Friday, June 24, 2011

Customer service isn't dead

I value good customer service, and I believe in using local businesses, so when I find a local business with excellent customer service I think it's worth shouting from the rooftops.

This past week, I found three.
  1. Bill's Garage.  Bill has been working on cars in this area for about as long as I've been alive, and there's a reason he doesn't advertise - people really, really like him and his crew.  They're professional, they're competent, and they're nice.  I have had a frustrating, intermittent battery drain in my car for over a year, and last week I found my battery dead when I needed to be in Kingston for an important appointment.  I was panicked, but no need.  Billy, one of Bill's mechanics, offered to drive to my house with the mondo insta-charge machine.  He showed up fifteen minutes later and I was on my way a few minutes after that.  They since pinpointed the problem, my air conditioner relay, and swapped it out for a replacement in a couple of minutes.  They didn't charge me for either service.

    I had a similar "why bother charging you" experience a couple of years ago.  I went to gas up at Stewart's on 32, and my gas door didn't open.  That's a problem!  Luckily I was near Bill's and they were open.  Jody, another excellent mechanic there, determined that the cable had slipped off the hook.  He went in through the trunk, reattached it, and sent me on my way.  Again, this was a service, and one I gladly would have paid for, but they felt no need because the time they spent was inconsequential.

    My wife and I bring all of our auto work to Bill's, and they always let me know if they can't do the job.  For example, there are systems in my hybrid car that they are not trained to work on.  Instead of farming it out and marking it up, Bill always tells me when I'm better off bringing it to the dealer for service.

  2. New Paltz Eye Care.  Formerly located on Plattekill Avenue, this practice was purchased a few months ago by one its doctors, Dr. Elinor Descovich, and moved to a Main Street location last October.  They recently joined our health plan, and I am thrilled.

    I've had my eyes checked in a lot of shopping-mall eye care chains over the years, and the service has ranged from marginal to terrible.  The first doctor to fit me for contact lenses comes to mind:  he wrenched my eye open with both hands while sternly ordering me to relax.  I've never been entirely confident that my prescription was accurate, and always left feeling at least mildly dissatisfied with the service and competency.

    What a difference a local business can make.

    First of all, I have never had such a thorough eye exam in my life.  Dr. Descovich performed the usual tests for tracking, glaucoma, and the like, but she also did a careful analysis to look for things like tearing and separation of the retina and other eye problems.  Throughout the procedures she took the time to answer all of my questions, both about the tests and about her qualifications and experience.  There are many different kinds of eye care professionals, and it's important to know who is trained to do what.  As it happens, her twin sister is the shop's optician, and takes care of the actual eyeglasses.

    I always feel like the refraction tests (which determine your prescription) are a bit subjective.  Which one is more in focus, this or that?  They fly by quickly and it's so hard to tell.  Dr. Descovich made sure I was comfortable with my opinions, and explained why, for the reading glasses tests, she couldn't actually slow down.  (For that particular test, the speed of focusing is a key factor.  No one ever told me that before.)

    One series of tests I had to opt in for, because they involve those dilating drops.  In the past, I've had them tossed in my eyes, and then I was sent on my way barely able to see.  Since I agreed to have my eyes dilated, I was told that I could relax in their waiting room as long as I needed to.  Not only that, but they gave me a sunglasses insert to slip behind my glasses so I wouldn't be blinded when I stepped out into the sun.

    This place is a class act.

  3. Wireless Zone.  After months of considering it, I made the switch to a smart phone yesterday.  I opted to try Wireless Zone, the Verizon reseller near Village Pizza, in part because Verizon has an attractive data plan, and in part because I know the owner, Brian Hons, although I've never been a customer.

    I am a pain in the ass when it comes to technology.  I believe these tools we use should make our lives easier, and that means that I don't want a huge learning curve.  If I have to spend a lot of time learning how to use an application, then the developer has missed the point.

    Denise answered all of my questions.  She clearly had experience using the Blackberry, the Android, and the iPhone.  Although she was very clear that it was personal preference, she had enough knowledge to help me make an informed decision.

    Another area that concerns me with phones is what will it really cost me?  Cell phone companies love to give you the advertised price, but a lot happens between that number and the amount on the monthly bill.  Denise was able to tell me how much my bill would be, and also gave me a good idea of the first month's charges, which tend to be larger and are often a nasty surprise.

    I had a moment of panic when I was told that I couldn't transfer my prepaid number to a contract phone with another provider.  Instead of telling me there was nothing she could do, Denise double-checked, and found out that a recent change had made it possible after all.  I've seen plenty of sales help dig in their heels, fold their arms, and shake their heads; the turning point for me was when Denise chose to ask questions instead.

    When I was home with my new phone, I quickly discovered that I couldn't hear incoming calls, but there wasn't any problem with the outgoing.  Problem!  Was this phone defective?

    Back to Wireless Zone I went.  I regret not getting the name of the employee on duty yesterday afternoon, but he smiled and told me that the screen-protecting plastic that I had left on was the problem - it covers the microphone.  Remove it, and all will be well.  That didn't make sense to me at all, but I have an audio engineer in my home, and I asked him about it.  He confirmed and explained:  it only causes a problem with incoming calls because the plastic impacts the noise reduction.

    I loathe dealing with call centers for large companies, and I love the fact that Wireless Zone is a buffer.  They deal with the crap, and I get taken care of like a human being should be.
Three cheers for three excellent New Paltz businesses.

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