Journal: News & Comment

Friday, November 21, 2003
# 10:09:00 AM:

Customer service or death

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In 2002 my wife and I bought a cordless phone from VTech. Nothing special, but it had Caller ID and did the job. Then, a year later, just out of warranty, it broke—stopped connecting to its base station, so no dial tone and no phone calls. We bought a Uniden to replace it, and so far it's worked fine. (We have another Uniden without Caller ID, which is much older than the VTech. That one still works and I use it in my office, because the battery holds little charge anymore.) I doubt I'll ever buy a VTech phone again.

Dave Winer is a famous weblogger, and he phoned IBM to order a ThinkPad laptop. Things broke before he had even ordered it. I wonder if he'll ever think of buying one again?

Here's the lesson: in a competitive marketplace, one bad experience can poison a customer's relationship with a company, perhaps forever. Scary.

On the other side of the coin, we have a three-wheeled plastic toy scooter (the "Tutor Scooter") with a detachable fake phone attached, which makes ringing noises and speaks when a child presses buttons. My oldest daughter got the scooter from her grandparents for her first birthday, almost five years ago now. It has been abused, dropped down stairs, ridden down muddy hills, flipped over, left outside in the rain (with the electronic phone detached), and ridden endless hours by two preschool children. It still works fine. And VTech made it.

Maybe they should get some of their toy people into the phone design department.


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