Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2014 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Good service, bad service

04 August 2010

If you're someone who doesn't buy stuff online then you're part of a very rapidly dwindling minority.

The growth of the internet has meant that online purchases are now a part of most people's lives and the benefits they can bring, in terms of choice and savings, is enormous.

Whether it's some obscure CD from the second-hand section of Amazon.com or some uber-cheap bit of electronic trinketry direct from China, almost everyone will find something to tempt them when they log on to the web.

But what happens when something goes wrong and you are sent the wrong item, or you open the box, only to find something is missing or broken?

Well if my experiences of the past week are anything to go by, the results can be very highly variable, depending on who you purchased from.

My first problem was with a product purchased from a Hong Kong company that offers very low prices and often erratic shipping. When you purchase from a source such as this you can't really expect top-notch customer service so my hopes weren't too high when I discovered the item I purchased was missing a key component.

There was a two day delay in their answering my email and they asked me to weigh everything, including all the packaging materials, then lay everything out and take photos.

I pointed out to them that the missing item weighed no more than 5 grams and the total order came in at 2.1Kg. The cardboard box alone could have gained or lost 5g of moisture during its journey -- so would weighing everything actually accomplish anything except waste my time?

Whether it was going to prove anything or not, the weighing and photographing was a process that had to be performed if any consideration was to be given to my support request. It is very clear that this is a deliberate "hurdle" used to try and discourage customers from actually lodging customer service requests. What's more, by the time many folk would find that a tiny part of their order was missing they may have already thrown out some or all of the packaging.

Fortunately that problem was resolved when I discovered the missing part was secreted deep inside another part. However, if it really had been missing, I'd have probably written off the loss. When you buy at the cheapest prices you have to be aware that those prices are low for a reason and that reason is often down to a lower investment in customer support.

A couple of days later, I received another package, this time from a SparkFun Electronics (SFE) in the USA.

Inside the box were scores of different components, all carefully packaged. I checked the packing slip and it showed that all the bits I ordered had been supplied, no backorders.

However, I pretty quickly noticed that although I'd ordered two rolls of desoldering braid and the packing slip showed that two had been packed, only one was in the box.

After the previous experience I double and triple-checked that I'd not overlooked the second roll but it was nowhere to be seen.

Now this desoldering braid is only $2.49 per roll and it weighs less than 10g. I had added it to my order not because I had an immediate need but because it nicely rounded out the weight and total order value. It wasn't a big deal that it was missing.

I dropped SFE an email and told them about the missing item, asking them to simply drop it in the next order I placed, which would probably be in a few week's time.

They said "no".

The customer service rep replied by email that they would send out the missing item straight away.

"No need" I replied, "it's not urgent, just pop it in my next order, save yourself the postage."

The next day I got another email advising that the missing product had been shipped.

That's very good customer service, I thought to myself, they've actually spent money to post a $2.49 item to me at their own cost.

Well it wasn't "very good" customer service at all, it was excellent, and about to get even better...

When, just 3 days later, the courier knocked on my door with a FedEx package I was confused. I wasn't expecting anything via FedEx? What could it be?

Knock me down with a feather, it was the replacement $2.49 roll of desoldering braid.

Yes, here's a company that sets such high standards for its customer support that they paid US$20 or so to express courier the missing item worth just a couple of bucks.

SFE has a very good reputation and a very loyal customer base that continues to grow at a rapid pace. I've watched them evolve from a part-time operation run by a handful of students into a fully-blown major player. Their growth has been incredibly fast and now I can see why.

For the sake of a $20 courier bag, these guys have captured my business for life.

I sure hope there are other online retailers and suppliers who are reading this and able to learn just how much of an *investment* good customer service can be when it comes to growing your business.

Sometimes it's nice to have a good-news story to report. This is one of those times.

So what have *your* online shopping experiences been like? Have you encountered good or bad service?

Who do you give bouquets to and who deserves the brickbats?

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say on this...

PERMALINK to this column

Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines


Rank This Aardvark Page

 

Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines

 


Apart from the kind support of the sponsor, Aardvark Daily is largely a labour of love that involves many hours of hard work each month. If you appreciate the content you find here (or even if you don't) then please visit the sponsor and also feel free to gift me a donation using the button above.

Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.


Features:

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam

 

The Missile Man The Missile Man book

Previous Columns

Both feet, both barrels
I've lost track of the number of columns I've written over the years in which I berate the music industry for its unmatched ability to shoot itself in the foot when it comes to the issue of digital distribution of its wares...

Space race or hypefest?
I've written a number of columns in the past on the activities of RocketLab and have expressed more than a little skepticism as to their grandiose claims and plans...

Hard work being a tech blogger in 2014
When I first started publishing Aardvark, way back in 1995, it was an easy task...

Hi-tech aerial drone racing
Have you seen the Red Bull Air Races?...

Political Friday: abysmal standards of honesty
I'm really in a state of deep despair when it comes to the standard of honesty and ethics being exhibited by our politicians...

Laser pointers now offensive weapons?
Like most developed countries around the world, New Zealand has opted to regulate high-powered lasers...

Chorus attempt to sidestep regulated DSL prices
It seems that after getting a very cushy deal from government and extra taxpayer money to help them finish the UFB -- despite this supposedly being a fixed-price deal, Chorus is doing the dirty on us...

Is this a clever idea?
For quite some time I've been suggesting that the creation of ad-hoc mesh networks of WiFi-enabled mobile phones would be a great way to sidestep the mobile networks...

45 years ago today
Forty-five years ago today, mankind took his first steps on another celestial body...

Carbon taxes for the poor
Carbon taxes have always been a contentious issue...