Updated on 01.22.08

The Value of Customer Service

Trent Hamm

In the wake of yesterday’s discussion about ING Direct and customer service, a fair number of readers wondered whether I am overvaluing customer service. I personally believe that good customer service is worth a premium on most items, from a bank account to an electronic device, and here’s why.

In 2002, I purchased an iPod. Less than a week after owning it, it had some problems – the hard drive inside began to make some very ominous noises. Since it was under warranty, I called Apple’s customer support line, spoke to a clear-speaking person within five minutes, and was given very specific instructions on how to mail it to Apple. Less than two weeks later, I held a brand new replacement iPod in my hands.

In 2006, I bought a Dell laptop. About two months after owning it, the battery ceased to work. Since it was under warranty, I called Dell’s customer support line. I stayed in the hold queue for more than an hour before giving up. I tried again later and, after forty five minutes, was handled by an individual in India who spoke very hard-to-understand English. He basically refused to exchange my battery and would not allow me to speak to a supervisor. On a third call, I finally got ahold of a supervisor, who told me that my battery had been subjected to “abnormal usage” and that it wouldn’t be replaced.

Guess what? The next time I buy a laptop, I’m going to spend the premium and buy the Apple.

I’ve had similar experiences in various arenas, including online banking (one bank basically fought me over allowing me to withdraw my deposit, for starters). Considering the time and frustration invested in dealing with companies with poor customer service, I consider it well worth my time and money to spend a small premium to ensure good customer service from a product that I will rely on.

Whenever I consider buying a new item, I ask myself what would be the implications in my life if it ceases to function and there’s no customer service available? My primary bank, for instance, better have good customer service, as they hold the money I use every day. On the other hand, if I’m just using a bank to stockpile some savings, I can tolerate a little less in the customer service department in exchange for a bit better rate. Similar logic applies to my computer, many of my electronic devices, my automobile, and so on.

On the other hand, when I buy a package of light bulbs, I realize the customer service has very little value. Only rarely will I invest the time to call them up if a light bulb were to burn out early – the value of my time is higher than that. Plus, there’s almost no implication if that item ceases to function – I just go change the bulb.

In the end, good customer service is like an insurance policy. Some feel better having that insurance in case something goes wrong and are willing to pay a premium for it. Others are willing to eschew it and go straight for the cheapest item. For me personally, the more I rely on an item in my daily life – and the more disastrous it would be if that item simply ceased to exist – the higher the premium I’m willing to pay for stellar customer service.

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    I recently switched banks because of an NSF fee charged in error. I went in to have the fee waived, and in the process was spoken to in one of the most condescending tones I’ve ever been spoken to inside a business. At that point it was no longer about the error, and all about the customer service.

  2. You’re exactly right. Customer service is the life blood of every business.

    I’m more than willing to pay a little bit more for items that come with good service and you’re analogy of the insurance policy is spot on.

    If a business can differentiate itself on the basis of good customer service, it will have an easier time overcoming competition, will have a happier sales staff, will be better able to generate profit margins, and will be better positioned when the market turns sour.

    Great article, Trent, as always.

  3. Norm says:

    Regarding Dell, I always tell people to buy their business products, not the consumer ones. Business products usually have longer warranties included (3 year Next business Day) and US Support. US small businesses, generally speaking, won’t put up with international support.

  4. Kim says:

    I agree that customer service is important and have had similar experiences to you. I have an apple laptop, btw, and love it. Get the extended warranty and do a backup of data before taking it in for service (they wiped my hard drive!) but they have great customer service whenever I deal with them.

    I want to save money, but I won’t be treated poorly just to save a few bucks. Besides, I might spend a few dollars more for this laptop at first, but I’ve saved money from its great performance, stamina, and the service I got when it did have a problem.

  5. Joshua says:

    First, the problem with the laptop was not the battery, but that it was from Dell. Dell, in the nicest of terms…sucks! As for Customer Service, I do tend to go for the cheaper, but yes, there are some things that it is worth a little extra(in some cases, a lot extra). Banks MUST have great customer service because they deal with our money which is used daily and accidents can happen but should be fixed quickly and without hassle, AND because there are alot of banks out there, and I can always take my money else where.

  6. Mitch says:

    Trent, are you still a Dreamhost customer? That’s a company I always thought had exemplary customer service until they charged all their customers for a year’s worth of service last week. I still haven’t delivered my refund, and the glib excuses in their company blog isn’t making it go down any smoother.

    But then, that whole fiasco was another argument for the value of having an emergency fund, not to mention some padding in your checking account… The jerks.

