Customer Service and Loyalty

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We all know that once in a while, a product we breaks down or we get treated badly by customer service. At what point do you sever an economic relationship? Well, judging from the amount of comments I get in this post and the emails that I get, it looks like many folks will be ditching their credit card relationships. But today, I just want to rant about other products areas where I have either loved and been loyal or have or am in the process of severing my economic relationships.

Cars – I have not had a bad experience with my car at all. Throughout my life, I’ve had a Toyota Corolla and 2 Lexus. However, I have had so many friends who swore never to a car from a particular brand again. For example, I had a friend with a LandRover and the remote control simply does not work. “Never a land rover” was what he said to me. Or another friend who had a Ford and the engine broke down after a couple of years (just outside the warranty period) and Ford is giving them a hard time about fixing it.

My positive experience comes from having cars that hardly breaks down and a wonderful experience when I send my car for servicing. This is not to say I would not try another brand for my next car. But the comparison will always be with Toyota (for me at least).

Computers – For years, I’ve simply bought a HP computer everything time the old one has had it’s good days. But I had one experience with HP that has made me reconsider about my future computer purchases. There was something wrong and when I tried to call HP, I was put on hold for ages. I asked them to send me a reboot disk and they claimed my computer was no longer in warranty and that I had to pay for it. They also said that I should have gotten it but Best Buy did not give me any.

What bugs me is that there are so many pre-installed programs on my computer that I simply hate it. So my next computer is either going to be a custom made one or the Mac Pro from Apple. If you a custom made computer, you can be assured of better customer service than the big box manufacturers. Same goes with Apple.

Credit Cards – So far, I’ve had none of the bad experiences in credit cards that other users have. I’ve paid my bills fully every month and on time (except on a couple of occasions when I thought the autopay function was working and it was not!). But other folks are not so fortunate. Many folks have had 20 years relationship with their credit card companies, paid on time, but credit card issuers in this credit crisis have reduced credit limits, increased interest rates and closed accounts. There are many unhappy campers out there. But who to turn to? Everyone of these companies and guilty to a certain degree!

So far, my main cards have been Amex and my positive experience with them was really due to the numerous times they have helped me out on various matters. Their customer service has been great. I listed various examples in my review of the Amex Platinum Card.

Bank Accounts – A friend of mine just recently had to go through the hassle of proving she had “a certain amount in her TD bank account” after their computer system screw up fiasco. I can tell you for sure that she ain’t going to bank with them again. Things like that really pisses off customers. I have a banking account with Bank of America (who have got so many bad press). But the folks in the branch know me and my wife and are super friendly. So unless drastic happens, my bank account stays with them.

Interestingly, some banks have actually closed or changed names and resurfaced. GMAC Bank (bank of the financing arm of GM) used to offer high rates to attract deposits (there was a reason though as their credit rating was crap and they need to pay up!). Well, since good old GM was taken over by Uncle Sam, they have now changed names to Ally Bank (ex GMAC Bank!). Will you still bank with them?

My webhost – I have been through a couple of web host for hosting this site. But the last one was a unpleasant experience. I had a web design person (who I later became good friends with) switch me to a host that she was a reseller (which worked fine for me back in 2006). Problem was that when things messed up, I had to call her. I may not reach her immediately but she normally got things fixed. Then earlier this year, the host just told her he did not want my business any more because I was using up too much bandwidth! He did not even want to charge me more per month but gave me a week or two to switch host. You can imagine what a nightmare that must be!

I finally bit the bullet and switched to rackspace, who is one of the premier dedicated server host around. I chose to go with the cloud host that costs me $100 a month. But, in return, I get 24/7 customer service. I have called them on Sundays and there is always someone on the line to help me. This, I’m willing to pay.

Common Thread – I think the common thread here is that I value customer service a lot. I like it when I am able to reach a person by phone. And I do not mind paying for it if it means a lot to me. Firms that do not place an importance on customer service eventually lose my business. How is it for you?

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4 Responses to “Customer Service and Loyalty”

  1. Peter Says:

    Customer Service is very important…sometimes we pay a premium for it. I think most people love the best service for the price, but it remains to be seen how much service they want in comparision with the price. Sometimes I pay a premium price but get horrible serivce (american airlines), then I vow never to fly American again.

  2. Ajay Says:

    I used to market for a civil engineering company before the housing market crash, and we couldn’t focus on customer service enough. The thing we learned, through classes and practical experience, is the key to any non-price based, non-commoditized service is retention, not new customers. It takes 7x the resources to bring in a new client than it does to keep a new one – for us, b/c we were a smaller company, that cost was closer to 9.5x, since we didn’t have the buying scale other companies did and had to charge more. But clients will come back if 1) they’re getting a quality product with 2) quality service and 3) they can trust you to be honest with me.

  3. Eric Says:

    Yup the perfect blend of price and service keeps me loyal. Sadly there isn’t enough around these days.

  4. The Digerati Life Says:

    I care a lot about customer service. It’s a huge factor and consideration with every product I purchase or service I hire. If the service stinks, there’s a good chance I’ll be switching my loyalties elsewhere. I agree that product quality is also important, but the customer service is what makes me stick around for the long term.

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