"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Last week, I had the best and worst customer service experiences of recent memory. The difference between the two companies? One understood the lifetime value of a customer, and the other either didn’t get it or didn’t care.
The best? About two years ago I purchased the DVD set of the 6th season of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For various reasons, I never actually watched the DVDs, but finally last week I wanted to watch a specific episode while I jogged on the treadmill. Unfortunately, that was the disc in the box that was defective.
I took a chance and sent a comment to Amazon customer service:
“I realize that this is quite an old order, but I just got around to watching these and at least one of the disks is defective. I have tried it in two DVD players and the copyright warnings come up but the disk contents do not. I have checked one other CD in the set and it is fine. Is it possible to get this replaced somehow — even just the defective disk….or disks as I will check them all later today.”
Within ONE HOUR I got this reply from Amazon:
“Thanks for contacting us at Amazon.com.
I am sorry to hear about the problem you experienced with your shipment. I have placed a new order for the item "Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Complete Sixth Season." There is no charge for this replacement.
Here are the details of the new order:
Order Number : xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shipping Speed : Two-Day Delivery
Estimated Delivery Date: October 19, 2005
We will send you a postage-paid return merchandise label so you may return the item[s] you received. It should arrive via standard U.S.
mail within 1-2 weeks. Please wrap the package securely, attach the label to the package, and drop it off at any Post Office.”
And today (Tuesday October 18, 2005) I received the replacement DVD set.
That’s customer service.
Did the fact that I spend a fair amount of money with Amazon every year factor into the decision to give me a $40 product for free? Probably. And to some degree, that’s the point. Understand the potential lifetime value of your customer and make sure you maximize their loyalty. I buy a lot of products, including CDs and DVDs, from Amazon and will continue to do so. I seriously doubt that a chain store would have accepted a return from two years ago, and they certainly would have wanted the receipt.
Amazon sent me the disks right away.
Now, here’s the worst of customer service.
Recently I decided I wanted to upgrade my cell phone to a BlackBerry. Partly because reception on my phone was awful, but mostly because my clients tend to communicate with me through email more than by phone. Having easy access to email wherever I am has become something of a necessity.
So my husband and I went to the Cingular store to take care of the change last Friday. Unfortunately, although we’ve been Cingular customers for YEARS, our most recent plan (a family plan that we share) was contracted last October. And according to the “RULES” that meant that I could not upgrade my phone; I would have to pay full retail if I wanted a BlackBerry. A difference of about $250. If I was a brand new Cingular customer I could get the BlackBerry for about $250. As a longtime Cingular customer (since about 1994) ineligible for upgrade, I would have to pay $500.
Plus of course the monthly plan. Which would be about double…. $40-50 for cell service and an additional $40 for the data services necessary for the BlackBerry. On a monthly basis, once I upgraded to the Blackberry, I would be spending TWICE what I was before. And my husband would have a cell plan as well.
But the rules are the rules…. I could upgrade at full retail or pay the cancellation fee and start anew.
So… I am starting anew. With my new Verizon BlackBerry.
A word of advice to the Cingular sales prevention team: don’t forget the lifetime value of the customer.
The cancellation fee was worth it.