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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Excellent Customer Service: 2 Great Examples

Most of the time whenever I interact with customer service, I have my expectations set relatively low. From the "high call volume" phone waiting queue to the "I'm sorry but that's not our policy" scripted lines, I'm frequently frustrated, left on hold, and have calls dropped. In fact, one reason why I prefer using a Bluetooth headset to make phone calls is because at least I can have my hands free to do other stuff while listening to "please hold for our next available representative." As such, when I do get great customer service, I have to call out the great companies that provide it.

My first example is Wealthfront. They have what I consider to be an excellent product. Recently, they had a screw up with a contribution. This in itself was unusual, what really was excellent was that they proactively called us to tell us about the screw up. This is how you handle a screw up with a customer: "we screwed up, it's our fault, we take full responsibility for it, and we want to make it right." That in itself is unusual. What followed next was that they offered to give us a lifetime fee waiver. Now we already have a lifetime fee waiver, and upon telling the customer rep that, they were surprised, but treated it as a challenge rather than an obnoxious obstacle. My wife and I were pleased by their resolution of the matter and now we're not just customers but also shareholders in the company. If you're using a human financial advisor, unless it's Vanguard, I highly recommend that you consider switching.

My second example today is Garmin. Garmin has an undeservedly bad reputation amongst loud-mouthed internet forum posters. Part of it is justified: if you're the kind of person who buys the latest gadget, Garmin's new products almost always have teething problems. But if you're a mid to late adopter, buying products even as early as 3 months after introduction, their products outperform the competition and now I'll add customer service to the list of their advantages. Recently, my vivoactive stopped charging. I noted that I was out of warranty, but called them anyway. The customer service rep noted that I was out of warranty, but immediately said, "It's only been by a couple of months, so we're going to extend your warranty." We established that it really wasn't charging, and she offered to exchange the unit. I noted that it was equally likely (if not more likely) to be the charging cable that was faulty, and she immediately sent out a new charging cable. When both the charging cable and new unit arrived, it clearly was the charging cable, so in the future if this happens again (I'll admit to having abused the old charging cable quite a bit, so it's unlikely this will happen to you), I'll just buy a new charging cable.

When I encounter particularly poor customer service, I don't hesitate to call it out, but both Wealthfront and Garmin deserve to be called out for excellence in customer service. Only Amazon regularly exceeds my expectations this way. In this age of machine learning and automated phone responses, the human touch may turn out to be the only way to delight customers and stand out.

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