I'm probably making up statistics here, but one of my business professors emphasized the importance of making one's customers happy with the following "fact"--
Satisfied customers tell on average, four people. Disgruntled, mistreated customers tell eleven. And will raise their voices loudly, in the store and in the street and most certainly, on the internet.
I'm going to break the average and tell an equal number of people.
Last week, I had problems with two different computer programs. The customer service responses I got were as distinct as they come. The purchased software company was the loser; the company with the least to gain from good customer service won, hands down.
Let's talk about Norton/Symantec and Apple, shall we?
Norton/Symantec gives their customers an (un?)intentional runaround with the online support options. Phone support is long-distance and they definitely hire English-as-a-second-language technicians. Which is wonderful. But here's a tip for all those companies going for the brilliant Indian computer geeks: Training. Training. Training. Because just because you can SPEAK a language does not mean you can COMMUNICATE in that language. And the point is, clients call a help desk for support. Not to be snidely patronized. Even if the client is a moron, the support staff are supposed to act like it's no big deal.
Example? Try this: "Before we start, can you make sure you downloaded the software, Mr. Smith?" rather than, "So if you bought a television at the store and didn't bother to take it home, is it the store's fault that you can't watch your favorite show?"
Analogies don't work so well cross-culturally.
So Norton screwed up, beautifully. I renewed my subscription, downloaded what they told me to, paid my credit card bill and forgot all about it. That was last year; I don't know why I bothered to renew so early. So when my initial subscription ran out last week, I was confused. I have a confirmation email and some fifty odd dollars missing from my account saying that, yes, I have coverage with them through October 2009.
I try the online help, which, after much rigamarole, puts me through to a dude who offers "remote access." He'll get on my computer and fix the problem. Sweet.
Except he doesn't fix the problem, just starts snooping around on my desktop, trying to close windows without asking (what if I was working on my masterpiece and hadn't saved it yet?) and trying to open things that are clearly not Norton. Cherry on top: he's trying to find the solution to my problem using the "help" button in the Norton Utility. (They PAY people to do this job?) I can do that without his remote snooping, thank you very much. So I cut off his access, which prompts a self-righteous snort from the far off technician.
Next step, email. But there is no email address, just a form you fill out. But the information I need to send the email (those dang asterisked boxes) is missing from my confirmation email. Foiled again.
Third try, phone support. But it's long distance. So I have my parents in the States call, which is when the whole foreign-language tech issues start up.
Norton doesn't answer their emails within 24 hours, they don't answer questions, they don't provide support and they still have my money. And I have no anti-virus. It was a RENEWAL. How could this possibly be so difficult?
Cut to Apple. I opened iTunes the other day and it said corrupted, damaged something-or-other and the next thing I know, I'm staring at an iTunes minus all my purchased music and all my playlists. This makes me want to cry.
I immediately email Apple, which, while offering online help prompts in their email fields, also allows you to actually send them an email even if some of the fields are blank. I feel like I'm settling for too little, maybe, but this fills me with glee.
Rose, from Customer Support, emails me within the day, letting me know what I should do to search for my music on my hard drive, reminding me I need to do regular backups, and basically giving me idiot-proof instructions for what I need to do. Also, I can reply to the email and have their office hours.
I do reply after following their instructions and plead my case. Like a teenager at the dentist, I promise to floss regularly if they'll just skip the fluoride this once. Please, restore my purchased music, please? I'll backup from now on. Cross my heart. But I know it's a long shot, and am honest. Some of my purchased music was way, way lost because it was purchased back on another account, when I had a Mac, before the hard drive ate everything. That's kind of too much to ask. Like another commenter on an Apple board somewhere on the internet said, (and I paraphrase): "Asking iTunes to restore lost music is like having all your cds stolen and then going back to the Virgin Megastore and asking them to replace them. For free."
But, you know what? That's exactly what Apple did. Restored all my available music (that was still in the iTunes store in the version I'd previously purchased). It is an exception, a miracle, a gap in the fabric of time and space, a genius move. Grace, even.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how to treat your customers. Surprise them with generosity, which in turn ties them with deep cords of affection to your particular brand. I will always taste a bit of bitterness when I hear the words Symantec and Norton uttered near me. And I am currently pining away for a new Apple laptop. If anyone is feeling generous, I'll gladly send my address your way!