Q-Review: Sources of possible inspiration for Warners' Stellian's customer service

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In a recent post about the bad customer service I’ve received from Warners’ Stellian, I talked about how our time was wasted because Warners’ Stellian took a week to put together an estimate on parts and labor and then called us to see if we wanted to pay their price, not bothering to look at our account. Because if they did, they’d have seen that we’d not only purchased the extended warranty from them, but that we’d had 5 or 6 parts already paid for by the warranty in the last 2 months!

There’s a complete disconnect somewhere in that company. And that disconnect really makes a customer feel like they don’t matter at all.

But that’s business, right? How can a company be expected to keep track of every little detail about their customers? Like how long they’ve been without a major appliance. Like whether or not the repairs will be covered by an extended warranty that they’ve purchased from your company. Is it unrealistic to expect that kind of attention to detail? Is that asking too much?

Apparently, it is with a company like Warners’ Stellian. But I’m here to tell you that acknowledging your customers, hell, just displaying something resembling a passing familiarity with your customers will go a long way toward inspiring customer loyalty.

Want proof?

Acknowledge your customers and they will be loyal

I’ve been a Netflix customer since June 2000. And I’ve recommended their service to family and friends since day one. Why? First of all, they provide a terrific service at an affordable price. A low monthly subscription keeps me in more video entertainment than I can consume. And they keep adding services without bumping up the price. Their recent addition of all-you-can-eat video-on-demand came without an increase in their rates.

They’ve also got a great policy for when discs get lost in the mail and for customers who receive damaged discs. Neither of these things happen very often, but they do happen. And as long as it’s not apparent that you’re abusing the system by doing this repeatedly, they send out replacement discs. No questions asked. They don’t assume you’re gaming the system. Just fill out a webform, explain the problem, and they immediately send out a new one. Top notch service.

But the thing Netflix has done that’s kept me as a customer and inspired me to recommend the service to everyone I know is that they acknowledge the fact that I’m a long-time customer and have actually rewarded me for it.

In the 8 1/2 years since I first became a subscriber their plans and rates have changed. I’m not exactly sure of the progression , but when I first started, I got 4 discs a month for about $20. At some point a few years ago, they changed the plan to offer new customers 3 discs a month for that price. But because I was an existing customer, they kept me at 4. What’s more, when they lowered the price of the 3 disc plan to $17 a month, and raised the 4 disc plan to $24, they lowered my rate to $17 a month and kept me at 4 discs!

It’s remarkably easy to do

37signals is a software company that delivers some highly regarded web-based applications. They also keep a blog that publishes many articles about customer experience and examining how businesses can work to make the customer experience better, which in turn, sets them apart from their competition. There is a lot of good advice here.

One example that most recently caught my attention was posted by CJ Curtis. It was just a quick little description of a few small things that DirecTV did that made him feel good about being a customer of theirs.

First, they gave him a “gift” of 3 free months of Showtime. A marketing technique, to be certain, but who’s going to be mad about getting free premium content for a few months? Second, on their bill, DirecTV printed that Curtis had been a loyal customer since 2004, which made him feel like the company knew he’d been around that long, and it made him feel like his business important to them. And third, when Curtis sent a quick note via a feedback link, he got a personal response from customer service.

I love how they not only responded to my note, but that they also reiterated that I have been “part of the DIRECTV family since 2004”. There is something “mom and pop shop” about that. That recognition of how long I’ve been a customer made me feel important. It’s such a simple little thing to do.

What could Warners’ Stellian have done in my case?

Right now, despite the fact that I’ve had an open issue with them for 3 months, I feel as though I don’t matter to them.

1. When dealing with the extended warranty, take some responsibility, even if it’s not your fault

Warners’ Stellian sell a third-party extended warranty. Every action that Warners’ Stellian takes has to be approved by the warranty company. I ran into an issue where I had two problems occurring at once on my refrigerator, one of which involved leaking water. But since I already had an open issue, Warners’ Stellian would not dispatch a tech to diagnose or replace parts until they could do it all at once.

There was no consideration at all for my situation. I had been without a refrigerator for over a month at the time of this call, and the response I got was a cold dismissal. Because the warranty company wouldn’t pay for two calls, Warners’ Stellian would take no action. The result being that I had to sit for another week with no resolution.

I don’t know how much it would have cost them to send a tech out to address my additional problem without the warranty company’s approval. But I do know that it cost them a repeat customer (who will soon be in the market for a dishwasher).

2. Acknowledge your customers or at least demonstrate a vague familiarity with them

Again, I point to the fact that, despite our having an open issue for the last 3 months, Warners’ Stellian wasted my time by calling me with an estimate for parts and labor when I have purchased an extended warranty, and taking at least a day to acknowledge the fact and move on to contacting the warranty company for approval.

The fact that I got this call is an insult, plain and simple. It shows that they can’t be bothered to provide good service. It shows that there is no consideration for a customer’s situation or history. And if they aren’t going to demonstrate that they value me as a customer, then I’m not going to give them any more of my business. And they’ve been so bad about this that I’ve taken it upon myself to do what I can to warn others that they shouldn’t become customers of Warners’ Stellian. So now, not only has their poor customer service cost them a repeat customer, it’s potentially cost them future customers as well.

Links

Good Experience: It’s the little things - (37signals)

The customer doesn’t care whose fault it is - (37signals)

37signals