Every purchase that I can reasonably and logically make online, I do. Shopping online is cheaper, more convenient and provides invariably more information than other forms of shopping (i.e. reviews, full product details, etc).
However, shopping online has one usual downside — lack of customer service. You save money but you receive less service in return. I recently learned that this is far from the truth.
Tires: A few weeks ago, I purchased new tires for my car. People in my building thought I was crazy since it seems like a product you could not buy online. Not only did I find a much wider selection of products but also also better prices. There are a myriad of tire sites. I chose DiscountTireDirect. As with any mature 2010 online site, ordering was simple. A few days later, thanks to free shipping, my tires arrived at my doorstep. The tires looked a bit offsize but they are far from my specialty and I assumed the order was correct. I took the tires to the gas station for installation and, it turns out, they were the wrong size. I immediately called DiscountTire. Their initial response was that they sent precisely what I ordered, which was true (so it said on my order form). Of course, I argued that their system must have messed up somehow as I followed instructions to the letter (i.e. choose your car yr, make, etc). They said they would replace the tires for no charge (despite the slightly higher price for the correct tires) but I would have to pay the $60 shipping fee to return the tires. I was pissed.
A few hours later, prior to me accepting their offer, they called back. David, the DiscountTire rep, said that they had just changed their policy and would provide free shipping on all returns. I immediately accepted. David sent me prepaid UPS shipping label. DiscountTire sent out new tires a day after receiving my return. Well done.
I thought that was the end of my tire saga except today I noticed a bubble in my tire. I immediately called DiscountTire and they pulled up my account. I briefly explained the issue (bubble in the tire). Without any argument, Andrew, my new rep, said that he would send out a replacement tire right away. That was that. Wow. No cost to me. Great customer service and now a customer for life AND a customer who has told anyone and everyone who will listen that, if they need new tires, they should use DiscountTire.
Flowers: Valentines day is important when you are in a relationship (even if the girl says they don’t care). I was traveling for work/pleasure and missed V-Day so I ordered flowers via 1-800-Flowers. As anyone in the North East US knows, the area was walloped by major snowstorms. 1-800 Flowers sent the flowers on time. However, given the storm, UPS claimed they could not deliver the flowers (despite the roads being cleared by V-Day…shame on your customer service, UPS, since you said it was an act of God and you could not do anything or help me in any way. The flowers finally arrived at my girlfriend’s place four days after V-Day). When UPS essentially ignored my pleas for help, I called 1800Flowers. They immediately apologized for the problems (even though they were not their fault). They asked me if I would like to re-send the same flowers (or other ones) for no fee. I did. They then offered me an extra $20 gift certificate for the hassle and this was not even their fault. Impressive.
What did both of these companies gain by their fabulous customer service? They gained the following (which can be powerful on the Wild Wild West (aka World Wide Web) where the power of one opinion can be multiplied — 1. a positive review from me on this blog (and elsewhere if I have the time), 2. a loyal customer for life (and one who will tell others about my experience), 3. avoidance of a negative review, which can be very costly. High quality customer service pays!