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As I pondered on the Elements of Value Pyramid, I wondered why Customer Service isn’t on that list. And yet many sales people chant that during their pitch. Why isn’t it on the Pyramid?

That’s because nothing beats a working product.

Customer service in the best form, is when it’s part of the solution delivery, like when clients make insurance claims. The lesser form is for a graceful recovery process to a defective product or an ill-managed service.

A couple of years ago, I bought a scanner-printer from a reputable brand. After an easy self-installation, the print alignment test didn’t work. The scanning alignment was off too.

So I contacted their help desk. And that’s when excellent customer service began. They first emailed me new printer drivers. And the installation didn’t implement. They then sent me an app to setup my desktop as a web client so that their Client Service agent could implement the new drivers. All the while carefully avoiding to say that I might have messed up the earlier attempt. And they (the agent escalated to bring his manager into the conversation too) reached the same conclusion of the failed implementation. The driver was buggy.

On the third work day, they took over my desktop again to reinstall the whole printer application and driver, from some other corporate link. That seemed to fix the printing alignments. But the scan alignments were still off.

They said that they will send me a replacement printer of the same make and model. That rapidly arrived the next day, hand-delivered by some courier company. By this time, I had expressed that I was not touching any software installation, so we arranged a date for them to come online again to finish the process. About two more attempts.

The scanner alignment was better, but not perfect. When I scan full A4 documents, they worked well enough. If I needed to scan passport photos, the auto-detect cropping was slightly off, by about 1cm to one side. The best workaround offered was for me to outline a bigger frame, when I needed to scan smaller images.

We agreed to leave this replacement printer in a stable but not-so-critical condition. And oh, the first scanner/printer which I originally had? They said that I could just toss it – they didn’t want it back.

Now on review, the customer service team was well beyond excellent. With the time spent online together, the replacement printer, the courier overnight – their cost-to-serve must have been 10x the cost of the printer. And it does not erase the bad aftertaste I have of that global brand. How could I? I was still living with a kludged solution.

A quality product beats a great customer service recovery process.