By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
Over the last few months I have become a connoisseur of sorts of customer service. For a while I was on the receiving end which I admit is not all that fun (mainly because it was about not failing as opposed to being proactive) and more recently I have been on the giving end. Most recently I have dealt with three companies; Bose, Comcast and Western Digital. All three were different experiences. It’s probably not shocking as to who had the best customer service but what they have in common may shock you.
I have a pair of the Bose Sound Sport Headphones. They are great for just about everything including working out. I had to replace my set due to the fact that I left them at the gym one morning. I purchased a second set and after three months or so the cable near the headphone jack went on the fritz. So I called customer support. I was able to get ahold of someone who sounded like English was their first language (always nice) and had me sorted out in about 20 minutes. Sorted being if I sent mine back – after paying a shipping charge- then they would send me a new pair. I did and I received my new pair in about seven business days.
The now third pair of headphones stopped working after a few weeks. The microphone went out. I contacted Bose again and got the same result, ship them to us and we’ll ship you a pair. Again, I received my new headphones in about a week.
While their customer service was outstanding it did raise some concerns about why their headphones were crapping out with very minor wear & tear. None the less, this was a good experience.
Comcast is know for terrible customer service. If I was to go in-depth at how terrible it was this post would be the length of a Stephen King novel. In short, they are terrible but their Internet speeds are pretty solid.
So the short version goes like this; Sign up for service online. Experience isn’t bad but the price to me is absurd. Service tech comes out and was nice but I wouldn’t be comfortable if I was a woman alone with him. The work order was wrong but of course I was charged for it anyway because ‘we can’t credit that until the next bill’. The tech didn’t know what an Apple AirPort Extreme was and the customer service over the phone to get my Internet setup was tremendously bad. In fact it took three days and multiple phone calls to get my Internet up and running with my Apple AirPort Extreme and a Cisco router that was on their approved list.
After a day or so I found out that I wasn’t getting some of the channels I thought were included in my cable package. Turns out they changed the package and even the customer service rep I was chatting with didn’t know why I was getting NFL Network but not the Big 10 Network.
While Comcast Internet speeds are solid their pricing borders on illegal. Unfortunately I cannot get another Internet provider due to my apartment complexes agreement with Comcast but the moment I move out I am dumping them like a Lehman Brothers stock in the fall of 2008.
I purchased a two terabyte WD drive last fall. It worked swimmingly until my last move where somehow the power supply got hosed. I contacted support and they said I could ‘tamper’ with the drive in an attempt to get my data off the drive. I was successful and a day or so later I shipped them them back the drive and patiently awaited my replacement. A MONTH LATER, I received the same drive back with a note saying that it could not be replaced because I ‘tampered’ with the drive. The same drive they allowed me, in writing, to ‘tamper’ with a month earlier.
I called WD and calmly explain the situation. They understood the mistake and said they would send me a new one…after I sent the broken drive back with all the parts in one piece. This is something I couldn’t do because when I got the drive back it didn’t include the screws or the power supply. The customer service rep said that it should be shipped with all it’s parts to which I replied, ‘how can I ship it back with all it’s parts if you already have them?’
They would not ship me another one without a charge until I shipped the broken one back. I found this unacceptable so my solution was to meet me in the middle, I will send the drive back – put back together the best I could – tomorrow if they send my new one tomorrow. The rep was not authorized to do that without escalating the case in which would take another 24-48 hours. Again I found this unacceptable so needless to say my review on Amazon.com is not flattering.
About 24 hours later I received an email from Western Digital with a UPS Tracking number. They had overnighted a new drive. They saw it from my point of view. The cost of not meeting me in the middle would cost more than actually meeting me there.
How can three companies have three different sets of experiences?
This isn’t all that hard but when you do not empower your customer service reps to make logical business decisions then it becomes hard and becomes more expensive. After a month, in my opinion, WD should be overnighting me a replacement drive and paying for me to ship the broken one back. They eventually agreed because they probably saw what I saw, it’s cheaper than bad reviews.
Bose was more proactive. Bose was able to get a product replaced in under 10 business days so why did it take Comcast an entire billing cycle to credit back a mistake they made in the first place? How is it that a customer service rep doesn’t know the current tier packages they are offering? How can simple things like this go overlooked?
These are solvable problems. These can be solved by empowering your employees, educating them and trusting them. These are not easy things but they are not hard either. By not doing this companies are playing an old game school game. One where costs are measured strictly on a balance sheet with no recognition that bad reviews on sites like Amazon or Facebook or Yelp can have an effect. That thinking has to change.