World class service? Is it real or imagined?
If you are anything like me then your expectations around customer service are pretty low. Airlines, telcos, banks, insurance companies...the list goes on...all regularly ding us with astonishingly poor service. I suspect many of us are at a point where the irony of living in a world which is supposed to be service centric but which often fails to deliver is wearing mightily thin. Enter Nike.
dunn+blog's commentary on iconic brands got me thinking:
Iconic brands evoke great emotion. You say Nike and immediately your senses are enveloped with sweat, focus, determination, movement, motivation and images of the highest-caliber athletes. Nike is more than just an smart marketer who has told consumers a consistent story. It’s beyond that. Nike is an iconic brand that has become a symbol for action.
I guess that's true but I am of the mind that says service is an integral part of that heady mixture. I got to test that out in the real world. Here's what happened:
The other week while in San Francisco I shelled out for a Nike FuelBand. Let's not go down the 'I love FitBit road.' Just accept that among other things I thought this would be a seriously cool device. The in store experience was terrific.
Matters not that my current body shape looks way out of context in a store heaving with super fit young dudes and dudesses. The fellow who smilingly took my order asked my name, told me his, shook my hand and offered to set the thing up for me. That's a really pleasant experience. To cap it off, he didn't shower me with other offers which I personally find offensive. And he didn't close out the sale with that most awful of Americanisms 'Have a nice day.' It was something far more personal. So far so good.
Eeek - something just broke!
Then the other evening as I hauled off a sweater, the band flew off my wrist. To my dismay, I found that an expansion link had simply fallen apart. This should not happen as the screw that holds the parts together is supposed to be epoxy glued into the casing.
The component pieces are so tiny that we couldn't find them all. Due to my size, the expansion link is an essential component for a snug fit. Ergo at that point I had a useless device and was $149 plus tax in the hole. Not happy.
Digging into support
Anyhoo, the Nike FuelBand support and search didn't initially turn up anything terribly useful. But with a bit of tenacious searching I eventually came up with this page which clearly explains how to determine the problem. There are also several contact links if that's not working out. In my case I needed help because the link I use was unexpectedly broken.
Elsewhere, Nike support site says:
To obtain in-person warranty support, bring the defective product and sales receipt to a Nike retail store within a country where the product is authorized to be sold (currently the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and subject to change). For other warranty support, contact us.
That's a bit difficult for me as I am in none of the stated countries though I could be in the UK in a couple of weeks. Even so, it wasn't ideal.
So I fill in the contact form and wait...nothing other than the customary acknowledgment email with a promise they'd get in touch within 24 hours. This was at a weekend but nothing happened. So I grumble on Twitter and to my surprise, someone at Nike reached out to help. A quick direct message back and forth and I had a number to call for in person assistance.
Today I called the number which turns out to be a Netherlands based call center with perfect English speaking people. Beats the crap out of those based in India where 'Jimmy' or 'Jane' rarely have a good command of English.
OK - so it took around 12 minutes for my call to get answered but the very pleasant person at the end of the line knew who I was (he had my email address) and promised to ship me a new link with delivery expected in a few days. No sweat, no problem - just done.
In the meantime, I got another email from a different persion asking me for some more details which I have replied to. Hmmm...
What works and what doesn't?
Long wait times on calls is hardly ideal. There needs tp be a good way of fixing that. Predictive analytics that could feed back to me a recall time?
Clearly email support is not directly connected to the social media component so there's a bit of the left hand not quite knowing what the right hand is doing. However, when you do get to speak with a human being in the service center, they operate with the same degree of pleasantness as the shop staff.
That consistency of service is critical because it acts as a reinforcement of the otherwise pleasant emotional experience. It solves the age old problem of disconnected experiences between sale and service. That also extends to email communication where they say things like:
Nice that you are using the FuelBand! I am sure that you enjoy uploading your progress as much as me.
I will be glad to send you the parts that you need in order to get in track as soon as possible again! For that, I kindly request that you send us a picture for us to verify what we need to send you exactly. The screw that is missing, is it from the link, from the clasp or from the band itself? Also, please provide your address and phone number so that we can proceed with that.
See how they combine personalized messages that tie you back to the brand yet work towards solving the problem?
Some people argue that the Nike FuelBand is a wildly expensive device when compared to other similar products in the market. Those same people may not have had to deal with Nike and so have not experienced this part of the offering.
Good customer service costs money. It takes a lot of thinking through, thorough training and a commitment to ensuring that staff enjoy what they do. Digital channels are clearly a useful addition to the mix and Nike is making it work well although not quite perfectly. Great use of technology is essential but unless it is seamlessly delivered by humans who feel good about hwat they do then it's all a waste of effort. Nike gets that.
And for that I am certainly willing to pay a premium.
Image credit: Tie147