Jess bought the machine to make cappucinos. It was an easy decision. Do you know how much people pay for those delicious specialty drinks at the coffeeshop? When you’re drinking one of those every day of the week and a few during the weekends, making the numbers add up for ownership is easy, with plenty of padding for those times you just need an excuse to get out of the office.
The Pixie arrived in a modern, sexy package. We opened the box like little kids, taking the parts out one by one. Jess was delighted to be the newest member of the Nespresso Club. I pictured myself lounging on an Eames chair sipping espresso.
There was a set of beautifully designed materials enclosed. A sampling of their espressos was inside too – the lifeblood of the machine, bundled like an electronics product with the batteries it needs to turn on. This was the first time I’d seen those shiny capsules of espresso, as colorful and varied as the tastes they contained. We followed the guide, which was more like a presentation, to making our first espresso. It tasted great. The machine looked great in the apartment. They had put a lot of thought into the first time experience of their product. I was excited and feeling validated in the purchase.
That’s when we hit a snag. The Nespresso milk frother she’d purchased with the espresso maker, the fruit of which would deepen the sensory experience of the espresso (and of course allow her to mimic those intricate designs atop the drink that the barista prepares), was D.O.A. Dead on arrival. A bummer for sure, but this was a company that had put a lot of care into their product and its presentation and they had earned a break.
I dialed support. The woman on the other end asked for our member number then asked a few questions as I explained what was wrong. They would send a replacement. Before I hung up, she reminded me that the product would need to be returned within 30 days or there would be an invoice for the replacement they were sending. After that, I googled around and realized there were lots of other people who had problems with their frothers. Their product, despite its outward appearance and all of their well thought out marketing, was flawed.
Fuck that. No apology. No admitting that they sometimes had issues and were working hard to fix them. No offer to try some of their new flavors for free to make up for the inconvenience. Instead, the call had ended with a reminder that there may be an additional charge. Talk about a long fall. Everything they’d done so far, all the money and time they’d spent, to get me excited to tell my friends had backfired. Now I just had a bad taste in my mouth.
In our new technology-enabled culture, no amount of advertising can make up for poor customer service. Customers now have a powerful voice. Just ask Netflix in their Qwikster debacle or Susan G. Komen for the Cure after they were forced to reverse their decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Luckily, the consumer web has largely realized the power of customer service as marketing. There’s even a company, Zappos (and a book), built on this idea who went on to become a massive success story.
Your product is only as good as your customer service. That’s why your great product – the one that’s of course beautifully crafted, saves people time and money, with a wonderful personality and a compelling story – will all fall apart without it.