  7. Laura says:

    I’m surprised you had such a bad experience with Dell. While their computers aren’t spectacular, my dell laptop has so far lasted me through 4 1/2 years of college, mostly thanks to their extended warranty. Every time something failed after maybe a 20 minute phone call they would send someone down to campus to fix it in the next couple days. The best part was that the laptop never left my sight.

    That said, if you had such a horrible time with them as you describe I can completely understand why you would go with another company. I’m just not sure I would consider a 2 week waiting period to be stellar service. Maybe they’ve built an Apple store in your area since 2002 you could go to?

  8. Anna says:

    My experience with Dell has been good also. My mouse failed after a couple of years, with everything still under warranty, and they sent me a new mouse immediately. No argument, and it was their suggestion.

  9. Patrick says:

    I agree with your points, Trent, but beware of generalizing too broadly from personal anecdotes. I too had great customer service for my iPod, but I’ve had even better service for my Dell laptop, which has had many fewer problems. Also, I don’t know how plugged in you are to the tech blogosphere, but you might want to give Dave Winer’s post [http://www.scripting.com/2007/12/22.html] about his recent Apple experiences a quick read.

    Thanks for doing such a good job!

  10. Torijuliette says:

    We are experiencing the same thing w/ Dell. Rec’d a new XPS all in one system for Christmas and it has had problems right out of the box. Dell refuses to replace it. It is near impossible to speak to someone in the US. So far everyone I’ve talked to has been in India. When I asked for a supervisor, the representative I was speaking to put me on hold and came back on the line pretending to be the supervisor. Ridiculous….

  11. Good customer service is definitely worth money. After having dealt with some difficult on-line retailers experiences trying to save a little money., I now try to only purchase from the well-known stores that I have had good experience with such as Amazon, Buy.com, New Egg, etc.

  12. Kenny says:


    More companies ought to know this. It is getting harder and harder to get decent customer service anywhere, so when you come across it, it’s very welcome and appreciated.

    I hope many of your 25,423 readers will take your advice and post your words elsewhere on the Internet for all to see. Maybe a movement will start, and customer service will no longer be a thing of the past!

  13. Andrew says:

    Morning Trent, enjoyed this post. The key for me on whether customer service is important or not is the cost to replace the item. I made the mistake 6 years ago to spend for a top of the line laptop (on credit which was another mistake) and didn’t spend the money for the additional years of support. After 400 days of ownership… things started to go wrong… No warranty, no support.

    Now, I either buy things that when I expect them to start having problems I can simply replace (or easily repair myself) or will have good customer support and a warranty to cover the product. Car included… that’s why I’m considering some of the Chrysler vehicles when its time for us to get our next car… the lifetime power-train warranty is great. A laptop? If I find the need for a laptop, I’ll likely go with a very inexpensive laptop (eeePC or something

  14. Fuji says:

    I tried to come up with a list of retailers which pride themselves on customer service. Apple, of course, LL Bean, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer….and the list falls short. Recently I travelled to Hong Kong and the difference in how customers are treated is substantial. From large department stores to small mom and pop shops, the customer is king. If you’ve ever suffered the quagmire of poor customer service, then you know just how valuable quality service can be.

  15. moxie says:

    Dell is notorious for their customer support – and their business support isn’t much better (I work for a university, and whenever we have to call Dell for something there’s much grumbling and gnashing of teeth). Unless you have a compelling reason to buy the Apple next time, however (you like the operating system, you do a lot of design work, etc.), I’d strongly recommend HP. HP is consistently much lower in price and high in quality across the board. When I ordered my laptop for college 3 years ago, I was able to purchase a fairly high end machine for a few hundred less than Dell or any other manufacturer – and that’s before the instant rebates they gave! I had some issues ordering it from their direct website (I customized it), and their tech support was very helpful and understandable (it turned out my card limit was too low, an easy fix).

  16. beloml says:

    Lands’ End and Zappos.com have excellent customer service.

  17. AnKa says:

    I have had to bring my Macbook to the apple store for repairs and while the scheduling and stuff was unpleasant and didn’t work (I was still waiting and my scheduled spot never appeared on the schedule at my store), I could convince the ‘Genius’ to replace my keycover.
    It was a bit ridiculous though that they refused to just send me the keycover as I could have replaced it myself!
    So, the store gets a B- for customer service.

    Anyway, I do agree with the general sentiment. I have had very good experiences with my high end stroller maker (bugaboo, not very frugal) who replaced a broken raincover asap, no questions asked.

