By David Hollingsworth, Managing Member at Avid Communications
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
And all of this played out for me over the last 2 weeks. Let me explain.
Recently, I found myself dealing with two situations and two companies who took decidedly different approaches to customer service. These recent experiences were an excellent reminder that doing the right thing when taking care of your customers can result in a customer for life… or not.
GE Appliance Customer Service – Not the Best of Times
We purchased a GE refrigerator a little over a year ago (I know it’s a little over a year because I was clearly informed the warranty on the refrigerator is 12 months).
Roughly 6 months after buying the refrigerator, the ice maker stopped working. And we were able to schedule a repair under warranty. Another 6 months passed, same issue. This time, the response was that the refrigerator was no longer under warranty. I couldn’t understand why I had to pay for a technician to assess the situation and the parts to fix the issue on an appliance that hasn’t worked properly for much longer than six months. (After multiple people at GE refused to see my point of view, I called the distributor that sold the appliance and they said they would take care of the charges.)
A technician came out for the second time and confirmed the ice maker was, in fact, not producing ice. Since the technician didn’t have the parts to fix the problem, we had to wait another month for the actual repair. This would have been a few weeks longer, but, after a long wait on a customer service line, and, a candid conversation, they were able to find a time slot a little earlier. Parts were shipped (actually shipped in duplicate) and the technician came out again to install them.
I thanked him for the repair. We were so excited to finally have ice again… but wait, nope. After a few hours and no ice, I realized the repair didn’t fix the issue. I told my story to a co-worker who asked if it was a GE refrigerator. Answer? Yes. He explained that he suffered from a similar issue, and fixed it by unfreezing the water line with a hair dryer (probably not the recommended course of action due to all the plastic parts.) I used a different method with hot water and a tube to thaw the line.
Problem finally solved. Unfortunately, after all the back and forth, I had to solve the problem myself. At least we now have ice!
Ecobee Customer Service – Best of Times
Not long after the refrigerator started producing ice, my ecobee thermostat stopped working. After a little investigation, I found a wire had been pulled out of a part that terminates the wires in the unit. In the process of re-terminating the wire, the tab that holds and releases the wire on the back of the thermostat broke.
After some research, I found that this was not a readily available part. So I thought I would try ecobee customer service. On the ecobee website, they offer the ability to start up a chat session. Within a few seconds I was chatting with customer service.
I explained the issue and provided them the serial number of my ecobee. I confirmed the part that had broken by taking a picture and attaching it to the chat. After a short delay, they let me know their warranty is a year and my device was several years old. But they decided that the right thing to do was send a replacement part. And they thanked me for reaching out to them. What??? Customer. For. Life.
What a reminder. I had experienced two very different ways that companies take care of their customers. Ecobee made it very easy to reach their customer service and determine the actual issue. GE made me wait hours trying to reach someone that could help and schedule a repair.
Ecobee didn’t concern themselves with charging for a part that broke. Or having a warranty expiration stand in the way of making the customer happy. They actually gathered enough information from me to determine the solution. In GE’s case, nobody discussed possible solutions. They didn’t seem concerned that something else, besides replacing the icemaker and related equipment, may be the issue. I have to believe they would have known about this issue and possible remedies, since the first person I spoke with in my office had a similar issue and provided me with his solution.
These stark contrasts in customer service allowed me to reflect on our own standards, making sure that the customer service at Avid has the following characteristics:
1) Are we easy to reach when a customer has a question or issue?
2) Do we gather enough information through every step of setup and installation? Do we have the depth of knowledge about our products and the customer’s configuration so we can solve issues that are reported?
3) When something isn’t working right, do we waive incidental charges for parts and on-site technician visits?
4) Do we track all issues across our customer base to determine if there is an underlying, systemic problem?
5) Do our customer service interactions with our customers leave them feeling satisfied that they’re an Avid customer?
We’re not perfect.
But we are proud that the answer is Yes to all five of these important questions. When we started the company over 15 years ago, we knew that investing in customer service and internal processes would be critical to building a successful business. We continue to believe that focus is important. And we continue to improve our processes to make sure our customers are happy.
If you’re not happy with your current business phone provider, please give us a chance to make you happy. And if you have any customer service stories to share, we would love to hear them in the comments!