I wrote a while ago we should be ready to pay more for good service. I have an example to share today.
I bought a file cabinet from the office products store Staples a few years ago. I only used it for storing random things, not files. As such, I didn’t install the rails for hanging file folders. Now I want to use it for files, but I can’t find the rails. Maybe I threw them away thinking I would never use them. So I called Staples and asked if I can get the rails somehow.
I didn’t know what to expect but I thought I would try. "I’m sorry, but the rails only come with the cabinet" would be a reasonable answer. Or it could be "We don’t have the rails. Here’s a phone number for the manufacturer." I would be happy if they tell me "We sell the rails for $4.95 a pair. Would you like to order them?"
After I explained the situation, the customer service rep put me on hold a few times while he checked with others. Then he told me he arranged to have the rails delivered to me for free.
That’s exceptional service in my book. How often do requests like mine come up? I doubt very often. Solving such an edge case requires a substantial investment in computer systems and front line customer service agent training. The system has to be able to look up past purchases to locate the product I was talking about — I didn’t have the item number or exact name of the product. To me it’s just a file cabinet. The system has to find the associated accessories for the product, taking into consideration any model changes over the years. And finally, what’s the point of making all the investment when Staples doesn’t charge for the replacement rails?
You bet I’ll be a loyal customer of Staples. Among the three major office products chains, Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax, the prices are competitive anyway. Staples’ exceptional service basically comes for free.