Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Customer Service, #1!

Years ago, I cut my customer service teeth spending summers working for Home Depot. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I applied for the job other than I would be working in the nursery and making the most money of my life. Prior to my job at the Depot, I would often declare that I hated people and never wanted to work with or talk to or deal with people - it was my excuse for not being a bank teller or a grocery store cashier or anything remotely social. For whatever reason, though, I applied at Home Depot and my life actually changed. I know, that sounds so dramatic and so propaganda-y. But it's true!

Before my Home Depot days, I never gave customer service a second thought. And, even when I was actually working at the Depot, I don't know that I fully appreciated customer service from the other side. Sure, I earned merit badges for outstanding service and co-workers throughout the store knew who I was, the lowly seasonal employee that was outstanding in outdoor garden. My department dubbed me the Garden Angel after one particularly satisfied customer wrote the store manager and described me as such. And while most mornings, I dreaded going to work (5am, with forecasts for 95+ degrees, and everyone and their brother guaranteed to come to the store that day and buy buy buy), I did my job and I did it with pride.

I think a large part of the reason I'm now in public service is because of my time at Home Depot - for better or worse, I discovered that I excelled at helping people and that their satisfaction was the ultimate measure of my success. I strive for the same today, though my customers are a much more varied bunch. And, I expect outstanding service wherever I go - I feel like I can truly demand it given that I'm a leader in customer service myself.

So what's this all leading to, anyway? Well, a fiber-y customer service story!

Rhinebeck 'o7 found me searching for a pair of hand-carders. I have to confess, I did very little price research and instead focused on what brand I thought I wanted. A number of bloggers had written about Ashford carders, so I figured that was the way to go. With minimal searching, I found a pair of hand-carders at Fiber Kingdom's booth (they were in the Building 22, the white and green barn sorta in the middle of it all). The salesperson told me I was getting a good deal on last year's model and that I was paying last year's price. Satisfied, I forked over my $65 and bagged the set.

rhine fiber kingdom carders

I wandered the festival grounds once more and where I'd previously not been able to find carders there suddenly seemed to be hand carders everywhere. Curious about the price difference (I mean, if I was paying last year's price, then surely this year's price is a doozy!), I started picking up random Ashford hand cards. And, I quickly discovered that most other places were pricing their sets $10-15 less than I paid for my deal. By the time I finished my last go-around, I knew I'd paid way more than I should have. I convinced myself, though, that it was okay (partially because time had run out and the girls I was traveling with were ready to head home), stuffed them in the few spare centimeters that remained in Jody's trunk, and rode home on a fiber high.

Later, as I was photographing the Rhinebeck haul, I realized the carders I'd bought were in less-than-new condition. Under the price tag, the wood was a different color, the effect of being covered from the damage of sun, dust, and hands. There was also some white paint splatter on the cards. Knowing that I'd already paid a lot for the set, I was fired up enough to compose an email to Fiber Kingdom. I fired it off and saved it to my drafts, reread it the next day, made it more civil, took a deep breath, and hit send. The worst that could happen, I believed, was one of two things - my message could go ignored, or the response would be a curt "too bad".

I waited for a response and a few days went by with nothing. Knowing that most of the known world does not have nearly the same email obsession that I have (my cell phone is now email capable and oh dear god, how did I live before this?), I vowed to wait at least 2 weeks before giving up or trying again. That time passed and I got no response. Happy enough (but not satisfied) with the purchase, I proceeded to blend some of the small batches of different fibers I'd purchased at Rhinebeck - bamboo, rayon, and merino:

custom blend bambraymohair

By Christmas, I'd partly forgotten and mostly given up that I'd ever get a response from Fiber Kingdom. I told myself that the pricing discrepancy (I later found the same hand carders for as low as $42.50 new online) was forgivable, that I'd done my part to support a small business, and that maybe next time, I'd be a little more selective. And then I promptly stopped carding, bitter about the whole thing because I thought I was a better shopper than that...

Fast forward to April, when out of the blue, I get an email from Sylvia, proprietress of Fiber Kingdom. For whatever happy reason, my original message had been overlooked. Sylvia, having discovered and read my message, was prepared to exchange the over-priced, stained carders I'd bought with a pair of Louet fine hand carders. She wrote that she wasn't sure how the set I bought ended up at the booth, but that they weren't supposed to be there and she wanted to make it right. After much back-and-forth on email, as well as along the Northeast coast (I went to Massachusetts and Maine for almost a week), I arrived home late last night to my brand new Louet fine hand cards. I was so ecstatic that I nearly forwent sleep for fiber blending...

You'd think the customer service gone right story would end there, but it doesn't. Inside the package, Sylvia had enclosed a check to cover the shipping for the set I'd returned! That's the extra step that restores my faith in Fiber Kingdom, completely and totally. I mean, as soon as I saw the Louet package on my dining room table last night, I was prepared to blog about the wonderful turn of events. Finding the unexpected shipping refund was, well, unexpectedly wonderful. Sylvia and the bunnies at Fiber Kingdom can count me, finally, as a wholly satisfied customer.

1 comment:

loopykd said...

Bravo to excellent customer service! That's what it's all about in crafts like these. I'll sure frequent their online shop now and bookmark it!