Customer Service Has To Change

I am regularly amazed at the amount of money consumer electronics, mobile device, and cell phone companies spend on “stupid customer service tricks.”  I got the following note from a friend that has a Sony Reader.

My screen cracked for some reason.  Probably got hit in my bag somehow.  I sent it in to Sony for service and they offered to fix it for $272; a new unit is $299.  I declined. I sent a letter to the Sony USA VP marketing.  I pointed out that when my ipod broke, I got a new one in 20 minutes at the store, no questions asked.  And the contrast in experiences is why my family of 4 has 8 ipods but is only likely to have 1 reader. I got a nice phone call last night and a new reader is on its way! 

I am a consumer electronics junkie – you name it, I probably have (or have had) it.  My best two customer experiences to date have been the Sonos (truly amazing) and Slingbox (we are investors so I’m glad it’s amazing.)  Apple has also been a happy place to be, as long as I walk into the store and give them my sad puppy dog look.  Most everything else sucks.  When something breaks (like my Sony DVD player did last month), I just buy another one to replace it rather than struggle through the six week “send it in and then pay us almost as much as another one to get it fixed” routine.)

The Sony Reader example above is completely consistent with my reality.  It’d be so easy for Sony to start by sending out another one and have a delighted customer.  The result would be worth much more than the cost of incremental customer acquisition and the customer destruction support function.  The strategy of “send me your broken thing and I’ll replace it” seems so logical today in a world where people shout from the rooftops about the great experiences – buying much more goodwill than a million banner ads. 

At least the Sony USA VP Marketing has a clue.  Maybe Sony should put her in charge of customer care!