    When I got my cheap Fisher Price high-chair though, the cover was sliced as if someone had run a knife through it. I called CS and they asked me all sorts of questions implying I had done that myself. Why would I do that????? In the end I got them to send me a replacement but the whole process was frustrating and I think it was even hard to figure out the number to call and then to wait.

    The worst CS I have ever experienced is amazon.com though – there isn’t even a number you can call. That number is secret!!! And I once paid extra for guaranteed holiday shipping which didn’t arrive in time, so I did have a valid complaint and wanted my money back. I never made that work.

    Bottomline is, there should be an online database for ratings for CS for the different companies out there.

  18. Josh says:

    I think customer service is hit or miss. I’ve had nothing but trouble with Applecare. I bought a 12 inch powerbook and it had a cluster of dead pixels (about 4 which is a huge blemish for a 12 inch screen!), which made a big dot, and they would not cover it under Applecare because it was an acceptable amount.

    The store I bought it from thought that was wrong and replaced exchanged it for me at their cost. ( I like them and always shop with them now.) BUT because I exchanged the laptop for another, Apple refused to cover the monitor (Applecare covers both if you buy them at the same time.) I bought with the first one because they weren’t on the same receipt after the exchange. I even had a signed letter from the store explaining the situation and they still refused. After a lot of time on the phone and a lot of complaining, they would not budge. Some customer service for my “premium” laptop!

    Apple deals with billions of iPods, so I’m sure they have a quick and easy way to resolve problems. Apple computer problems, on the other hand, seem much harder to get results — even if you bought the extended warranty.

    The moral of the story is: Be sure to read a lot of reviews. One experience doesn’t represent the overall quality of service.

  19. Coming from a third-world country, I can say that here in the US we have it infinitely better than everywhere else in the world.

    We should count ourselves lucky those 1-800 numbers are actually answered.

  20. clevelis says:

    I must agree. I’m a stickler for good customer service and do not mind paying the premium for it. Over the years, I’ve become the person in my family to assist with those difficult issues, such as laptop replacement, roof needing to be repaired and so on. It upsets me when I have to go to the extremes of contacting the Better Business Bureau to get companies to provide proper service. Even worse, customer loyalty is no longer valued in too many companies. So yes, if it will mean I can get a quality product and good customer service for a few bucks more then sign me up.

  21. Scott says:

    Walmart is terrible also but they can be I guess. I am reaching the point that I despise that store and would rather spend more on than deal with the crowds and poor CS.

  22. Jennifer says:

    Good customer service is getting harder and harder to find!

    When we moved to Ohio we needed to open a new bank account. Knowing no one, we had no recommendations. The first bank we went to promptly put a 10 day hold on our local pay check. I understand banking, so that was fine. But after 3 days when the check had cleared and I had proof they would not release the hold. AFter almost 2 weeks and still the money was being held, we went to another bank which opened our account and didn’t place a hold on our local pay check. The customer service at the second bank was far and above better than the first bank. We closed our account as soon as they finally released the hold. They lost a lot of money and some very good customers!

    Sometimes it is worth it to pay more for customer service. One of the reasons I refuse to shop at Best Buy. Unfortunately you have to learn from trial and error the hard way to discover the bad ones.

  23. TheJeffe says:

    I am an ING Direct customer and have nothing but good things to say about them. Their customer service is great and the interface is easy to use. When I am selecting a company to work with customer service, next to the price, the most important factor in my selection.

  24. Mrs. Micah says:

    My Gateway service rep left a great impression on me when my CD drive stopped responding to the computer (under warranty). He said that the two fixes were to check the drive itself and to reinstall Windows. So he talked me through taking apart my laptop carefully until I got to the drive. Then checking its positioning and whatnot.

    When that didn’t work, he said that I should reinstall the OS and give him a call back if there were any difficulties. He also advised using a flash drive to migrate important data (since I couldn’t burn it onto a CD) and writing down a list of programs and such I’d need to reinstall.

    That one worked.

    I could have also taken it to their service place, but I wanted a fix ASAP.

    It was a frustrating experience as a computer-owner, but he made it so much easier and pleasanter by being helpful and not rushing.

    Also, ING’s customer service has been pretty good to me.

  25. Charity says:

    It was great to read this post – it seems these days that good customer service is a rarity, and that’s really too bad. Although my husband & I are consciously working towards a more and more frugal life, I will almost always be happy to pay a premium for good service.

