Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What can I do for you?

Before you read the real post, take note of this disclaimer:

The following entry was not written for the sole purpose of puffing up THIEL, or it's already highly esteemed customer service department (of which your's truly is a humble servant). It is merely meant as an insight into the inner workings and policies of this facet of our company.

There, I said it. Don't call me a braggart in your comments.

In eight years as a member of the shopping mall retail community, I realized that most folks had different ideas of what quality customer service was. To some, customer service meant never saying no, despite the absurdity of the request. To others, it meant simply taking the time to be helpful or being patient. Many felt that they were not properly served unless they got a discount because...well because I was so blessed that they graced my presence that day.

Although I was generally granted (by the man that signed my paychecks) the latitude to make customer service decisions on behalf of the store, if the customer contested, I had to give in. I think the attitude of "the man" was don't rock the boat. He had no interest in standing up for principals. His directive was, "Smile, nod, and give them anything they want". Although I took my work there very seriously and personally, such an attitude did nothing to reinforce the value of customers in my mind. Okay, it's obvious that customers are always valuable because they fund our paychecks...duh, but the appreciation of them wasn't exactly cultivated.

At THIEL, we're just different. Plain and simple. I can't think of a greater compliment to us than for you to spend your money on our stuff. To some of you, 5, 10, or 20 grand is chump change, to other's it represents a trememdous commitment, but that's not the point. The point is that you have made a cognisant decision to buy our speakers, and for that, we extend our highest level of gratitude. Why do we feel this way? Because you are real pleasure to do business with.

Rather than just giving away drivers to everyone who calls with a problem, we take the time to talk you through the problem and help you figure out why it happened in the first place, because it's not always clear. No, we won't replace parts that failed due to abuse or amplifier failure under warranty, for example. But you better believe we'll cover a part under warranty if it's our fault. Everyone here takes way too much pride in their work to eschew responsibility if something goes wrong on our watch.

Because we're so appreciative that you bought our speakers, the least I can do in thanks is everything possible to help you out if they fail. That may not mean that we'll give you a free replacement for your woofer that was played so hard that the cone turned inside out, but you can count on us helping you get your speaker running again quickly and helping you figure out why it happened, so you don't have to be without your speakers for any longer than absolutely necessary. Regardless of whether you bought new or used, yesterday or 2 decades ago, expect to be treated with the utmost courtesy and respect when you raise issues with us.

Is this the right approach to customer service? We think so. What do you look for in customer service? What do you expect? What does it take to wow you? Would you be happier if we just replaced everything that failed for free throughout the warranty period? I just want to know what it is that makes a great customer service experience to you. After all, we're consumers too. I know I've been told where to go (in no uncertain terms) by customer service folks before. Even one ugly experience puts a nasty taste in my mouth about the whole company. Maybe that's not fair, but it's reality.

Well, that's my bit of shameless self promotion, or patting our own back perhaps. Let me know what customer service means to you.

Your gracious customer service guy,

Gary Dayton
Customer Service/Technical Support

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Audiophilic Rock & Roll?

"What should I write?", I groan. "I'm not a good writer."
"I don't know anything about that stuff." Jenny retorts. "Just write like you talk."
There's no real way to punctuate my erratic speech patterns.

Only since coming to THIEL in August have I realized just how poorly my favorite music is recorded. I can't emphasize enough how awful that is. Granted, it still sounds way better than it did on my old mid-fi, I'm still perpetually perturbed at how there seems to be NO correlation between recording budget and sound quality. I'm not an audiophile, rather a music consumer with a voracious appetite for good records. But, despite the artistic qualities of the records I hold so dear, I still remain drastically underwhelmed when it comes to the sound quality of the final master. Does this diminish my ability to enjoy the record? Emphatically, "YES!"

Excellently recorded music that fails to impress in the quality of music category is worse though. Who cares how great it sounds if it's painstaking to listen to anyway? Maybe that was unfair. What right do I have to tell someone whether or not their music is good? Jenny's 'rock-a-billy' friend came over to hang out one night and was nothing short of disgusted with my selection of Bill Frisell. Case in point.

I think I know why most of my favorite records sound so awful by 'audiophile standards'. The market for them demands that they sound that way. The public that consumes 90s alternative, for example, wants crushingly loud guitars with heavy bass undertones, and drums that will knock your head off, and they want it to do all of this in their '86 Chevy Cavalier with a factory standard AC Delco stereo. How might an enterprising record producer make this happen? Compress and EQ the snot out of it!

I happen to be in the underrepresented market segment who loves 90s alternative but treasures quality recording. If money didn't talk, I'd probably get my wish. I can only hope that my demographic has the buying power to influence killer rock & roll that sounds equally killer one day...or at least killer re-masters.

Your lead-eared listener,

Gary Dayton
Customer Service/Technical Support