Friday, December 22, 2006

Okay Service vs Great Service

Perhaps it's because it's the holiday season, but customer service stories are everywhere these days.

There's a great magazine called Oxford American. It's a quarterly that features writing and culture of the American South. The American South is, in my opinion, probably the most culturally rich part of the country when it comes to writers, musicians, and artists, and Oxford American explores all of that quite wonderfully.

I was turned on to it by my partner, who's a huge fan of it. One of the highlights of the magazine is their annual music edition. It comes with a CD with all kinds of music created by southerners. The CDs cross genres and styles and are uniformly wonderful.

We've spent a shocking amount of time and money on eBay assembling a complete collection of the disks; the magazine produces a bunch to ship out with the music issue, sells the rest from their web site, and then they're gone.

This year, we missed the music issue. While my partner is a subscriber, the issue came out while he was in the midst of an overly complicated move, and it just got lost somewhere - with the much-anticipated CD. So he called them to let them know that he never got it.

Here's what they had to do to make him a thrilled customer: ship off a copy of the magazine with the CD. Here's what they did: they extended his subscription by one issue.

He said it sounded like fulfillment was handled by some large third-party company, who probably have a simple rule: when somebody misses an issue, extend their subscription. That's not unreasonable, and for most magazines, that would be just fine.

But not for Oxford American, and especially not for the music issue.

It was, it seems, absolutely impossible to get the resolution he wanted. So he wound up just accepting the extension, and then going to the magazine web site and ordering the CD so that our collection will be complete.

But really, it's such a small thing, and they couldn't do it. It's especially bad for them; the magazine has gone out of business and suspended publication repeatedly, until someone came along to kick in the cash to start it up again. It's a labor of love for its publishers, and seems to exist thanks to the devotion of its fans - such as my partner and me - but it always exists on the verge of disappearing again.

If the cost of making the people who are keeping you from falling into the abyss is taking a magazine, sticking it in an envelope, and mailing it, wouldn't you want to do that?

They won't lose us - the magazine and the CDs are good enough to put up with a minor inconvenience and expense like this. But I sure hope that's true for most of their readers, or our loyalty may not matter.

1 comment:

Mary Schmidt said...

I love the Oxford American - and the music issue. I also enjoy the food articles (John Edge used to contribute on a regular basis. Does he still do so? However, it's almost impossible to find. And, I gave up subscribing to it years ago. Never got the magazine. Of course, part of the problem can be attributed to their going in and out of business. But, seems they could have gotten one issue to me sometime, somewhere.

Hmmm...maybe we should offer to do some biz dev/marketing/service consulting for them? ;-)