Yesterday, I knew I'd have a long wait in court before my case was called, so I brought my Kindle with me to pass the time in the hallway. Just as I was folding it up to go in to the courtroom, a guy walked past me, brushed up against me, and it fell to the ground. Well, it wouldn't turn back on. And there were these funny, faded horizontal lines coming from the midpoint of the bottom of the screen, and every time I pressed a button or tried to turn the thing on again, another pixel of the fading lines appeared.
When I called customer support, I had to get bounced through three people, but eventually found someone who knew something about how Kindles work, and he said "Nope, it's busted and you can't fix it. Let me verify your address."
A sinking feeling set in at the pit of my gut. "Wait!" I said. "I can't fix it?"
"Yep. That's why I'm going to send you a replacement. You'll have it tomorrow. No charge."
"I... I... Wow!" I confirmed my address and sure enough, the replacement Kindle came today, and it took me less than two minutes to log back on to the website and download the approximately fifty books and twenty magazines that I had on the old one.
So -- that's about 28 hours I had to do without my Kindle. And if I'd really wanted to read something, I could have logged on to Kindle for PC and read it there in the meantime. The replacement came to me free of charge, and I have a box to send back the old, busted product for Amazon to refurbish and re-sell later, also at no charge to me. By the time I got home, I'd already had the thing charged up and now it's like the whole thing never happened.
What's sad about this is that this counts as an exceptionally good customer service story -- something rare and wonderful in its pleasantness, reasonability, and ease of use. And that I was deathly afraid that Amazon's reaction would be, "Oh, too bad, so sad, customer mistakes are out of the warranty so you'll have to buy a replacement." Indeed, that was my presumption, and the cause of the sick, sinking feeling I experienced when the tech guy said the Kindle couldn't be fixed.
Indeed, we can contrast this with my recent ordering of a replacement AC adapter for my laptop -- HP charged me an unreasonable amount of money for the spare part -- there's no way this thing costs eighty dollars. Back when I had the Gateway Ultra-Heavy model, a replacement AC adapter for that cost three dollars. I only agreed to pay the $80 demanded by HP because I want to make certain that whatever replacement I get will work.* What's more, HP wanted to charge me an additional twenty dollars for next-day delivery. Here is a company that just plain doesn't care whether I have a working computer or not. They sold me the unit, and now they'd just as soon not support it -- and the misfortune of my cat deciding to use the power cord like the way the dogs use their chew toys is, for HP, an opportunity to earn more profit rather than an opportunity to generate goodwill.
Amazon treated me much better than HP did.
Now, you'll notice that Amazon has every financial reason in the world to want to do this. The Kindle they sold me doesn't produce a revenue stream for them unless I'm using it and buying more books and getting more magazines. So they want me to have a working device for the very good reason that a) I paid for it, and b) the more I use it, the more money they make.
But it's also a model for other companies to look at -- when you care about providing good service, when you care about making sure your customer has a working product they're happy with using, when you have to put your money where your mouth is in terms of keeping your customers happy, this is how customer service can work.
* I'm sure that there are plenty of tech-heads out there who will tell me that there were way cheaper ways I could have solved this problem. I'm happy to hear them for next time, but I did what I did and it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, and most of all, I can't go back in time and change what I did.