A Customer Service Story

I promise this is not a story about making music. It’s not really a story about my guitar, either. The guitar enters into it only obliquely.

It’s a tale of a memorable customer experience.

The curtain rises on our drama one fine Saturday afternoon in Corsicana, Texas. I was there on other business, but found myself in front of a Radio Shack store with a few minutes to kill. I had been idly curious about modifying my 1972 Madeira six string. Perhaps it could use an electric pick up so that I could plug the instrument directly into an amplifier.

I owned a removable magnetic pick up that clipped into the sound hole. One of my friends had permanently installed a similar unit in his guitar. Frankly, though, I didn’t like the look of that instrument with a foreign body stuffed into its primary orifice. No, a permanent magnetic pickup was not an acceptable solution. However, I had been considering the addition of a piezoelectric element inside my guitar’s body, attached under the bridge.

Guitar stores and luthiers had such pickups, of course, but they cost in excess of $100. Being the thrifty, frugal, (OK, cheap) shopper that I am, I reasoned that there must be a much less expensive piezoelectric device that I could affix to my instrument.
Where would one find an inexpensive piezoelectric element? Why, Radio Shack. The Shack was the appropriate place to start my search.

So, there I was, that Saturday afternoon in Corsicana, Texas: a seeker of knowledge entering America’s source of small electronic parts, on a quest to find and obtain an inexpensive piezoelectric wafer that might make a good guitar pickup.

I meandered through the store back to the small parts racks, and found a couple of piezoelectric buzzers in small molded plastic cases. Humm. A buzzer… that’s a specific loudspeaker application, isn’t it? Aren’t loudspeakers are just dynamic transducers wired to the amplifier’s output rather than it’s input? Put another way, aren’t dynamic speakers merely big microphones? Logic is on my side. Perhaps this device could work, provided that I could successfully remove it from that molded plastic case without breaking it.

It was time to ask a few questions. And this is where my story becomes one of memorable customer service.

The kid behind the counter was the only employee available. I asked how I might determine the frequency response of the buzzer. “Beats me,” he said.

I queried about its expected output level. This time I got a more verbose “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Finally, I wanted to know if he had any mounting suggestions. His answer was completely truthful: “I have no idea.”
Then the phone rang, and he picked it up saying “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.”

Please don’t think I’m ragging on Radio Shack. Over the years I’ve found Radio Shack employees to be quite knowledgeable and very helpful. I’ve had great fun telling this story and pointing out how few answers I actually received, but exposing the irony of this story is only half of the point.

In Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads Roy Willams says:

The World Inside Your Door is the world of the customer’s experience: the place where you must make good on all of the bold promises you’ve made in your ads. … Regardless of whether your customer steps into a physical store or merely contacts you by phone or Internet, advertising is finished the moment that contact is made. … Don’t expect advertising to fix problems inside your door. If there’s a deficiency in the quality of your customer’s experience, fix it!”

So my question today is: does your advertising prepare people for the world inside your door? It costs you too much to get a new prospect through that door to waste the opportunity with an experience that doesn’t match his expectations.
Can you deliver in person the promises you make in your ads? Today I encourage you to start paying more attention to your customer services, there are companies like Salesforce that can start showing you all the benefits you can get by just taking good care of your customers.

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