marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lifetime Customer Value Case Study - Turning a Negative to a Positive

I’ve talked about value and customer service in several posts, where I discussed the impact on perception, confidence, and trust when customers work away, against, or oblivious to their customers. The choices some vendors and companies make simply don’t make sense, are not well thought out, or are just dumb, while others seem to treat customers as not only single sales targets, but as a source of long term income.

Recently, I received a defective product from an online vendor ( that was priced low enough that it wasn’t worth my time to work through the support tickets, RMA process and shipping costs to return the product. It was a loss to me, and yes, I lost faith in the vendor and silently put them in the “low QC & poor products” list in my mind, planning to avoid ordering from them in the future.

Imagine my surprise when they sent me a cheery email asking me to review the product. That email tipped me to action in a bad way. I went to the site and product page and promptly ripped on them for the quality problem, linking the review to the photos I had also posted of the defective goods. I got it off my chest and thought that I won a minor moral victory that cost me a small lesson in trusting that online vendor. It was over and I moved on.

Out of nowhere, a short while later, I got an email from the online vendor. I expected it to be a “please contact us to resolve the problem” email, like I had seen on some other sites. I expected that it would only anger me by requesting more time and effort of to do the customer service ticket, RMA, and shipping steps I sought to avoid. I was wrong. The firm was notifying me of a new shipment, when I didn’t order anything. There was no clue as to what it was, why it was shipped, or even if they were planning on fixing the problem - there was just a shipment coming.

A week later, the package arrived, and in it, a replacement for the defective product, but no note explaining why they shipped it. I promptly tested it, and it worked. I was pleasantly surprised enough to write this article, as I realized that the company had regained some trust and the benefit of the doubt with this simple, but important act. While I also realize that I have not given up on my concern for quality from the company, I can trust that they will do what is right to fix a problem.

They may or may not have done the calculation, but they made a good move. As a repeat customer, I have ordered from them more than once in less than a year, and over the course of 5 years I might represent a decent chunk of change in revenue. If they ignored the problem, they would have guaranteed that I would spend my money elsewhere. As it stands, they’re on my approved vendor list not just as someone who had products I purchased, but as a company with a customer service policy that values it customers.

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