Customer service?

Dial-Telephone Those two dreaded words. There is possibly nothing more frustrating than a bad customer service experience. Right? Minutes, even hours, on hold. Wrong information. No trace of previous conversations. Time being wasted on all sides. Aaagh. (In fact, we recently changed mobile phone companies for exactly that reason.) In the middle of all the planning and computer-based work I’ve been doing to prepare for the trip, a recent incident stood out…. wait for it….. because of how good it was! Really!

And partly because we are all so quick to complain and rant about the nightmares, partly because we’re still on a positivity mission (see Operation Love Vancouver!), I want to share it…

Most recreational boaters in North America will be familiar with West Marine: I’ve bought items from their stores for almost 20 years – including my last VHF radio, lines, chain, anchors, and lots of other boat parts. This was my first experience of their phone-based customer service, though.

What I needed? I want to make this voyage from New Zealand to Vancouver using a VHF radio equipped with an in-built AIS-receiver – and West Marine has two in the online catalogue!  I ordered one.

What happened? I received a call from Jessica the next day to say there was a problem with the delivery schedule shown on the website (2-3wks would be 6-8wks).  I explained my situation… it wouldn’t be possible for it to arrive before I fly to NZ; she offered to have it drop shipped to NZ for me!  I called back the next day with a delivery address.

The problem? Unfortunately, West Marine could not ship that brand to NZ (probably some regional distribution limitation) and it was looking like technical problems could hold up those units for months.

I hope this arrives in time!
I hope this arrives in time!

The solution? Jessica told me about another radio (GX2150 from Standard Horizon, the brand of my current VHF) that has almost all the features of what I ordered, but wasn’t yet on their website. She emailed the operator’s manual to me so I could evaluate the technical details, then I called her back and we changed the order.

The extra cool bit? She gave me a discount, since the new radio cost 30% more than the one I ordered.

Thank you Jessica and thanks to West Marine for policies that encourage customer satisfaction.  That approach seems to be somewhat lacking in today’s crazy-busy world, where more often than not you feel like you’re causing a problem by trying to buy something or pay for a service, and where staff are increasingly limited by ‘company policy’ in what they are able to do, say, and suggest – it doesn’t make anyone’s day happier. So this experience with West Marine stands out as something to be commended and smiled about. (And no, they’re not sponsoring me – I was just really impressed. Credit where credit’s due.) Although now I’m worrying that I’ve jinxed it; there was an email update that the ship date has delayed 3 weeks. Will it arrive? Perhaps I should have waited to have it in my hands before getting too excited….

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