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Have You Super-Served a Customer Today?

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    November 21, 2020 2:23 PM PST

    Have You Super-Served a Customer Today?

    by Jay Mitchell, editor and publisher of The Small Market Radio Newsletter

    I'm going to tell you a story about customer support that you will not believe. I'm doing this for two reasons. First, when we receive superior customer service, we tend to tell other people about it. Second, this is a great example of a standard of excellence to which you may want to aspire.

    The story:

    I have been buying Dell computers for probably 25 years or so. I learned early on to include with every computer purchase a subscription to their Pro Support option, which not only covers you in terms of keeping your computer in top condition, but it also confers on you a certain status within the company.

    About a year ago, it was time to get a new computer, so I went to Dell and got a quote. I passed this along to a colleague, who, unbeknownst to me, bought the computer from Amazon rather than through Dell directly. He paid about the same amount of money, but did not get the Pro Support.

    Almost since the beginning of the life of this computer, I had problems. As a result, Dell replaced the motherboard, the hard drive, the keyboard, the touchpad, and the palm rest. Inasmuch as we only had very basic support, that was about all they were prepared to do, short of sending the computer back for a couple of weeks—which would have put me out of business.

    After months and months of this, I paid the extra money for Pro Support, and the world changed immediately. As soon as I talked to a Pro Support technician, explaining all the things that we had done with the computer, he declared that the computer was a lemon and went about processing a replacement.

    Here's where things got really interesting. In processing the replacement, it turns out that the specifications for the computer we bought—according to Dell's records—were significantly less than the computer I received. It turns out that Amazon bought a basic computer from Dell, and then upgraded it themselves.

    I don't think anyone would disagree the Dell had a perfect right to tell me they couldn't help me because of the aftermarket (and, technically, warranty-busting) modifications. But here's the point of the story: Dell is going to honor the warranty, and more: they are going to give me a better computer, with better specifications, then what I have now.

    Sorry it took me so long to explain it, but the fact that Dell did not fall back on "policy" is truly extraordinary in this day and age, when companies and the people who work for them defend companies instead of serving the customer. (In fact, the Dell representative apologized to me, saying, "I know that none of this is your fault.")

    I was so taken aback by this gesture that I am making it my business to convert everyone I know into a Dell customer. Even if they are using a Mac, Linux, Chromebook, whatever, I will hold their heads under water until they agree to buy a Dell computer.

    Let me tell you another story. It's not as good a story, mind you, but it's more relevant to our business and how a bank of customer service and goodwill can save what otherwise would be a disastrous situation.

    When we owned our radio stations in Southeast Iowa, we were plagued for about six months with a technical issue that we just could not fix: every few minutes on our FM, you'd hear a little "chirp" that momentarily interrupted the programming. We called in engineers from all over the country—spent about $10,000—and never could find the issue.

    Leading up to that incident, our radio stations did a pretty good job of practicing what I have been preaching for years—to treat people scrupulously fairly, and in some cases unfairly (to us), to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction that we could possibly attain. (My models have always been retailers that offer solid guarantees on their products. Retailers like Lands' End and Costco have return policies that can be summed up in one phrase: "guaranteed, period.")

    Anyway, the goodwill that we had built up among listeners and advertisers enabled us to keep both through all this; as a matter of fact, our "chirp" became kind of routine and expected—a "new normal," if you will, for our radio station. I'm happy to say that we didn't lose a dime of advertising during those dark and uncertain days.

    Then, after about six months, we discovered quite by accident that the Air Force was conducting maneuvers high above our heads, and that their radio communication was the source of the interference. It's a good thing they were going to quit the program, because I doubt we would have very much influence with the Armed Forces in their pursuit of national security. Things went back to the "old normal"—you know, interference-free programming.

    To reward our advertisers for their loyalty, we gave each of them a generous allotment of complementary commercials. Inasmuch as we had kept in constant communication with our advertisers during our crisis, keeping them informed of the steps that we were taking to try to solve the problem, coupled with the bonus spots at the end, we were able to preserve and strengthen our advertiser relationships.

    I wouldn't wish my "chirp" on my worst competitor, much less you, dear reader. But both of these stories prompt me to ask you: What are you doing today to fortify the trust and goodwill between you and your clients? Are you prepared to do whatever it takes—even if sometimes you get the raw end of the deal—to preserve and enhance that relationship?

    If you haven't thought about it, if customer service is not a full-time reality in your operation, I suggest that you get busy. Not only will you get more business, but your relationships with your clients will be much more friction-free—and you never know when you're going to need it.

    Come to think of it, that's not so much a story of customer service from our side as it is customer tolerance from theirs!