  26. Daily Walrus says:

    Good post. I guess I have become so used to poor customer service, that when a company is actually nice to me I can be pretty loyal. I like ING, but am fearing another rate cut.

  27. Kat says:

    Oh Dell is the worst with their outsourced CS reps. I can’t understand a single one of them! And they refuse to give you supervisors.

    I used to work in retail and the store I worked at was all about CS. We had lesson after lesson after lesson on how to deal with customers in polite ways. It was drilled into us that the customer was the only reason we were in the store and we should help them. They had secret shoppers come in every month and you were graded on those. Miss one of the 5 main steps, you failed. Since working there, I have come to expect CS at any place I walk into. If I don’t get it, I don’t go back. It isn’t hard to give good CS. You just have to take your job seriously and be nice to people. Something you should be doing anyway.

  28. imelda says:

    Oh, cheers, Trent. Sometimes customer service is absolutely worth the premium. Key example: my student loans. We’re talking almost $30K PLUS INTEREST that Sallie Mae lost from me, because their customer service was such absolute rubbish. When I consolidated my loans, there was no way in the world that I was going to stick with them.

    Why? Literally *hours* on the phone trying to get basic things done. The simplest requests refused, without good cause. I won’t bore you with details, but suffice it to say…companies should know that a disregard of service can really cost them.

  29. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the customer service at Lands End. I’ve had spectacular interactions with them and have come back to them repeatedly as a customer. A kind lady on the phone from Lands End once helped me pick out a great sweater for my wife in terms of cut and color and material just by having me sift through the stuff in my wife’s closet and tell her about what I found in there – THAT’S customer service.

  30. Sarah says:

    I tell everyone I know never to buy anything from Dell, consumer or business! I bought a laptop from them through my college (considered business as far as customer support was concerned). I purchased from them because of their reputation at the time for exemplary customer service. I even paid extra for the 4 year support with in-home service. After all of this, I got a lemon. I know many people who have had no issues with their Dell products. Mine, however, was shot from day one. Even with all of my “coverage”, it took me THREE AND A HALF YEARS of fighting with them (customer service, tech support, managament, etc) before they finally replaced my computer. I’ve had the new one for about a year and a half now with virtually no problems but you better believe that when this computer dies, I am buying a Mac. Customer service is everything and I will absolutely pay a little extra to get the treatment I deserve.

  31. elizabeth says:

    I drive my husband crazy. I do not tolerate bad customer service at all. If I am treated rudely by a store employee, I leave and do not make purchases. If I have other options, I begin trying them out until I find something that works. And sometimes, it is specific locations that are the problem. We just moved and the Target here is filthy dirty, the food is past date, and there is never anyone to help. The Wal-Mart here is fantastic. Smiling employees, nice and clean aisles.

    When given the choice (ie: I have enough money in the bank), I will always pick service over price. And, through my fussiness, have realized there is a lot of junk I just don’t need to buy. It has turned me onto a more simple lifestyle.

  32. In Debt says:

    I definitely agree that the ease of use and customer service at ING is worth the little bit less interest. I’ve had accounts with Bank of America, Chase, and my local bank, and none of them were as easy and painless to use as ING.

  33. Gayle says:

    I had a great experience with Black and Decker. The power supply/charger for my electric trimmer died. I called customer service to order a new one, totally prepared to pay for it as it was 2 years old. The rep took the model number from me and promptly announced ( to my utter amazement) that he would be shipping me a new one free of charge. Which he did. You can bet I will buy that brand again.

  34. Rick says:

    Like a few of the commenters, I’ve had nothing but good experience from Dell. I’ve had my laptop for 5 years, and in that time, they’ve replaced the power supply twice, the hard drive once, and the keyboard, motherboard and videocard once (this last one was when someone poured a glass of water over the computer while it was running). I’ve never been on the phone more than an hour, from start to finish, including hold times. Sure I get Indian people on the other end, but I can always understand them well. Once, the even spend an hour diagnosing a memory problem with the memory that wasn’t even from Dell (I added it myself). Most of the time, they send replacement parts via overnight express. When they had to replace the entire innards of the computer, I had to send it in, but it was just five days until I received it back.

    They’ve always been prompt, thorough, and free (well, included in the extended warranty). I personally will always stay with Dell, and I recommend Dell to others, telling them of my experiences.

  35. Aurora says:

    i completely agree and i loooove ING! i tried to switch to hsbc back when it paid a higher interest than ing, and it was a horrible experience just signing up. i kept getting emails asking me to confirm accounts or enter more information, it was like applying to college or something. finally i gave up and figured if even their initial application is that hard to navigate, then i don’t even want to think about how big of a headache actually banking with them would be. i’m glad i stuck with ING, since then it’s impressed me every day with how simple, streamlined, and overall well designed it is.

