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Friday, July 13, 2012

It's about customer service

One of the things that makes the outdoor industry special is customer service. People spend a lot of money on their gear, then we take that gear and beat it mercilessly. We still expect it to perform well. I may have written about this before, but in 2006 as I completed my instructor course with NOLS I had a  very old (12 years I think) Patagonia shell jacket delaminate. Delamination is when the inside of the jacket peels off and showers you with what looks like snow flakes. It renders the jacket useless. This occurred in April in British Columbia, a bad place to have a rain jacket become useless. A couple of months later I finished working my first course with NOLS - this time in Alaska - and I had an equally old North Face jacket do the same thing. I was in the process of balling it up and throwing it in the garbage when someone said 'send it back to them, what do you have to lose? The price of shipping! Give it a shot!'

And so I took a shot. I packaged up both jackets along with a note about how great a product it had been right up to the point of failure. I told them I knew they were old, but if there was anything they could do I would appreciate it. The response wasn't fast, but it was good. From The North Face, I was offered 50% off anything in their product line. Not bad. Around 8 weeks after I sent the jacket to Patagonia, I called them. They said I should get something in the mail in the next day or two. What I got the next day was a Patagonia gift card for the original purchase price of the jacket. I found that very impressive.

Patagonia had previously impressed me. Years before, getting out of a tent I brushed a candle lantern. I was wearing a loved - and old - patagonia fleece. It had a very intricate, almost aztec pattern. After brushing the hot candle lantern it had a hole in the sleeve near the shoulder about the size of a fifty cent piece. I sent it back to Patagonia. I told them how much I loved it, how special it was and that the hole was entirely my fault! I got it back about a month later. Someone had found a bolt of the old fleece material, and done a fairly good job of matching the pattern.


This is the kind of customer service that we expect in the outdoor industry. It doesn't exist in most of the retail world, so we should count ourselves as lucky. I have gotten great customer service from Delta Kayaks, Werner Paddles, and Kokatat. But this week I really felt like Immersion Research Outdid themselves. 

The product was my loved and trusted IR sprayskirt. Because I love rolling, and paddling in cold and wet (I guess everyone paddles in wet...) I use a heavy duty whitewater spray skirt. I have had too many touring spray skirts leak when I roll, and a few that just won't stay on when I roll. So I have put an IR skirt through it's paces. While working on my greenland roll - the post is coming - I realized how badly my skirt was leaking. Upon inspection I found that most, if not all of the tape covering the seams was coming off. So I gave them a call. 

A guy answered the phone, I wish I could remember his name - Grant maybe? - I said I wanted to talk to someone in customer service, and he said 'you can talk to me.' This is a good start. Either, everyone at the company does everything or the company is so small everyone has to do everything. It was really nice to not have to go through a decision tree hitting '1's' and '2's' or saying 'customer service' and having the computer think I said something else entirely. 

Grant - I'm gonna call him Grant because I can't remember his name! - said that their primary goal was to keep gear out of land fills. They would look at, and determine what if anything could be done. He said most repairs cost around $20. I expressed a concern to 'Grant' that if it wasn't going to be bomber, I would rather just buy a new one. I didn't want it to fail in Iceberg Alley. He said to send it in and they would be in touch. He also said it would take about a week, and they would pay the shipping return in the same manner I sent it to them. So, I followed the instructions online, got an RA# and sent it off to IR in Pennsylvania. 

I got an email when I created the RA# saying they would keep their eyes out for it. I got an email when they got it, and what they were going to do to it. I got gently admonished for using aqua seal to fix some holes as it made it near impossible to make anything stick to it. They told me what to use in the future. I got an email that it was done and being shipped back. I had it two days later. Total time away from me, seven days and one of them was the fourth of July. This is the box it came in. 


Sure enough, they like keeping things out of landfill. On the left is a sticker on the box that says IR 'hearts' ugly boxes. On the right is the box. Reused many times. I don't know where Villa Frizzoni is, but now I want Italian food.

Nice work Immersion Research. You've got a fan for life! 

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of a story I just read about someone getting a box of crayons, and the pink one wasn't sharpened. Crayola sent them a single pink crayon in a padded envelope. HOWEVER- I just got off the phone with apple - my Mac Pro is having trouble connecting to my Macbook Pro- and it was gonna cost me 50 bucks for them to trouble shoot it over the phone... gimme a break.

    -Iain

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