I was going to subtitle this ‘A Tale of Two Strategies‘; then I could start with something original, like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Okay, maybe not.
A few months back I received an e-mail newsletter from a camera company I respect, and in that e-mail there was a video of a new product they were bringing out. I clicked on the link, started to watch the video and it stopped about halfway through… in mid-sentence. Oops. I noticed the insert video linked to a YouTube page so I clicked on that link, went to the YouTube page and started watching the video again. It stopped in exactly the same place. It was obviously a problem with the upload, but since it was a new product I thought someone should point out the error to them… might save some embarrassment
Ah, you knew there was going to be ‘but‘ coming, didn’t you? The e-mail newsletter came from a ‘do not reply’ address, so there was no way to reply to it. Neither was there any contact information in the body of the message itself. Undaunted, I went to the company’s website, searched around until I found their contact information and was presented with a list of about a dozen e-mail addresses. This company is actually above average in that regard, but we’ll come back to that in a moment. I sent off an e-mail to the head of marketing as that seemed appropriate, and when I received a reply the next day it was that this person couldn’t find any error in the video. My reply was that it was likely an error that was discovered and corrected fairly quickly, but I also outlined the challenges I went through in trying to reach someone, anyone at the company.
Yesterday I went to contact a different company about a challenge I was having with one of their products and after navigating through several ‘Contact’ pages I arrived at the ubiquitous ‘Contact Form’. I dutifully filled out the information on the form (and why is it that some companies feel they have the right to ask you for everything personal they could possibly ask just because you’re trying to reach them?) including the details of the challenge I was having and clicked ‘Submit’. In exchange I received a note saying that I was not permitted to contact the company because my comment was more than 500 characters long. Excuse me? I had to fill out the form twice, including half of the description each time. I will add that once a customer service representative from the company got back to me, he was very helpful.
This seems to be an ever-growing trend, as more and more companies seem to make it difficult or impossible to contact them. I must admit, I fail to understand the logic in that. Because we live in an often consumer-driven society, it almost seems as if these companies hold the idea that their customers exist to serve them instead of the reverse. My thought is that if you make it difficult or impossible for your customers to reach you, they’ll quickly find someone else whom they can reach, and the competition today isn’t within a 10-block or 100-mile radius but world-wide.
Okay, so much for the ‘worst of times‘ part. I really wrote this to profile a company on the other end of the spectrum. Marcia and I have an old dishwasher (in addition to me), and while the dishwasher works well, the heating element doesn’t work. I assumed it was the element that was burnt out, but I wasn’t sure. Before I took it apart to check I went online and found the Appliance Repair Blog Forums. I created a free account, went to the relevant section and outlined the problem as best I could, including the make and model number of the dishwasher. I received a reply from ‘Jake’ – a technician who moderates the forums. He provided comprehensive directions on which four parts could be the problem and how to test them to see if they were working. He also provided the part numbers for each piece and links to those parts. Now, the Appliance Repair Blog Forums is linked to a company called RepairClinic and the links Jake provided were to parts available from the RepairClinic site. That’s fair enough. Their prices are competitive, they ship (quickly) to Canada hassle free, and they provide a 365-day warranty on everything they sell. They also have tutorial videos on many (all?) of the parts pages that outline testing and/or replacement procedures. The original manufacturer part numbers are also listed on every page, and while I suppose I could have written down those numbers, gotten out the Yellow Pages and called one or more local companies to see if they had the parts in stock and at what price, why would I? Marcia and I do buy from locally-owned companies as much as we can, but in this case it wasn’t worth it. Jake and the people at RepairClinic made it easy for me to determine exactly what I needed and where to find it. All relationships, whether business or personal begin with an atmosphere of trust and respect. I know where to go the next time I have a challenge with an appliance. By the way, in this case it’s a thermostat that’s gone bad, not the element itself. It’s been shipped already.