Sunday 6 July 2014

Customer Service, and Why It Matters: You Have One Job...

"... now, I stand here waiting..."
                   -New Order

  A new boat means new gear.

   No matter how perfect the vessel, every new old boat needs something.

   NextBoat is  not quite a blank canvas, but she does need more than Bob Ross painting birds  to complete the picture.

   NextBoat (Karma?  Ereni?  Shambala?  NewName TBD), needs/wants a grip of gear to get to greatness.

   After she sailed into our slip, and after the delivery dust settled, SWMBO and I, and the mutts, stepped aboard figured out what we wanted, what we needed, what worked, what didn't work, and what didn't work...for us.

   We made a list, checked it twice, and then tiptoed through  the online mercantile tulips.

     Or, more accurately, I did.
      SWMBO and I have sorta organized our  family Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable/Purchasing  into two divisions divided by initials: "L" for Louise for "Land Based Stuff"  and "B"  for Brian for "Boat Based Stuff"

   or "Baffling Bullshit Buys"-  SWMBO.

      .... er, be that as it may, we agreed that NextBoat needed some stuff.

     Like a chartplotter, depthfinder, stove, cockpit table...

      Some we can build, but some we have to buy.

     ... and this is where things get both interesting and frustrating.

     Let us move forward, and then I will back up.

     First things first-  we like to know where we are and what is ahead of us, so a chartplotter is a strong "want", bordering on "need".

    So, we, (I),  point and click to Radioworld  to peruse their chartplotter selection.  We pull the trigger on purchasing a Lowrance Elite 4M for under $260...  including the Navionics chart card.  Seriously good deal.
    Within seconds of placing the order online, I had an email confirming the order.  Three hours later, |I had an email confirming the order had been shipped. The next morning, 14 hours later, there was an email in my inbox  providing a tracking number and an ETA., you had one job-  and you exceeded the specs.

   Okay, 'plotter is in the system, now I need some place to mount it.   The steering pedestal doesn't even have a compass, so this is the ideal location, even if the teak cover plate is weather beaten ad raggedy....

    So, while I am at it, SWMBO suggests, why don't I build a new mounting plate, and tie a cockpit table into the mix?

  Okay, sure, why don't I?.  Tables, however, need hinges, and specialized hinges at that...  so, I point and click to Lee Valley Tools and order a buncha hinges and stuff.
  Again, I quickly get an order confirmation email, followed by a shipping deets email, with a tracking number, which I can use to track the shipment through the shipper's system, right up until it is left on my front porch.
   Which it was, three days later,

   (Off on a tangerine here, but let me tell you about Lee Valley's customer service.  Five years ago I was at a woodworking show. Lee Valley had a booth, and were offering discounts, and free shipping, on orders placed at the show.  I needed a couple of small knobs and a couple of miscellaneous bits of hardware, so I  talked to the show rep.
 "Free shipping?"  I ask.
"Yep."  He replies.
"Okay!"   I exclaim.
 The show rep took my order,  I paid for my $4.87 worth of stuff and wandered off.  Four days later, there was a parcel on our front porch.  I paid $4.87 for my order of hardware....   and it cost $6.78 to ship.

    Yep, they lost money on that transaction, and Lee Valley Tools did it without quibble.  That counts-  it's one reason why I keep handing them a sizable chunk of my income.)

Lee Valley Tools, you had one job- and you exceeded the specs.

   NextBoat came with  an alcohol stove in the galley, the original Kenyon Homestrand two-burner range.
    A  pressurized alcohol stove.  That italicized word matters.

     The beloved non-pressurized two burner range on our beloved Whiskeyjack is a great stove, dead simple to operate.  fill the burner canisters with alcohol once every couple of days, make sure the burner chimneys are capped when not in use, and when needed, uncap, turn the heat control knob to high, and light.  Easy, and safe.

