Now You Know What I Think

16. February 2010 18:41
by nickolay_kolev
51 Comments

Customer support is the new marketing

16. February 2010 18:41 by nickolay_kolev | 51 Comments

Word of mouth has ever been the best way to promote or kill a company or a product. The problem with word of mouth marketing was that it was slow, limited to a certain person’s network, prone to mistakes (stories always get little ‘personalization’ when told to the next in the network) and there was always the feeling that it would be your friend being too picky, after all.

Telling a friend news, an opinion about a product or experience with dealing with a company was the only way to spread your opinion. It was a sequential process, that required right place, right time and mood. You can’t share all of your experiences with everybody. It would take so much time that you probably had your problem resolved before you ware able to get to the person that needed your advice. After some time you forget the bad experience or throw away the faulty product and move on and you don’t want to waste your time telling the same story again and again - the story looses its steam. ...

For the story to be spread, you depend on your friend to tell it to her friends (adding a bit of ‘personalization’ to the story) and so on. She also is limited by time and space.

Things are different now, thanks to the Internet. What happens when you can broadcast your message to everybody at once? Quite a lot.

Your method of sending your message out is not sequential anymore. You don’t depend on your friend to spread the news. It is available to everybody to read it at any moment in so many areas, that it would be correct to say that it is everywhere. It will be there years after you forget about the case. It is permanent, immediate, directly from the source, spread everywhere and can turn up being very, very costly for a company.

If your company gets a bad review by only one person, 15 years ago you would say - one unhappy customer, so what. Today that person will tell his immediate friends to read his last experience with your company on his blog. Then his friends (real and Internet virtual ones) that link to his blog will get update notification. Then he will post on Facebook and will Twitter about it. It will appear in searches. Other people with similar experiences will link back to his blog. It is even possible to get this bad review appear before the link to your company official website. Ouch!

Of course, if you have a good customer service and products, people will talk about you. They will post good reviews and more people will be interested in what you do. If you support your products and show that you care about your customers, it will spread and you can fire your marketing company. And pass the savings to your customers. Which will bring more of them to your doorstep.

Now, here is my story about Costco and the amazing service that I received from them.

About a year ago we purchased HP laptop from Costco. The price was not the best on the market, but I decided to go with them, because of the 2 year warranty they have on laptops.

The HP laptop is a lemon. It is badly designed, overheats, leaves bad feeling for cheaply made product. Its fans almost never stop and make a lot of noise.

But I am not writing about how bad the HP laptops are. I am writing this to tell you how Costco solved my battery problem. HP’s batter didn’t last a year. It was running only for 15 minutes after 10 months of use.

I called Costco and explained to them the problem. They asked me to run few tests, spent more than 2 hours altogether with me on the phone and were very patient and polite during the whole process. There was no sense of rush or get rid of complaining customer. Instead they tried to find what was wrong and a way to help me solve the problem.

After 2 hours on the phone, they said they are going to send me a replacement for my battery. Mind that HP’s warranty doesn’t cover the battery (not because there is technology reason for that, but because they can) and I called after the 1-year manufacturer warranty expired. This was entirely Costco’s decision to send me the replacement battery at their expense.

It took a little bit longer than I expected to get the battery, but Costco’s representative was calling and leaving updates on my phone every other day until I got the battery. I understand they needed more time to get a good price for the battery, since this was something extra they were doing for me - the member.

I told the Costco customer service representative that Costco is the first company in North America that actually helped me when I needed support. I didn’t have to call third-party contractors and deal with Costco sub-contractors. Costco was dealing with the problem and went the extra mile to help me. I was amazed!

So, go ahead, spread the news - there is a company in North America that actually cares about customers!

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