Follow up: A tale of two CompUSA’s, extended warranties and the great social media bully pulpit

Two weeks ago in my blog (article here), I totally skewered CompUSA and their warranty company (found out it’s Assurant Solutions) for not doing the right thing and honoring the extended warranty I purchased for an HDTV.

Within days of publishing that article, pushing it out to my Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter connections and posting it in the Linkedin Groups I belong to, I got a call from CompUSA.

Since I was driving in the car at the time, I never did get the person’s name, so lets call him Good Corporate Samaritan, or Sam for short.  Essentially Sam wanted me to know two things:

First that the CompUSA I purchased my TV and my extended warranty from was not in business anymore and that the NEW CompUSA had nothing to do with the old one.

Secondly, he wanted me to know that he had made arrangements with their (the old CompUSA) warranty company for me to get a replacement TV.

Sam assured me that the new CompUSA would never treat a valued customer so shabbily.  In that conversation, I told Sam that I believed heavily in the power of social media as the great equalizer that can right many wrongs that bad companies perpetrate on their clients.

I also told Sam that once I received my replacement TV, I would write a follow up and let people know that I had my CompUSA’s wrong.  So for Sam and all of the employees at CompUSA, I just wanted to let you know that I did indeed receive a replacement TV on Thursday, and that the NEW CompUSA came to the rescue.

Thanks Sam!  Much appreciated!

That said, I am a very lucky guy in that I have a bully pulpit with a decent sized following to preach to.  (and thanks to all for listening by the way!!!)

Yet I have to wonder if Joe Everyman, would be as successful at getting justice from CompUSA or for that matter any company without said bully pulpit as a platform.  I guess it depends on the company really, and how customer-centric they actually are.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to further explore what it means for a company to be truly customer centric.  I have a few great case studies for you.

Before I go today let me leave you with my favorite quote and essential operating concept that drives my business practices.  The quote is from Peter Drucker and is brilliant in its elegant simplicity…

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose – to create a customer.

Companies are not in business to make things… but to make customers.”

I hope I am preaching to the choir here!  What are your thoughts?

Paid Product Warranties: Two Marketing Case Studies one good and one horror story

UPDATE: Right after this article was published, I got a call from someone at CompUSA.  They told me two things.

1. That the CompUSA I was writing about was out of business and the NEW CompUSA would never treat customers with warranty issues so shabbily.

2. That they had made arrangements for me to get a new TV for all my troubles.

I will write more in my next article, but for now, I just wanted to let you know that on Thursday i received a new TV as a replacement for the 4 years of fighting with their (well actually the OLD CompUSA’s) warranty company (Assurant Solutions).

Warranties, especially the paid variety can be a mixed bag.  Last week I had two warranty experiences that were unbelievable.

The first was a horror show.  4 years ago I bought a TV through CompUSA.  I bought their 4 year TAP (Total Assurance Protection plan, I think it was called.).  The warranty was expensive costing nearly 20% of what the TV cost.

The TV was a lemon from day one.  There was an intermittent problem with the sound.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes not.  The way the CompUSA warranty was structured, I had to jump through way too many hoops to prove the TV was a lemon.  Long story short, I was forced to have 3 separate companies come and fix the TV.  Guess what… each time the repair companies came, the sound was back on.  Two of the repair companies came in more than once; one time taking the TV back to their shop for 2 weeks while I was going on vacation to “see if they could recreate the problem”.  Nothing!  Each time I documented the case with CompUSA’s warranty division and did everything they asked for.  And each time I requested a new TV only to be told that I hadn’t met the criteria for a replacement.  I was even told there was nothing wrong with the TV as they couldn’t find a problem when the repair companies showed.

I wonder if the good folks at CompUSA get the concept of intermittent.  Each time I was called I was treated with indifference by people like they hated their jobs – people who clearly had no business dealing with the public.

3 weeks ago right after the warranty ended, the sound went out yet again.  I figured that with all the documentation, even though the warranty ended I could get a repair company out.  After all, this was and ongoing issue right?  Wrong.  Like a mantra, all I got was “I’m sorry Mr. Gilbert I cannot help you since your warranty ended”.  Finally after pleading for 15 minutes for someone to treat me like a real human being, (spoke to the supervisor too), I gave up.

So CompUSA, if you are listening, be prepared to be tweeted, yelped, facebooked and anything else I can do to let people know that you don’t stand behind your products and your people, well, suck!

On the positive side of paid warranties, there is Apple.  My 2 year old iPhone died.  Wouldn’t take a charge.  One 10 minute call to Apple Care (they made an appointment at my local apple store when they couldn’t help me fix over the phone), and a half hour in the apple store, and I walked out with a brand new iPhone.  I was treated with respect by a caring, smiling human being who honored my warranty.

So Steve Jobs if you are listening… Thank you!!!  And to CompUSA, learn!

Your company’s product guarantee policy: reducing the barriers to purchasing

Some years ago I worked for a clothing cataloger that offered a no strings attached, lifetime money back guarantee.  Occasionally we received a tattered well used article of clothing back 2-3 years later, but mostly the guarantee worked for us.  We were pioneering organic fiber fashion and as a company wanted to do everything we could in order to reduce the risk that could have a negative effect on a purchasing decision.

A good solid guarantee is an important part of the selling process.  It tells the consumer that you stand behind your products and you are truly focused on your customers needs.  Showing your guarantee prominently on your website and your catalogs makes good sense, and in my opinion should be heavily promoted as part of your offer.

Also in my opinion, and I cannot stress this enough in the age of social media, is for management to offer the best possible guarantee they can, and then back it unconditionally.

Take a look at your company’s warrantee.  Is it clear, simple and to the point?  If not then simplify it.  Make it so easy even a child can understand it.  Why?  The internet and social media are the great equalizers and simple things like upsetting a customer with a hard to understand guarantee, will wind up being tweeted, Yelped and status updated.