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Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is PricelessOne of my little non-technical pet peeves in life is poor customer service.  A long while back while working at a booming consulting firm in the ‘.com days’ (which later imploded of course) the company routinely brought in different types of speakers.  Some for motivation, some for sales training (anyone who can tell me who ‘peel the onion’ comes from wins a gold star), etc.  One that stood out was from Jeffrey Gitomer.  He’s probably more famous for his book Little Red Book of Selling, but at the time he also spoke to our entire staff (non-sales, developer, etc.) about customer satisfaction and was pimping his book Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Them Love You, Keep You Coming Back, and Tell Everyone They Know at the time.  I normally don’t buy into these meetings, but Gitomer and his approach grabbed my attention.  Since then I’ve been enamored striving for myself providing the best customer service in whatever I do, but also in finding out why people do/don’t in their businesses.  I completely bought into Gitomer’s mantra about satisfaction and loyalty.  I went to somewhat of a soapbox when I had issues with my homebuilder’s customer service department that I sent their directors a copy of the book when I had such horrible experiences.  I don’t think they appreciated it…then again, they were okay having satisfied customers.

Anyhow, fast forward a long time and here I am today.  I’ve had positive and negative customer service experiences everyday just like I’m sure you have.  Last week though was a shining star in customer service as well as how to treat customers in a tough economy.  Allow me to explain…

We have a television set in our main room that mostly the kids watch.  It is about 5 years old now and is an LCD display.  We bought it when we moved into our current home and it was the best deal based on what we wanted to spend at the time.  It has served us well for the time we’ve had it.  About 2 months or so ago, a small yellow orb started to appear in the center bottom of the screen.  At first I thought it was just time to change the bulb.  Calling my local electronic repair shop, he informed me it was something more serious and a common problem with this particular model (which was branded as Zenith E44W46LCD, now owned by LG Electronics).  He also said it would be about $800 to repair (needed a new light engine).  Crap.  Heck for $800 I could get a new TV!  I did some research and learned that the actual part was about $2 but it was in a larger part.  I decided it wasn’t worth the repair cost and would just wait until the TV blew up to replace it.  My kids would have to suffer :-).  Well over time the little orb has grew to the entire screen and now my kids know that yellow+blue make green.  It got so bad that I started convincing myself it was time to replace it.  I decided to research one more time just to make sure.  In that research I found one small note indicating that one guy called LG and worked it out with them.  I had nothing to lose.

LG Electronics logoOne phone call later I spoke with a nice lady who, after hearing my symptoms, confirmed it was a ‘failure of the light engine unit’ and apologized for the problem.  Remember, my TV is clearly out of warranty at this point.  Without asking me anything about when/where I purchased it (to be fair I think the initial system asked me this information though, so she may have had it in front of her), she said that LG is sorry that their product is failing me and would like to offer to cover the cost of this expensive repair.  Another phone call later, my local authorized repair facility was contacted, faxed a letter to authorize the repair and schedule the work.

WOW.  I was blown away.  I wasn’t told anything about expired warranties, I wasn’t told to step aside.  I wasn’t told to buy a new set.  I was taken care of…completely.  LG Electronics just effectively gave me a new TV and saved me roughly $800 (estimate of course).  Wow, wow, wow.  I was floored. 

I believe this is the essence of what Gitomer talks about.  LG/Zenith aren’t known for their expertise in my mind for LCD/DLP projection sets (in fact my research later led me to buy a Samsung unit for my basement), but this service goes above and beyond and elevated their products in karma points!  It will absolutely make me think twice in my next purchases of home consumer electronics. 

Their call center staff was among the nicest I’ve ever spoke to as well.  I know they’re all following scripts (or perhaps they are not and it is just their southern charm, because clearly by the accents they are somewhere with a drawl :-)) but they have been the kindest ladies I’ve ever spoke with, asking permission to place me on hold, thanking me for bringing things to their attention, apologizing for things that the product failed, etc.  The whole process of communicating with LG Electronics has been amazing, simply amazing.

I am sure some people have had negative experiences with LG (and if they have they’ll probably comment below), but I can only speak of my one interaction with LG here, and it has been a hugely positive one that has turned me from a satisfied customer willing to deal with a failing 5 year old TV for which I probably would have replaced with some other brand, to a more than satisfied, dare I say loyal LG customer who will consider them first for any future purchases.  And no, they didn’t ask me to write this as a condition of repair, nor am I receiving any additional benefits from sharing my story.

Thanks LG, you excel in a time when it counts the most.  I applaud you.

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