Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Customer Service Can Go A Long Way

I recently had an experience with a company that shows just how far some people, and some companies, are willing to go to keep a customer satisfied.

I have always had flashlights around. I grew up in an area that had frequent power-outages, and flashlights were pretty much mandatory. For years, my experience was the inexpensive (some would say cheap) plastic models available in any grocery or drug store.

Later, I was introduced to MagLites. There was a wide variety to choose from, they were durable, and could focus. I even carry a AA MiniMagLite with a Nite-Ize LED conversion kit for work.

But, there is always new technology, and more money buys better equipment, usually. SureFire is a maker of premium flashlights, knifes, and other "tactical" gear. I was lucky enough to get a SureFire E1L Outdoorsman flashlight a couple of years ago, even though I got it second-hand. This light was different than what I had experienced thus far, using a single CR123 battery, and an LED. My experience told me that it just couldn't be as good as what I was used to, since it had less power, and LED's just weren't that bright (Don't believe me? Look at the power light on your computer!)

However, it took one hit of that switch on the back end of the flashlight to discover that my preconceived notions were far from correct. The CR123 battery is a 3.6 volt battery, or about twice the voltage that a "regular" flashlight battery would put out. The LEDs that SureFire uses are not the same as the LED that shows you that your NumLock is turned on, either. No, a SureFire light is in a totally different class, and will change the way that you few hand-held lights.

The down-side is that there is a premium cost for these premium lights. The model that I got retails for about $130.00, and there was no way that I would have been willing to put that kind of money into a flashlight. Fortunately, as I said, I received one used, second hand. For the past couple of years, that has been my light to depend on no matter what happened.

But, recently the switch started to misbehave. It started not feeling as precise, but started getting worse. Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered while working late one night, crawling around in the ceiling at one of my offices, that the switch wouldn't always switch anymore. It might take two or three presses to actually change. I was tired enough that night that I missed when it hadn't switched off, and killed the battery.

The next morning, I sent an email to SureFire, asking what it would cost to replace the switch, expecting to get an email back with costs, or maybe offering to have me send in the old switch to see if it could be repaired. Keep in mind that the warranty was expired on my light by virtue of the fact that I was not the original owner (They do offer a lifetime warranty for the original owner).

Instead, what I got was an email asking for my address, and and offer to immediately ship out a brand new switch at no cost to me. In less than a week, I had my new switch, and was once again lighting up the world as needed. That action spoke volumes about the integrity and values of a company, especially in the down economy that we are currently experiencing.

What if other companies went out of their way to ensure the kind of service that SureFire showed? I may not have the quantifiable evidence to back up SureFire's claim of "the world's finest flashlights and tactical equipment", but am certain that there is nothing at this point that would cause me to not recommend SureFire as a company.

More important for the crowd that won't be spending $100+ on a flashlight, what would happen in your life if you exhibited the kind of personal integrity and commitment to values that you hold important in your life? What if you went above and beyond in your commitments to yourself? What could change? What kinds of things could you accomplish?