Good customer service earns brand loyalty
What drives product and/or brand loyalty?
Is there a product or brand that you are super passionate about? So "in love" with in fact that you think you would be the ideal commercial spokesperson? (I confess right now, that Barbara's Bakery would do very well to hire me at their pitch woman for Peanut Butter Puffins, my all-time favorite food for the last 8 years!)
Performance is definitely at the top of our list. But how much does customer service impact loyalty? And will a customer overlook weaknesses in one area due to clear superiority in another? Clearly any franchise, chain, or manufacturer that seeks a repeat buy is hoping they do well on performance AND service.
As a travel focused enterprise, we are constantly critiquing travel service providers (hotels, airlines, fitness clubs, gyms, eateries, etc.) and one really bad experience can easily pollute any previous goodwill. But if the provider makes amends in a tangible way, this customer service can compensate for the bad performance. And we'll come back.
What about consumer product manufacturers? Recently I've experienced some super customer service, so exceptional in fact, that I want to tell others about it!
First, Capresso. This coffee maker has done right by me three times. Now, sure, there's obviously a little bit of a performance issue if I need the customer service. This is true. So here's a quick summary:
When I purchased a new drip coffeemaker from Capresso, the water container smelled terribly of plastic--a chemical like smell. I called the company and they suggested a few remedial actions. The smell persisted. They then sent me a new replacement container, which did not smell. But after using it in my maker, the smell returned. They finally sent me a new machine. This did the trick. They were responsive, helpful, and didn't waste time. And I didn't have to sit on hold for 20 minutes, page through a multitude of automated responses and could communicate by email!
I've since upgraded machines to a high-end fully automatic coffee center. And I went straight to Capresso for my purchase. I chose the Impressa F9, which retails for nearly $1800. BUT, I purchased a re-manufactured machine for half of that! Anyway, for coffee geeks, you simply push a button and voila, espresso or coffee! It's lovely. However, I've had two small problems since my purchase. On both occasions, I called the customer service number, had only to push one number (meaning I did NOT have to cycle through some ridiculous long menu) and was talking to a live person, who exactly understood my problem and walked me through the solution. It was amazing. I felt like I had my own personal coffee concierge!
NOTE: For those thinking of purchasing this machine, there is a BIG downside. The coffee is just not very hot. It pales in comparison to a cup from Peet's. I don't get this. I actually do the coffee unthinkable and nuke it! Help!
But, back to the performance versus service tradeoff: I'm not too bitter about the temp thing, because I like Capresso. I like Capresso, because they've treated me very well and, expect for the temperature thing, the product is wonderful. I am loyal.
My SECOND customer service "love-in" is with Bugaboo, the maker of high-end strollers.
What is different here, is that this product was purchased for utility versus pleasure. I savor my coffee. I look forward to it. Not so with the stroller. We had a baby; we needed a stroller. I was in search of a model that would hold up to a lot of outdoor use and that was travel friendly. The bugaboo is pricey (about $900) and as a result I expect high performance. And while we have had two fairly major mishaps over the last two years, this product is great. About 6 months after purchase, one of the tires suddenly blew up. About 3 months ago the front wheel broke off. In both instances, I emailed Bugaboo and within a few days received a response and then a part replacement. Just like that. They asked for the model number and a few other things, but that was it. Done. End of story. No hassle, waiting, etc. They delivered. I was totally impressed.
The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed the book "The Best Service is No Service" by Bill Price and David Jaffe. It's a book about customer service. It's not easy for companies to get it right and they posit that it's all about management. I have no idea who owns, runs, manages or is in charge at Capresso or Bugaboo. What I do know, is that I'll buy from these companies again.
And back to the cereal thing...I did have a positive customer service experience with Barbara's too, but because I love those peanut butter puffins so much, it probably would not affect my buying decision. This is a clear example of valuing "performance" over service, but I think this is rare. There are too many competitor products out there for any company to think that service is not important.