All too often, we hear nightmares about customer service and how abysmal it is. No one listens, no one cares, they just want to take our money and screw the customer. It’s great fodder for cocktail party and bloggers. Overlay this with the news reports on Toyota and their lack of responsiveness to customer complaints about problems, it’s no wonder no wonder we are terribly cynical about customer service.
However, just when cynicism starts to take over, all of a sudden, we experience these moments of absolute surprise that enable cause us to pause and reflect. Customer service is not hard, it starts with caring about your customers. It continues with listening to what your customers have to say, not necessarily agreeing with them, but trying to understand the issue and helping them understand. That’s great customer service. Sometimes we experience the awesome, customer service professionals who surprise and delight.
I have just had one of those experiences. For those of you who follow me, you know I’m an avid road biker. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people zipping through traffic, clad in lycra and bright colors, hoping I look halfway as cool as Lance Armstrong. Over the past year, I’ve been having trouble with my bike shorts. I’ve been wearing a hole in them in exactly the same spot (I’ll stop the description there, describing further gets a little embarrassing). I carefully inspected the shorts, I bought new shorts and watched carefully what was happening. Somehow after about 15-20 rides, the mysterious hole would appear in exactly the same spot. I was really concerned, at $125-150 per pair of shorts, I could be burning through a lot of money.
I knew it wasn’t a manufacturer’s defect, but thought maybe the manufacturer had changed fabrics. I even admitted the possibility I might be sitting on the bike incorrectly. Last night, I had some spare time, so I went to the customer service tab at the manufacturer’s web site. I left a polite, but concerned note, saying it didn’t appear to be a quality problem on there part, but I couldn’t afford to buy their product if it wore out so quickly and wondered if they had any suggestions.
Today, I was surprised—no shocked. Jeremy from Pearl Izumi called. He said, “Dave, I read your note, I’m really concerned about what’s happening. Would you mind talking to me about the problem you are experiencing?” My first reaction was that I was blown away that someone had paid attention—I guess the poor experience most of us have tends to cause us to have low expectations about responses. Second, I was surprised about the speed of response, and Jeremy apologized about being slow, but said he had wanted to research some things before calling me.
We talked about the problem. Jeremy was upset that I was wearing a hole in my shorts so quickly. He said he hadn’t heard a story like mine, and the shorts should last for years. He was worried about what was happening and wanted to help me. We talked for a while, he asked some great questions. I wanted to make sure that he understood that I really didn’t consider it a Pearl Izumi problem, clearly it was something about the way I rode my bike. After a few minutes, he said, why don’t you check the saddle, with the amount you ride, there might be something with the saddle that is causing abnormal wear on the short. He went on to explain checking spots that weren’t obvious, but with my full weight, pedaling like crazy, might cause problems. His recommendation was a stroke of genius, I told him I’d check. He asked me to get back to him, he really wanted to make sure we were addressing the right issue.
Sure enough, it was the saddle, there was an alignment problem of less than a sixteenth of an inch, but it was enough that it caused the excessive wear on the shorts. I quickly fixed the problem and know that I can now ride without wearing out these expensive shorts. I sent Jeremy a note, thanking him for helping me out and expected that to be the end of the story. To me it was a great customer service experience.
Imagine my surprise, I just got a note from Jeremy: “Dave, we’re shipping some new shorts out to you tomorrow–we want you to look good out on the road.” What an incredible response! Clearly, the problem was not caused by them, it was caused by me and a small problem with the bike saddle. I was happy with solving the problem, but astounded by Jeremy and Pearl Izumi going way over and above what they needed to do help me out.
Fantastic customer service is not hard. It starts with caring about your customers. It continues with listening to them and helping them. Too many companies think customer service is about proving that it is not their problem, but the customers. They forget to help the customer solve the problem. Fortunately, the management team at Pearl Izumi and Jeremy believe customer service is about serving customers. What a novel and refreshing concept!
Jeremy and Pearl Izumi have created a lifetime customer and a raving fan! Those of you who are bikers or runners, buy their product–they stand behind it.
I only have one concern. I’m worried about lettng Jeremy down, it’s the part about making me “look good out on the road.” I’m not sure new bike shorts can do it–unless they have a burkha model in lycra–at least covering me up completely might help.