     The Kenyon pressurized stove is, on the other hand, the Stove From Hell.  To light it, according to the instructions printed on the stove you need to pump a small plunger 15-20 times to pressurize the fuel tank, and once the flammable fuel is pressurized you need to release some into a "cup" surrounding the burner to be used, turn the burner off again, and light the fuel in the cup, which will warm the burner sufficiently so that you can turn the burner back on and light it again, once the fuel in the cup has burned off, and with a steady low roar the burner will produce an impressive amount of heat to cook your food, as required....
....  in theory.

    Yeah, pressurizing the fuel tank is a requirement every time you want to use the stove.  Ask  NASA about pressurizing the fuel in the tank before use.
     Then you have to light it twice.  Every time.

      Each burner has 6 threaded joints between the tank and the burner...and this stove is 35 years old.

     Six thirty-five year old joints carrying pressurized fuel to a thirty-five year old burner...

     After almost losing my eyebrows several times, and SWMBO refusing to use that infernal beast, we bit the bullet on buying a new stove.

      We found the replacement, a Cookmate 4200 drop-in range, at ,  a Halifax based chandler.  I called to find out if they had the stove in stock.  They did.  I ordered it online on Friday afternoon, and got an email telling me it would arrive at my home 5 days later.  I got an email an hour later informing that it had shipped, and it showed up three days later, 2 days ahead of schedule. you had one job- and you exceeded the specs.


      Even more phenomenal, in that all of the companies mentioned are small to midsized businesses,  with sales in the low-to-mid millions range.

      Surely  large national corporations which rely on retail consumers for the majority of their business will be just as good as these small companies when it comes to the online customer experience, right?

     Three weeks before any of the previously mentioned purchases, SWMBO and I ordered new cell phones through our large, national, sports-stadium- naming telecom.

     Three days ago SWMBO and I were forced to make an hour and a half round-trip drive to pick up the phones at a retail kiosk that this telecom, employing thousands, and earning billions, could not successfully deliver to us, for over four weeks.  Our order was lost twice, and cancelled once, and not one email.
  Almost five weeks,  not one email.  Except for the original "Thank you, the items you ordered are  in stock and will be fulfilled soon!"  email.  Turns out, the phones weren't in stock, and the order went unfilled.
  But no one let us know.  SWMBO spent a total of 5 hours over the ensuing period either on hold, or talking to customer service representatives  who were apparently entirely incapable of  providing service to a customer.

   The billing department though, promptly billed us for phones which we had not received.

   After two more phone calls to the 'customer service" department, where it required me doing my best irate, batshit crazy, foaming at the mouth, angry as hell and not going to take it anymore, displeased customer routine, we got credited for all the time and effort and frustration we had invested in ordering two "in-stock" phones.

    My wife had been pleasant and understanding for almost five weeks, and got nowhere.  It took batshit crazy to be treated well and to get the problem solved.  That is sad.

   Unnamed national telecom, you had one job.

    Guess who is shopping for a new cell phone provider now?

    Worst part is,  I get the feeling that unnamed telecom doesn't really care.

    I hope you do.  Do business with those who do business well.

     And remember to

     "Talk the Dock!"



  1. Agree 100% with your comments on Lee Valley. Leonard Lee, although a retired civil servant, was the opposite of the "get back behind the white line" attitude of some government service agencies. Great company, great tools that are rare finds and some pretty neat stuff.

    As far as the Skydome phone company goes....a friend did a consulting gig there around 2000 to analyze and suggest improvements to their CSR processes. What she found was that the Customer Service reps were measured on how quickly they handled a cell / home phone customer's call. Hanging up on the customer counted as a way to handle the call.
    Only in Mr Rogers' Neighbourhood. He will never be part of my life again.

  2. I love the Buddhist theme of possible names for your boat. (Except Ereni, what's that?) But Karma gets my vote. Make sure you invite us to the renaming ceremony. Also, glad your eyebrows are still intact.