Guess Who’s Putting the “Wow” in Customer Service?


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To put this post in perspective, Bob Thompson, founder and President of CustomerThink once asked me to write a monthly column titled, “CRM Curmudgeon.” We wound up with “You Betcha” instead :-). But this tells you how cranky I get about poor service. I expect very good service and only comment when it gets exceptional. You gotta wow me to get my attention, and I’m happy to say I’ve been wowed by a very unlikely trio of suppliers.

Here’s the skinny. Tuesday, I was working along on a presentation that had to go out today (Thursday) when my screen suddenly went black. Not blue screen. Nothing. Machine down. Except for a little pilot light on my Lenovo workstation that told me the problem was electronic, not electrical. Damn. Over the weekend, I’d failed to back up to my external hard drive, and not only was the presentation on my workstation but so was a major new business presentation we’re about to give.

My first thought was to bring the machine into the Geek Squad at Best Buy for immediate service. But then I remembered that BB doesn’t sell Lenovo, so the likelihood of having parts was about zero. So with some trepidation over what was about to happen, I called IBM (Lenovo, which is HQ’d in China, outsources U.S. service to IBM).

Now, the last time I dealt with IBM services was for a client company, which had outsourced all desktop maintenance globally to IBM. We were in the process of redesigning back office and service process, including work by outsourcers such as IBM and American Express. IBM’s workflow, data flow and communication flow together were so bad that…they were worse than AXP’s, which were unbelievably bad at that time (and perhaps still are). That did not portend well.

But I had to call. First surprise, the service agent picking up the call is a very knowledgeable person…in Atlanta. Off to a good start. He diagnosed the problem over the phone as a bad power supply. He checked to see if their parts warehouse had the particular power supply in stock. It did.

Then came the next surprise, after I told him what dire straits I was in, he asked if I was going to be home that evening. I couldn’t be, because of a very important school function. He was going to get someone there as late as 8:30 p.m. We settled for 10:00 a.m. the next morning, the first open appointment, but he told me to look for a parts shipment at the door that evening, because he wanted to make sure the parts were there when the tech arrived. IBM was going to ship “over-the-counter,” which means going direct, airport to airport as baggage, which ain’t cheap. And a ground courier then had to pick it up and deliver on a dedicated route, which ain’t cheap either.

The parts arrived as scheduled, and I couldn’t believe who delivered them. UPS. Big, slow, inflexible “brown,” at least it used to be. This was too getting to be a fantasy. All around excellent, cross-company process, designed to add value to customers.

The next morning I received a call from the tech to confirm the location, and he arrived before 10:00. Pleasant guy, and quick. He was out the door in 15 minutes. I was back up and running. And speechless.

And guess what I paid for all of this? Nothing. It was “routine” warranty service. Anything but routine, considering all the horror stories I hear about service from other manufacturers.

We buy from Lenovo because we trust the hardware. Sure I had a glitch, but the recovery was fantastic. My late friend Ron Zemke, who wrote the “Knock Your Socks Off Service” series with Chip Bell, always said the most loyal customers are those who’ve experienced a problem, followed by a great seller recovery. Ron was right, and he still is.


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