  36. HB says:

    I have to cheer Apple’s customer service. I have had my iPods over the last five years replaced half a dozen times. With my Apple laptop and my parents, we’ve EASILY gotten repairs — even ones we caused (like dropping it). multiple times.

  37. Justin says:

    I 100% agree with you on this subject. I feel customer service is what separates a business. I had the same problem with dell, but if it makes you feel any better they tryed to send me a hard drive cause mine went bad after 2 weeks but in my warranty it said in home service for so long and i made them send someone to my home in a timely fashion or i was going to send back my 3,000 dollar purchase. But like you said what is the difference between Dell, Best Buy, Circuit City, or Apple, Customer Service!

  38. Kyle says:

    I agree that good customer service will bring you back to a company over and over. But if my iPod breaks down 6 times over the past 5 years I think I would find another MP3 player. For me, good products win out over good customer service every time.

  39. I have never really had bad customer service with an internet bank – even NetBank when they went belly up. I use ING, Capital One, Amtrust Direct, Emigrant Direct and NetBank. All have provided me with good customer service.

    Now my brick-and-mortar bank, that’s a different story. :)

    Best Wishes,

  40. Citoahc says:

    If you are going to get a dell get the Gold Tech support from the small business site. The business support is better than home, but the gold support has been vastly superior. In my experience the gold support does what you tell them to with only a minimum of troubleshooting.

    The office record is three lines in a chat session to get a motherboard replaced.


  41. I had the same problem you did with my Apple laptop, but this time the battery failed over a year after I bought the laptop. I spoke with a person very quickly (almost no hold time), explained the steps I had tried to fix/diagnose the problem and they sent me a new battery. He didn’t ask me to go through the steps again, he just believed me when I said I did all of it. The whole process took less than five minutes. It was a fabulous example of customer service for me.

  42. Kai says:

    AT&T or T-Mobile?
    I had similar experience with customer service. I prefer to avoid praying before calling a toll number, but have expectation that the problem/issue can be resolved in matter of minutes.

    “The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense”.
    Sense gets one on this. :)

  43. KoryO says:

    AnKa, just in case you still want to talk to Amazon, here’s their supposed secret customer service number: 1-800-201-7575. Timothy Noah of Slate has been publicizing it for a while. ;)

  44. spells says:

    I absolutely agree about Lands End. I order personalized baby blanket whenever a frined has a baby. Once, I ordered one in a color called “rhubarb” and ordered it personalized with the name “Andrew.” Lands End contacted me to let me know that “rhubarb” is a “pinky sort of red,” they said, and they wanted to let me change the color choice if I didn’t want to send a “pinky red” blanket to a little boy. That’s great service!

    I also love ING — terrific service, and their whole process is user-friendly. I have tried chasing interest rates before — that led me to HSBC, and their interface is so difficult, redundant, slow and annoying that I gave up and went back to ING. I’ve learned my lesson — customer service matters!

  45. Chris says:

    really? good customer service from apple? I never would have guessed it after the iphone debacle last year. The entire dealings with their customers after the price drop soured me on apple for a long long time.

  46. Diane says:

    I don’t believe that most businesses have any idea how bad customer service can hurt THEM. I was recently in my local Giant Eagle store (grocery) it was very cold and when I walked into the lobby the cart guy was retrieving carts from customers who were carrying out their groceries. I said to the guy “oooo can I have a warm one?” and he said “Geeze lady what do you want from me! “. I was completely taken aback by his response. I wrote the manager an email and heard nothing back. I haven’t been back since.

  47. Howie says:

    After working as a “Customer Service Rep” for a bank for just about a year, I was appalled at the horrific customer service I received when going to other banks. It’s not like they knew I worked at another bank but when non-customers came into our bank we were definitely as nice as possible because every non-customer is a potential customer. Plus, it’s just nice to be nice. However, as my girlfriend has pointed out to me, some people just don’t have it. That little something that makes people polite and courteous.

  48. Dan says:

    After working for online brokerage E*TRADE for several years, I can truly speak to the fact that customer service is probably THE most important thing to expect from a bank or brokerage that you are doing business with. The E*TRADE customer service was so atrocious for so long, that it became very difficult to sell the E*TRADE services/products.

