Why You Hate Tech Support And Love Chocolate Bon Bons.

Hey, it's Matt Williamson, Dan's Chief of Staff, here again. Recently, I was blown away by the stark contrast between two different customer service experiences I had recently. Dan thought I should share what I learned (and vent my... ummmm... frustration).

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It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. No, really. First, the "bad"...

For the past month, we've been working on an even bigger, badder version of EdgyConversations.com. Part of that process included hiring another company to help us with some back-end database work.

Their initial service package cost $69, plus we opted for the additional insurance (I know, we're suckers). They completed the project -- but messed up several key data points, resulting in some sales that were as large as 70x the original total. Sure, it's good for our income statement, but it's horribly, horribly wrong.

We contacted customer support, and after much back and forth (and I mean "much"), they told us that if we wanted to make sure everything was completely accurate, we'd have to pay an additional $299 for their "basic support service," despite having already paid for additional insurance, which apparently didn't cover our specific issues.

Since when is customer service something I have to pay for?

Time and time again they assured us that just one more migration would solve the problem. As of today, they've already attempted multiple migrations, and it's still not 100% correct. We've spent weeks trying to resolve this through numerous emails, phone calls, and internet chats -- to no avail. At one point, our account manager blatantly contradicted their website and refused to admit it.

It was ridiculous to the point of almost being comical. Between these issues, and my frustration with nonstop "product demos" (a.k.a. one-on-one sales pitches), I had begun to lose faith in customer service as a whole.

That is, until Carl was "murdered."

At the end of November, I went on a "chocolate tour" of Dallas, where I live, work, and play, visiting various chocolate shops. As the night wound down, we stopped at Kate Weiser Chocolate.

Her store is incredibleno, magical.

Her chocolates are the definition of EDGY. She and her crack team of chocolatiers spend four days making a single bon bon (including airbrushing them). You want to talk about dedication to your product? Talk to Kate.

One of her creations, which has been called one of the best holiday gifts in Dallas, is "Carl the Snowman", a 5" tall chocolate snowman, where the chocolate mix is in the "belly" of the snowman, and the marshmallows are in his head. I knew I'd regret leaving her store without picking one up for my sister's Christmas gift. Coincidentally, Kate herself rang up my order. When she saw I wanted to "adopt" my very own Carl the Snowman, her face lit up like a Christmas tree (ha..ha..). She treated that product as if it were a small puppy, so excited to see it get a home.

That would've been enough for an epic blog post about valuing your products like people and that good things take time (often, a lot of time).

But that's not the end of the story.

A few days ago, I came home after a particularly long day to find our black lab had managed to eat Carl. The only eyewitness? The box of dog treats sitting in the same bag. (Our dog's fine, by the way).

I was scheduled to fly home for Christmas in just three days, so I was frantic, and mad at myself that I left him on the floor and would have to re-purchase another one. Panicked, I emailed Kate and relayed the strategy. At 10:34 pm, she came to my rescue and had reserved another Carl for me to pick up.

Two days later (I know, I cut it close), I stopped in to re-buy Carl. Lighting struck twice as Kate was again the one to greet me at the cash register. I explained who I was and reminded her of the terrible tragedy that had transpired. Despite her store being packed with last-minute holiday shoppers, she immediately remembered me by name, found my new Carl, asked to make sure that the dog was okay, and put it on the counter as I pulled out my wallet to pay for it again.

That's when she stopped me.

"It's on the house."

I was stunned. Speechless. All I could really spit out was "Wait, what?"

For reference, Carl's not exactly as expensive as your typical hot chocolate drink. He's a solid $25 (though well worth it).

Still overwhelmed by her generosity, I walked outside, took five steps and dropped Carl right outside the storefront window, not three feet from where Kate was ringing up another customer. Sorry, sis.

So here's the deal: yes, it's Christmas, and it's the time of year when we're supposed to "give first", but I have a sneaking suspicion Kate is that generous year-round. Why can't we all give generously?

  • If you're charging your customers add-on fees to get your support, stop it.
  • If you're trying to milk your customers for short-term profit, stop it.

It won't work in the long run. Instead, treat people like people. Help them when they're in need, even if it costs you -- which is the essence of true giving.

If you want your bottom line to improve, you need to improve how you treat the line of customers standing in front of you

It's the season to give. All year long.