I recently had two outstanding customer service interactions, and it got me to thinking about customer service in general. We in the fountain pen community often forget how lucky we are in regards to our vendors of choice. Most of the pen vendors that I have come across have customer service that is head and shoulders above anything that you might find anywhere else. They go that extra step to make sure that every interaction that you have with them is outstanding, and that you feel like a VIP no matter how little or much you may spend. It is why we are willing to fork over are hard earned currency on products that we may not have ever even seen in real life.
In between my more frequent employment in the government and working for non-profit organizations (usually as a medical professional) I have also worked in retail jobs where commission was a big part of my pay, in sales for various telecommunication companies, and as a supervisor in customer service (if you have ever called into Alltel, AT&T, or Bank of America's credit card department and asked to speak to a supervisor, then there is a slim chance that I have spoken to you). I did well in these jobs partly because I try to put myself in the customer's position and partly due to a certain amount of moral flexibility (you have to have flexible morals to survive for very long in sales). What I learned in these customer driven jobs made me recognize how little is required to provide good customer service. It's not about giving everyone what they want, it's about providing service that you yourself would be happy to receive. Sadly, this trait is becoming a rare thing. It is so rare, in fact, that it is something that needs to be spotlit when it occurs. With that in mind (and with enough exposition to kill a small rhino), I would like to tell you fine folks about two instances of outstanding customer service.
The first outstanding customer service event occurred in two pieces. A little while back I had been looking for a new italic nib for my Jinhao X450 when I decided to buy an Anderson Pens two toned 1.1 nib. This is not an expensive nib, and I did not think much of the order at the time, but when the package arrived I was shocked by what I had received. Inside was my nib, nicely presented and securely packed, along with a business card, book mark, a couple of pieces of candy, and a hand written thank you on my order slip. I had spent less than $20, including shipping, and they had thrown in all of these extra touches just because I was their customer. None of the things that they added were terribly expensive or even that big of a deal, but it was the thought that had gone into this tiny order that blew me away. They didn't care that I had only spent a small amount of money on a small item, they cared that I was their customer. It was because of this great service that when I was looking for a specific and difficult to find nib unit for another pen that I went to Anderson Pens first. The unit that I needed was not listed, but they had similar units, so i decided to contact them to see if anything could be ordered or arranged. I was sent a reply less than an hour later and the unit that I needed was specially pulled for me, in spite of the fact that it was not currently listed for sale on their site. The speed of the reply and sincere desire to help was something that I never expected. It made me feel like they were my partner and not just a store, and that is something worth talking about.
The second event took a bit more effort from both myself and the retailer to fully resolve. I recently ordered a TWSBI Eco from JetPens, but when I received the pen I saw that the fins on the feed were bent and broken. Naturally I was upset, but I had been a JetPens customer for some time and had never had any problems with their service, so they deserved some slack. I contacted them to report the problem and a series of email exchanges occurred. After sending some photos of the damage they set up a return label for me and let me know about the approximate turn around for a replacement. I sent in the pen and waited...and waited...and waited...only to discover that their email letting me know that they had received the pen and had offered me several options had been sent to my spam folder. Ugh, technology. So, I contacted them (apologizing for the response coming a little over a week after they had asked me what I would like to do). Now my pen was no longer in stock with the correct nib size, but they swapped out the nib in my damaged pen with another Eco, tested it to make certain that everything was good to go, and sent it back to me without charging me anything extra. All of this happened in between numerous emails, all of which were answered within an hour or so. They let me know what was happening, gave me options to help resolve the situation, and ate the cost of shipping, all to make me happy. If that isn't outstanding customer service, then I do not know what is.
All of us have poor customer service experiences, but when it comes to the retailers in the world of fountain pens I feel as if those amazing experiences vastly outnumber the poor ones. Sometimes we create the poor experiences ourselves ("What do you mean I have to pay a late fee? I was only late two weeks, every month for the last year and abusive every time I called in! Don't you think that I deserve a break? Can't you see how this is your fault?"). Sometimes the company creates the poor experience (Yes sir, we sent that out to you, but we forgot to put your address on the package and when it was returned we figured that you didn't want it anymore, so we resold it and charged you a restocking fee...we can send a new one out, but you'll have to pay for the shipping again."). Dealing with retailers can be a frustrating and unpleasant experience, but every now and then a retailer shines through the murk and muck of the retail industry to let us know that we are valued. Anderson Pens and JetPens are two such shining examples.