  49. Becca says:

    Amen to a bank’s customer service being important! I am currently fighting whether or not to change banks, all because of customer service. I had a savings account at USBank (names will not be witheld because they are NOT innocent). I realized one day that I was getting .02% return on my savings account. That’s right, not even a percent. So I took my savings and went to a Credit Union that had fabulous savings rates, close to if not equal to ING, and then I got a CC with them to replace the one at USBank, and got my interest rate cut in half. 18% to 9.5%. USbank would not work with me at all. They kept upping my limit without my approval or knowledge, after I specifically told them to put a stop on it. Plus, they can’t/won’t change my maiden name to my married name. I still get debit cards in my maiden name after 3 years and countless times of my telling them to change it, submitting the paperwork, you name it, I have tried it. I have used 5 different branches from Missouri to Utah, and the one by my house is AWFUL at customer service. It is normal to sit for 10 or more minutes in the drive-through on Saturday, after you put your money in the box and cannot leave. Last Saturday, the guy who started helping me, left my deposit to help 2 other people who came up after me, because they needed someone to speak spanish. After sitting there for 15 minutes, a lady came on and told me it was my fault because my account number was wrong. Why did no one tell me? I could have fixed it in a second. (I am still waiting for the copy of the deposit slip to post online, so that I can see if that is actually true or not.)Long story short, I am torn between leaving the national bank for a local credit union. We do not intend to stay in Utah forever, and dont necessarily want to change all of our accounts just to have to do it again. And it is just this branch. There are 2 other that I have frequented in Utah that are AWESOME! I guess I just need to start planning my banking into my work routine, so that I can hit the bank while I am work. =P on crappy bank service.
    I am also an ING customer and love them, except for the “Road to Happiness” contest. The winners were lame. My submission was better.

  50. vh says:

    The problem is that the old rubric to the effect that “the customer is always right” is now taken as a joke in the service economy. To the contrary, the customer is assumed a) to be wrong and b) to be a jerk, and that attitude is often barely concealed.

    I will cheerfully pay more for products in stores where I am treated courteously and helpfully. And I never return, ever, to a store or any outlet in a chain whose employees have treated me rudely or where I can’t get decent service.

    Among the former places of business:

    First Interstate Bank, which shortly before it was acquired by Wells Fargo “lost” a $30,000 municipal bond and then told me they’d dropped it in a mailbox and it was my responsibility to get the U.S. Postal Service to track it down.

    Ford, which lived up to the rumor that its name stands for “Fix or Replace Daily.”

    Bed, Bath, and Beyond: takes the grand prize for rudest employee on the planet.

    CompUSA. Are they defunct yet? They oughta be.

    Home Depot. Staff in their kitchen cabinet department is rude to EVERYONE–even other HD employees! Their garage door installer quoted a price double the amount of the in-store come-on. And they sent over a roofing subcontractor who tried to high-pressure me into a $10,000 install on a $4,500 roof. Never, ever make a major purchase there.

    Toyota service department. Used to be great when they were breaking in to the U.S. market; now competes with Ford for prizes in mediocrity and rapacity.

    I’ve had good luck with Apple so far. Other customers seem to be running in to problems…hope that’s not becoming S.O.P.

  51. trev says:

    One Apple customer service example that made me a loyal customer for life:

    A few years ago, I placed an order for my brother for a personalized iPod (engraving on the back) on December 23rd, understanding that they wouldn’t be able to get it to me until a few days after Christmas. This was explained on the website, and, of course, I accepted. I included no special instructions with the order. I planned to give my brother a note on Christmas morning, telling him to expect something big in a few days.

    The next morning, December 24th, I opened my mailbox to find a box from Apple — the personalized iPod I had ordered for my brother the day before. Not only had Apple put an anonymous priority on the engraved iPod, but they had shipped it to me — OVERNIGHT and FREE OF CHARGE! Someone in the shipping department anticipated that it might be a gift, and made sure it got to my doorstep in time for Christmas morning.

    Needless to say, I was floored, and will be an Apple customer for life.

  52. jana says:

    Lands End and paypal-those i have great experience with (regarding the customer service)

  53. Candice says:

    Dell has made a big mistake trying to save money on customer service. I purchased my second Dell because I was so impressed with the help I got on the first from a technical support person from Texas. Unfortunately, “support” had been outsourced, and I had a terrible experience. Actually, laughably incompetent “support” from people who obviously did not have the computer model or the manual anywhere nearby. I enjoyed hearing the background yelling in the local dialect, too!

