Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GREAT customer service

I complain often enough about lousy customer service, so I think it's only fair that I take a moment to single out someone who provided me with a fantastic service experience.

Sunday night my cell phone died, which was a big disappointment. I've had a Palm Pre for a couple of years, and it's a terrific phone...Besides making calls, I can surf the web on it, take high-quality pictures, play music, do pretty much whatever I need to do. But the Pre has a small design flaw that sometimes results in the phone's battery being unable to take a charge. Something comes loose in the little USB port on the side of the phone, and when you plug it in to charge it up, nothing happens, and then the battery just slowly dies.

That's what happened with mine Sunday night. Fortunately, I've had mine long enough that the folks at Sprint have been sending me emails, reminding me that I could now upgrade my phone at a reduced price, if I would just renew my contract. So I went online to look for a new phone.

There I found something called the HTC EVO 4G. It sort of looks like the i-phone, had all the features I need (plus quite a few more) and best of all, it was FREE (with the renewal of my contract.)

I have an acquaintance at the Sprint store in South St. Paul, so Monday morning I sent him an email asking two questions: 1) Was this the right phone for me; and 2) Could I come up to the store and pick it up? Here's where the plot thickens.

He told me that in order to get all of the available discounts that made the phone free, I would have to start the ordering process online at the Sprint web site. During that process, he said, I would have the option to "reserve in store." By choosing that option, I could order the phone, and then two hours later show up in his store to pick it up.

So I went to Sprint.com and started through the ordering process. I got all the way through and was ready to place the order, but I still hadn't seen the "reserve in store" button. I didn't want to submit the order and then find out I had to wait for the phone to be shipped, which the site said would take 2-5 days. So, I called the customer service number on the side of the screen to make sure I could get the phone at the store.

My call was answered by a guy named Jeff, and I had every reason to expect that Jeff would be like most customer service people and would do only the minimum amount of work necessary to get me an answer and get me off the phone. I was wrong. Way wrong.

I explained the situation, and Jeff said that, yes, I should have been able to find a "reserve in store" button on the web site, and he seemed genuinely puzzled that I couldn't. He asked if he could put me on hold while he talked to some techie. I said that would be fine, and expected a long wait.

He was back within a minute or so, and explained the problem. It turned out that I had been on the right screen in the ordering process, but I missed the "reserve in store" button because it was disabled, and reserving in store was not an option for this particular phone. This meant that I could only order the phone to be shipped, which meant I would be 2-5 days without a phone.

(Which isn't the end of the world, but from both a business and personal standpoint, it's difficult. I have an office line, but almost no one calls it, because my clients have all been conditioned to call my cell since I'm out of the office a lot. Also, I have all of my emails forwarded to the phone, so that if I'm on the road all day, I can still respond to an email without waiting to get home at night. Plus, my kids are conditioned to keep in touch with me by texting me. And most importantly, I have to have a device to play Sudoku on before I fall asleep at night! So several days without my cell is quite an inconvenience.)

I said I would call the store and see if there were any other options, and apparently Jeff could hear the disappointment in voice. At that point, it would have been reasonable for him to say, "I'm really sorry, there's just nothing I can do about it. Place your order and we'll get it shipped out as soon as possible."

Instead, he said, "Call your friend at the store and see what he says, and I'm going to call you back in a half-hour or so and check on things."

I called the Sprint store, and my guy said, "Sorry, I guess we're stuck." But he assured me that if I ordered it, they usually arrived in just 2-3 days.

At that point I was resigned to calling my clients and telling them I had no cell service for a few days, and that I might not respond to emails very quickly.

Then Jeff called back.

First, he wanted to know if the Sprint store had been able to help me out. When I said "no," he said "I've had your case open here for about an hour, trying to figure out what we can do. What if I could overnight you the phones? Could you get by the rest of they day without your phone?"

I said that yes, I could get by for the day, although I wasn't crazy about having to pay for overnight shipping. "No, we won't charge you for that," he said. Then he went online himself, accessed my account, and placed the order to provide overnight shipping.

At that point, I was thrilled with the level of service. Then it got even better.

"Now, let's talk about the Palm Pre," he said. "Let's try a couple things to see if we can get it going." He had talked to another techie, who gave him a couple of things to try involving removing the battery, re-plugging the phone in, etc...Unfortunately, none of those worked.

"Well then," he said, "I can set it up to have all of the calls to that number forwarded to a different number for today if that will help." Yes, I said, that would help immensely. So I gave him my office number, and Jeff went to work setting up the forwarding of my cell phone calls to my office line.

In the middle of all this, something he said about the battery reminded me that I had another cell phone battery in the house. My sons both have Palm phones, and I had bought Travis a couple replacement batteries and a charger because his battery wasn't holding a full charge. I was going to give them to him on Wednesday, but I still had them in the house. So I took out my Pre's battery, put in a charged replacement battery, and my phone came back to life!

At that point, Jeff cancelled the forwarding, so that calls would again come to my Pre. So, in about a 90-minute period after taking my call, Jeff had:

-- Found an answer to my original question about the "reserve in store" button
-- Realized that it wasn't a satisfactory answer and started looking for a solution
-- Called me back with a solution that got my new phone ordered
-- Tried to help with my old phone, leading to a solution to that problem

And all the while he was friendly and chatty, telling me he worked just down the road near LaCrosse, Wisconsin, had been out ice-fishing already, etc., etc. By the time we were done, he had solved every phone issue I had, and now - only about 24 hours later - I'm sitting with my new HTV EVO 4G.

I don't know how he could have made this interaction any better, short of personally fetching the phone from the warehouse in Kentucky, driving it up to my home himself and waxing my car once he got here.

It was a phenomenal customer service experience, and it's a shame that it's so rare these days that it merits a blog post. So, Jeff....thanks, man.

No comments:

Post a Comment