It is usually dangerous to use personal experience to gauge a brand’s actual performance. My recent experience with the Italian brand Alessi, even if it isn’t an accurate reflection of most of Alessi’s customer relations, it is at the very least a good case story on what customer relations should be like.
A bit of background first. A year ago, I purchased an Alessi watch from Conran’s New York City store. A casual, inexpensive watch, I wear it most days for the better part of 10 months. Last July, the watch stopped working. Naturally, the watch is taken to a local (Toronto) watch repair shop and the battery is replaced. Barely two weeks later, the watch stops working again. Irritated at the repair shop for replacing the battery with a defective one, I return it and ask for a new battery, which is replaced at no cost. I am told however that the problem is not the battery, but the watch workings are defective and need to be “reconfigured.”
After the attempts to contact Conran’s were unsuccessful, the Canadian distributor for Alessi was called. I was sent an email with a form to include in a package to be shipped on their UPS account. No prior receipt was demanded to be included, just the watch. The watch was packaged, and UPS picked up the watch. Within a week of the call to Alessi’s distributor, a new watch was delivered (which is on my wrist as this is written).
So what has this done for Alessi and what does this say to other companies about customer service? Instead of a disappointed customer, Alessi now has one who is sharing his story with friends (and in this case blogging about it). A customer has been turned into a loyal customer, one who won’t hesitate to make another Alessi purchase.
While one could look at the cost of the new watch, plus two UPS shipments as an expensive exercise, compared to the cost of traditional advertising, this was a bargain for Alessi, and the payback in results much higher. This is not a definitive case study in customer relationship management, it is after all, a personal anecdote. But it is a good example to follow.