    Calls came to me at 9 P.M., just as Delhi was going to work. One call would counter the previous one. Everything was misinformation and screwed up. I am grateful, however, because I bought an Apple laptop instead of a Dell. The Macintosh PowerBook G4 changed my life. I love the laptop and have never had to use customer service–after 45 months it is still fine–I added a gig of RAM and have always run the latest OS.

    With a Dell laptop, I couldn’t upgrade from Windows 95 to 98 within two months of purchase even though I paid for maximum memory. When I called to find out why the machine ran so slowly, I was told that the maximum RAM was considerably less than the minimum required to run Windows 98. And, by the way, you invalidated your warranty.

    Recently, I’ve tried multiple times to get Dell NOT to send me a brochure or catalog every week. Unfortunately, the Dell representative didn’t understand the concept of a street number and after taking half an hour to comprehend my request, I was told that it might not work. I couldn’t help myself. The outsourced customer “service” person was more clued in than most Dell reps, but I blurted out, “This is why I will never buy anything from Dell again. Their customer service is awful!” The catalogs continue. I have to cart them to the recycler.

  54. Shevy says:

    Customer service is *huge*! I read a short article about 15 years ago that talked about a study showing the negative impact to a company for poor customer service. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but basically when a company doesn’t satisfy a customer they tell a number of people, some of whom also tell other people. I think the average number of customers or potential customers that were impacted by negative customer service was something like 20 or 25 people.

    If a company provides poor customer service to just one person every day they could turn off over 100 people each week! Want to lose over 5,000 customers per year? Just tick off *one* person a day! Interesting thought.

    As for my own experience, Samsung is horrendous. We have a color laser printer at work that has had 2 separate problems and it has taken call after call after call to finally get them to agree to come replace a defective part. Each call was a mattr of jumping through a number of hoops, re-installing the drivers, opening this, trying that. Recreation of a recent call by my boss to Samsung: “I’m sorry, your problem has already been referred to our Escalation Department. Someone from that desk will call you back about the problem. No, I can’t tell you when they will call. I’m sorry, I can’t assist you with this matter. It’s already with our Escalation Department. I’m sorry. I can’t transfer you, they’ll call you.”

    The other current problem I’m having is with Webkinz World. My 5 yo was devastated last week when she went in and all the clothes, food, furniture, charms, etc. she’d acquired had disappeared. We filled out a form (there is *no* clear and easy way to just email them without including all your confidential info) that was supposed to be dealt with within 1 to 3 business days. Three days is up. Still no response. No way for me to follow up on the original complaint. Webkinz World is very cute and it has improved my daughter’s computer skills dramatically, but it’s driving us both crazy right now.

  55. Lisa says:

    Yesterday I closed ALL my accounts with HSBC (before I even read this blog). I have had it. This time last year I could call my local branch directly (where the fine people knew me by name) and they had euros I could walk in and get. HSBC is not in the cities and countries I tend to need. Their motto of being my ‘Local Global Bank’ or ‘the World’s Local Bank’ simply means that calling my branch 1 block away will connect me to another country where I can not understand the English and am forever put on hold to get answers to simple questions. Three times I was given incorrect information yesterday by HSBC. Goodbye, HSBC.

    -20-year Apple Customer

  56. Lisa Spinelli says:

    I agree, good customer service is worth it totally. I think one gets a true sense of this only if one has occasion to use it. You are already frustrated with the problem. To also be frustrated with getting help to solve the problem adds fuel to the fire.


  57. Lisa says:

    I also have had very bad service from a Dell sales rep. And this was while I was still in the research before buying stage! After that Indian (well, you know the word for unpleasant women) woman was so hideous to me on the phone, I told her I wasn’t interested in their product. She called me 6 more times after that, harassing me to buy their stupid computer.

    And all those customer service jobs in India – those represent jobs that Americans don’t have and part of the reason our economy is heading down the toilet.

    Maybe before we buy stuff, we should call the customer service line and find out where customer support is based and then buy products (even if they are more expensive) that are made here (if possible) and have Americans (who speak comprehensible English!) in customer support.

  58. Mark says:

    Apple has given me the best service, historically. I had one of their Airport wireless routers go bad. I called up, explained what I had done to troubleshoot (everything except reset to factory), and the representative didn’t condescend and have me do it all again. When it still didn’t work after a factory reset, he sent me a new one right away.

    Wells Fargo gives me okay service. They were great when someone fraudulently cloned my debit card a few years back – I had replacement money in my account in 48 hours. However, when a $1200 charge to my account was “triple-dipped” then refunded, it seemed to take an act of Congress to get them to refund the overdraft fees.

