Sometimes it works

“Don’t panic.  Just breathe.”  That’s what I told myself when the most unthinkable, darkest, most desperate of situations descended on me without warning:  My BlackBerry® died.  One minute I was master of my domain – making and receiving phone calls, handling e-mails from three different accounts – the next I was completely cut off from both my personal and business worlds.  Was the next draft of that whitepaper ready for my review?  Was I supposed to pick up my daughter from her Taekwondo lesson or was it my wife’s turn?  Was the band practicing on Wednesday night or Thursday night this week?

It was already past 8:00 pm so I huddled into my pre-technology cave, built a fire against the dark and waited for the next morning when I could seek assistance at my provider’s local store just a few blocks from my home.

Another day dawned and I wasted no time getting down to the store.  I was hoping they could fix the failed device but would have been perfectly happy with a replacement, even if I had to purchase it myself.  I went to the customer service desk, handed the BlackBerry® to the agent there, described the symptoms I was seeing and hoped for the best.  He took my phone number, opened my account on his computer and spent the next few minutes alternating between prodding different parts of the BlackBerry® and typing notes into the open session on the computer.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” he said about five minutes later.  In that short amount of time he had:

  • executed a series of front-line troubleshooting protocols to rule out problems with my charger or the battery – causes that would have been easily addressed

  • examined the device for signs of abuse – crushing, cracking, chewing or dunking in liquids – and recorded his observations in my account record

  • been given a determination based on the first two steps and the purchase date that the unit was under warranty and eligible for free replacement (part of the good news)

  • checked his own store’s inventory as well as every other location in the city and determined that there were none available in stock (part of the bad news)

He apologized that there were none available for immediate replacement on the spot but getting this news up-front and in so little time was infinitely better than calling around to the dozens of stores in the metroplex area and checking them myself.  He tore a sheet off a notepad on the service desk and wrote two numbers on it.  The first, he explained, was a direct line to the company’s handheld technical support call center.  The second number was my case identification number.  I accepted the piece of paper with all the care it deserved as my last and only hope to reconnect to my life.

When I got back home, I dusted off the “land-line” phone on my desk and dialed the toll-free number he had given me.  “Hello, my name is Steven.  How can I help you?”  What was that!?  No IVR, no canned request to press a number for service?  I explained that I was calling about a warranty replacement and gave him my case number.  “I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble.  Please give me just a minute to read the notes on your case . . . I see here that our service agent has already verified that the phone wasn’t damaged and is eligible for free warranty replacement.”  There were really notes on my case!  And he was reading them to brief himself on my situation!  I didn’t have to repeat anything to this phone agent.  I didn’t have to convince him that I hadn’t somehow caused the problem myself.  It took only three or four more minutes to confirm that the physical address on file was where I wanted the replacement sent and to give me instructions on activating the new device and returning the faulty device.  I was to expect the replacement by expedited shipping early the next morning – at no charge.

I thanked Steven and hung up.  Moments later an e-mail popped into the in-box on my desktop computer’s monitor with a complete record of the transaction and detailed instructions on how to activate the new device when it arrived.  The next morning, a well-known white van pulled up in front of my house and my daughter signed for the package containing my replacement BlackBerry®.  And you know what?  The activation process worked exactly as described in my instructions.

I’m a little unsure why I had to make the call instead of the store agent triggering the replacement while I was there but given the level of coordination and smoothness of the whole process – spanning and linking an in-person visit, a telephone call and an e-mail follow-up to avoid the need for a second call – I’m more than happy to overlook one possibly extra step in the process.  Visiting the store service desk and giving them the chance to examine the device saved a major delay that would have been experienced had technicians had to determine warranty eligibility after I shipped the inoperative unit.  So I was rewarded for my effort and the seamless connection between the two events in the service experience made it completely painless to me.

So sometimes, service does work right – even when something breaks or initially goes horribly wrong.  But what made it work in this case was the seamlessness of the process, the obvious connectedness of the steps in the experience from one to the next and the complete lack of need to ever repeat myself or deal with a clueless participant impeding the process and service like this is extremely rare.  You know what I did next?  Within an hour of successfully activating my replacement, I went to their on-line self-service site and ordered the new smart phone my daughter wants for her 16th birthday.  There are natural and direct rewards for outstanding customer service.