Buying a computer the other day reminded me of several truths. For instance, the prices have come way down, and the choices are so varied as to make the job really frustrating. The most important thing I learned, though, was that the retailer is all important. Or to be more clear, the human beings you deal with are all important. If that seems a little unclear, stay with me a minute and listen to a couple of stories.
The first store I went to was an office supply store that normally has several computers “specially priced” every week. Which ones they have on sale may change from week to week, but they’re always featuring at least five or six. I’d spent about twenty minutes looking over their wares when a clerk approached me. I told him what I was interested in, my price range, how I intended to use the computer. He answered most of my questions nicely. When I asked about service, he told me they had a man in the store who could work with me if there were any repairs necessary. At that moment, another man came rolling down the aisle approaching us. My salesman paused, reached out to the man approaching, and said “Ed, here, (not his real name) is our technician….” Ed raced right past us with a curt, “Don’t bother me now. I’m too upset. Too busy. Too much to do.” My salesman bent his head forward and spoke into the microphone pinned to his lapel, “Dial it down, dude. Dial it down.”
All I could think of was, “And that’s who I’ll deal with if, God help me, there are any problems with this computer?” My salesman had that defeated look of the man who knows he just lost a sale. He was correct. I was already headed out the door. Maybe it was jumping to unfair conclusions, but I was feeling fortunate to have seen the dark side of Ed, the technician who was too upset and too busy to be civil with a prospective customer.
My next stop was at Best Buy. I know. I know. That Best Buy. Friends have told horror stories of how they were treated badly. Best Buy made the top ten list of companies with the worst customer service. But, my point is that it’s the people, the individuals, who matter.
The computer department, believe it or not, had a selection of 36 notebook computers. The young lady who helped me inquired about how I intended to use the computer. To oversimplify, I had done my homework. I told her it would be a glorified typewriter with almost all files stored offsite at Evernote or Dropbox. I use it for research. Give me a strong battery, add in a little time on Facebook and personal email, and that’s all I need.
I was prepared to spend quite a bit more, but she convinced me that one of their relatively simple $300 computers, on sale for $220, would do the trick. In fifteen minutes, I was on the way home feeling like quite the bargain hunter.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story. When I got home, the computer seemed fine while I set it up. I’m in the habit of using a mouse all the time, so it wasn’t until several hours later that I noticed the touchpad didn’t work correctly. It was erratic, or completely nonfunctional, depending on your luck at any given moment. This would not do.
So the next morning found me back at the Geek Squad customer service desk. The young woman staffing the counter took one look at my errant touch pad, said “that’s not right,” and called for a Department Manager. He looked, agreed “that’s not right,” and went looking for a replacement. Five minutes later the phone rang, and he reported that he was having trouble finding a duplicate computer. At the ten minute mark, Department Manager reappears with a box. “We don’t have any more of the computer you bought, but this is pretty close.”
In seventy-five years, I’ve been lied to a lot, so I wasn’t about to take this lying down. “How does the memory compare with my first computer?”
“Everything is a little better. Newer processor, RAM goes from 4G to 8G. Hard drive is 1 Terabyte instead of 500Gigabites. And I know you didn’t care, but it does have a touchscreen.”
At this point, I was feeling like this was a little too good to be true, and the Customer Service lady spoke up to him, with a note of disbelief. “So we’re going to just make an even exchange?”
He nodded his head yes, and shrugged his shoulders, as in “what can a person do?”
Very shortly, after another fifteen minutes of paperwork, I was once again on the way home feeling like quite the bargain hunter.
This is not the story of how Best Buy did something wonderful. When you think about it, the manager did exactly the right thing under the circumstances, but too often we forget to spread the news when people do the right thing. He couldn’t replace my computer with the same model, so he did me one better. He left me feeling like I might go back again the next time I’m in the market for electronics.
It’s good to have an example of what good customer service looks like. Wouldn’t it be great if others could model their customer service after this?