Sunday, May 9, 2010

Some customer service props

My healthcare post earlier in the week has resulted in lots of comments from friends and relatives about the 'extreme suction' treatment they have received in the jaws of the healthcare machine. The VOR finally got the insipid, cover-my-ass diagnosis that she needs to wear the air cast another month and they will repeat this process again. We can't wait........meanwhile, two companies in the kayak bidness have demonstrated superb customer service and rather than dwelling on the uninterested bottom liners in the healthcare field, I thought I'd offer some props, kudos, and recognition to a couple of small outfits that do it right.

I've done some tuliq upgrading recently. My Bughead tuliq fits my Q boat perfectly, but unfortunately it does not fit other boats in the fleet, especially the Aleut II with its ocean cockpits. To correct this state of affairs, I sold the Bughead to the Commish and ordered a Brooks tuliq. The Bughead was delivered to the FrugalFisherman at the BBI event last weekend; I can't remember if I've been paid for the tuliq or not, and squeezing a hundred bucks out of the FF would be like getting blood from a stone. I'll figure the complicated finances out. My Brooks search led me back to Lyle at Folding Kayak Adventures in Durango, CO, a short hop from where JeremiahJohnstone calls home. I've dealt with Lyle before when I owned the beloved Feathercraft Big Kahuna and after looking at a couple of online ordering forms on a couple other websites, immediately gave him a call. On the telephone. He answered it himself. I explained what I needed, told him the range of cockpits that I'd like this thing to work on, and gave him the credit card number. We emailed a couple times on the nuances, he gave me a ship date from Brooks since they had to customize the thing a bit, and the deal was done. The tuliq showed up a week early from the date he had promised, all measurements and dimensions perfect. As an online ordering Luddite, the best part of the whole deal is that you can just call Lyle. No endless string of emails and then the thing shows up wrong/late anyway. Lyle used to be up in Seattle and had a nice business renting and shipping folding kayaks directly to peoples paddle destinations. Eventually the combination of the plaintiffs bar and insurance companies made this business model cost prohibitive (imagine if someone was too lazy/stupid to put the boat together right and was then injured....oh, the humanity!) and they went to folding kayak and gear sales. I've had great experiences every time I've dealt with the company.

Sometimes a guy does need to suck it up and have the email conversation. My faithful Reed tuliq developed a seam leak in the neck. This was not an unforeseen problem since I have a giant size 7 3/4 punkin head that it needs to stretch over every time I pull it on. Which is very, very often from about May through September. I emailed Reed Chill Cheater in Devon, England and they informed me that the best way to fix it was to send it back and they would RF weld it, or what ever magical process they use to make the gear. Even though it was well out of the warranty period, they offered to repair the tuliq at no charge if I would pick up the shipping. The tuliq was shipped, repaired within a week, and I received an email from Sara that it was ready to go. I called with my card number and its on its way back. Timely, efficient, customer focused, and high quality gear.

More and more I tend to gravitate to the smaller, more responsive, and some times local suppliers. In Malcom Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, he talks about the ideal size of an organization being 130 people or less. This has been the size of an infantry company since time immemorial and is the point where organizations tend to begin losing efficiency, communication, and cohesion. WL Gore, makers of Goretex and other products, uses this as the maximum size of people for their business units. I don't know if its a valid theory but I do know that the more levels of managers, bean counters, etc, between the customer and the ownership, the easier it is for bad things to happen. In the case of the two companies above, bad things have never happened in my dealings with them and as a result I will continue to do business with them, and feel pretty damn good about the whole experience when I do. People don't need to have that tingling feeling in their 'lower swimsuit area' after they spend money with a company and I'm confident these two businesses will never leave you with that feeling.


bonnie said...

I was similarly so happy with Kokatat last year. I know it's the Gore-Tex that carries the lifetime warranty, but it's the Kokatat staff that fulfills the obligations when the fabric fails & they were really wonderful to deal with.

bonnie said...

and then there's the online florist I used to order flowers for my mom, whose customer service reps have been unfailingly pleasant, cheerful & polite as they call me each day to tell me oops, sorry, is tomorrow OK?