do excellent work, and who back up their work no matter what.  I thought I’d start with a couple of examples and invite you to share your own success stories.  Legitimate complaints have their place but this isn’t it, so please only post ‘success’ comments.

In no particular order…

Back in 1983 or thereabouts I bought a Cullman 2504 tripod, and a few years ago one of the legs was damaged when we were moving.  I took it to a local camera repair shop, but his only suggestion was to buy a new tripod.  The tripod was about 27 years old at the time, but although I didn’t hold out much hope I contacted the Cullman company in Germany and asked them if I could still get spare parts.  In response they sent me an exploded parts diagram for my tripod, and when I indicated the parts I needed, they shipped them to me for free.

One gift that Marcia bought me years ago is a Leatherman Super Tool.  It’s gotten a lot of use over the years, and a certain amount of abuse too.  One day when I was using it I managed to snap off one of the pliers jaws – I’m not sure how, but I managed it.  Again, I contacted the Leatherman company, and they directed me to a Canadian distributor who instructed me to send it back.  Again, it was replaced for free.

Similarly, I have an old Schrade Uncle Henry knife on my belt that I’ve had forever.  A number of years ago I managed to break off the tip of the blade, and was sad to find that not only was that model no longer available, but I couldn’t find another one on e-Bay or anywhere.  I sent the knife back to them and asked them if there was anything they could do.  Since the blade wasn’t repairable, they disassembled my knife, fashioned and attached a new blade and returned it to me for free.

Lee Valley Tools sells a number of high quality tools for woodworking, gardening and other uses, and  I once had a right-angle screwdriver attachment come apart on me.  I sent it back to them, and within two days someone called me and asked me if I wanted a refund or a replacement.  I chose the replacement, and it was mailed to me within the week.

Those are just a few examples of places that continue to offer distinctive customer service, all of which I’ve greatly appreciated!  Back in 1982 Tom Waters and Robert Waterman Jr. wrote a book called ‘In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies‘.  If you’re looking for some ideas for your own business, I highly recommend it.  Another amazing book for managers at all levels is: ‘First, Break All The Rules: What The Worlds Greatest Managers Do Differently‘, by Markus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Do you have a good customer experience to share?  Please do!


P.S. Although Marcia and I don’t shop much, there are a couple of local businesses we can recommend as well.  The first one is Armeni Jewelers on Humboldt Street.  A small, family-run enterprise, this is a place we’ve told more than two friends about.  We went there first for some jewellery repair and were impressed by both their open friendly smiles and their knowledge. Hratch took the time to explain carefully what our options would be and the pros and cons of each and did excellent work (although it may have been his daughter Natasha who completed it).  Every time we’ve returned they’ve remembered our names and greeted us warmly.  The other is the Enterprise Car Rental on Government Street.  Again, whenever we go there the manager has come out to greet us by name, ask about our day and where we’re heading.  Where possible we’ve been given upgrades or discounts, and the people there have always been friendly and knowledgeable.

Both of these businesses have excellent customer service, friendly smiles and a willingness to help.  We’ll add more places to this list as we find them; you can see some of our restaurant recommendations in our ‘Food‘ posts.  When we recommend someone our reputation goes with it, and these are places to which we definitely return!

Update: April 11, 2014 – an excellent post from Seth Godin. Thinking lifetime (don’t break the chain) We agree with most of what he has to say, but this one fits well in here.

2 Replies to “Defining Customer Service”

  1. Rob

    Hey Mike,

    Back about 14 years ago I was moving a hard drive on a computer, but as I yanked it out of the tower I caught the bottom of the drive's circuit board on a piece of metal. One of the capacitors ripped off in a way that wasn't repairable.

    I was in the habit of backing important information up, so I knew I wasn't going to miss much data. However, I was also monetarily challenged and hoped there was a way to avoid paying for a whole new drive. Out of desperation I sent Fujitsu an email along with the model number, asking them if they carried replacement boards. I explained that it wasn't a warranty item and that I had damaged the unit accidentally. Fujitsu responded quickly by sending me a replacement drive that had a greater capacity than my damaged one, no questions asked.

    I was grateful to them for their amazing good will, and continued to buy their drives until they stopped manufacturing them as a thank you.

    1. wolfnowl Post author

      That's a great story – thanks for sharing it! I think companies like this realize that providing excellent products AND service keep customers loyal and those same customers become advocates of that company.



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