At the Helm: Great Expectations

A year ago February, my husband, Jason, and I bought our son, Nathan, his first remote control boat at the mall. As soon as the ice broke on our neighbor’s pond, he was out there playing with it. And it soon became his favorite toy.
A few months later, I bought a second boat for my husband’s birthday at a department store so that they could “go boating” together. Both boats were made by the same manufacturer.
Unfortunately, the second boat didn’t work from the moment we opened the box. And toward the end of the summer, the first boat stopped working, as well. Both stores told us to contact the manufacturer’s customer service department. But our e-mails and voicemails went unanswered. Second, third and fourth attempts proved fruitless. And by then, winter was upon us.
We gave up on the manufacturer, but we didn’t give up on remote control boating. By the time Nathan’s birthday neared this past February, we began thinking about “boating” once again. We found an e-commerce website devoted to remote control products, so we decided to give it a try.
When the ice broke and we got the boat in the water, it ran great, so I didn’t hesitate to go online to buy Jason a similar boat for his birthday.
On this boat’s second voyage, we ran into some problems. Jason e-mailed the online retailer, describing the issue. He was hoping they might have some repair advice or offer to fix the boat, if we shipped it to them. But a response of any kind would have been an improvement over our last experience.
What we received took us completely off guard.
Within a few hours, the company e-mailed us, letting us know they had already shipped out a new boat, free of charge.
To say that the online retailer exceeded our expectations is an understatement. That kind of customer service is rare, but it seems especially rare for a product purchased over the Internet. No one had to look us in the eye and experience our disappointment. And yet they didn’t hesitate to replace our broken product with a new one.
When it comes down to it, customers have many of the same needs, whether they’re in a store or on a website. As Online Editor Mike Davin points out in the feature story that begins on page 26, what has changed with the evolution of Internet technology is the way we meet those needs.
Ultimately, great customer service is the foundation for success in both realms. Those businesses that excel at serving visitors to their brick-and-mortar showrooms can achieve the same results online if they give their Web presence the proper focus. For tips on how to do that, read the advice of the Internet experts featured in this issue.
The rewards for exceeding customers’ expectations are the same as well: customer loyalty. After this experience, our family will never buy a “boat” anywhere else. May your customers say the same of your business.

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