  59. Tracy says:

    Customer service is a make-or-break factor for me. If I have a bad experience with a company that is solely due to poor customer service, and I have an alternative, I will refuse to do business with that company. The sole exception right now is Comcast (shudder). I’m stuck with using their Internet service, or a flaky, unreliable DSL connection (10000 feet from the CO).

  60. Monica says:

    For me it comes down to voting with my dollars. I have to decide, what do I want to support with my money. The answer is that I want to support locally owned and operated businesses that have good customer service and have a positive impact on the community. I prefer products that are manufactured here, or if not here at least in North America or Western Europe (where I know quality is high and labour practices are more fair) rather than in China. I prefer products that are built to last rather than disposable plastic junk.

    Lisa mentioned Indian call centres. I prefer to speak to someone in Canada (I am Canadian) and one of the tricks I have for doing so is to call the French phone number. Canadian companies will normally have a French phone number and an English phone number, or else you will press 2 for French or whatever. The French call centres are going to be in Canada, not India. I had a very frustrating experience with a heavily-accented sales rep whom I suspected was based in India; I hung up and called for French service with better results. I am bilingual so I just speak in French but I have heard of people who phone the French line and then speak English. Even if the rep does not have perfect English at least the accent may be more understandable and he/she will have more familiarity with the Canadian situation than an Indian would (for example, understand that snow on your roof might affect installation problems, etc.).

  61. Amazon and Apple “get it” when it comes to customer service and I’m happy to purchase from them over competitors who may be slightly cheaper.

    A year ago I changed my ISP from cable to a local DSL reseller (Atlantic Nexus) after Charter wasted more than 12! hours of my time between phone call queues and service appointments they failed to meet. Even though they are slightly higher than BellSouth (now AT&T), Atlantic Nexus’ customer service support is amazing and absolutely worth the nominal cost.

  62. Stephanie says:

    Note on you not calling on light bulbs that burn out early. My DH bought a few of those high efficiency bulbs everyone says to use. Well, one burned out less than a month after we screwed it in. I was livid, those things are expensive and supposed to last for a very long time.

    So, I made DH call. The ended up sending us a replacement plus 3 other types that they sell. We made a nice profit on that one, well worth our time.

  63. Asithi says:

    One of your commentators mentioned customer service in Hong Kong. I have similar fantastic customer service at Hong Kong, China, and Mexico. I know it is because they know that I have money to spend in these place. But when I go to a store in the US, I have money to spend here as well.

    Sometimes when you go to the big box stores, I cannot get any help. Instead of spending time trying to find someone to help me, I usually just leave. I rarely have to buy anything. If I get customer-no-service, then they are not getting my business.

    Good tip about the French number for customer service. I will give that a try next time.

  64. Tall Bill says:

    Big Box or Dell? I get angry as inept help at time with big box stores & have boycotted one or the other from time to time for a few months even to drive 20 miles out of the way. As for Dell: I WILL NEVER BUY A ANOTHER ONE as models change ASAP & prices/features adjust before it’s even delivered at times & a card slot in my sons laptop is NOT industry standard at all – No wireless ability without a remote USB device. The wood stove starts nice with the junk mail we get from them. Buy HP or other from most anywhere else that has their own service department for piece of mind – the extra little is more than worth it! Oh , and yes – go onto Ipod on line ordering and select the engraving & track the shipment. We has our’s in time for Christmas as well ASAP when I had already typed up a certificate IOU expecting just after delivery, when in fact we had it in 2 days! Service does indeed exist if you look for it & vote with your feet if able.

  65. J. says:

    service at retailers & restaurants is usually highly dependent on the store manager(s), and may vary greatly within a chain. The two Krogers I use for most of my grocery shopping (one is further but is much larger with commensurately greater selection & higher end stuff) have fantastic customer service. I can think of at least two others within the same distance as the further one, with absolutely terrible customer service & rude employees. Not coincidentally, the ‘nice’ stores are in ‘nicer’ neighborhoods…

  66. Margaret says:

    THANK the people who give good customer service. Mention it to their managers. I have seen people absolutely FLOORED by the smallest positive comment. Kind of sad, really. Encourage the behaviour you want to see.

  67. Jeremy says:

    Dell, HP, Compaq, Gateway…they all use the cheapest components on the market to build the laptop or computer and the computer may or may not match the build sheet.

    Apple and IBM laptops/desktops have a specific build of tested components that are consistently built and sold. This method builds a more reliable machine with less issues and normally these companies have customer service based in the United States and not India. They cost more because they employ US employees.

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