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As we quickly approach the Customer Experience Recognition Awards at Information Development World, I had some interactions with a company that excels in customer experience. They’re so good, in fact, that I decided to tell you about them.

I’ve been on a home automation kick for a while now. Well, actually, a long time. Before it was even called home automation. By age 10, I could turn the lights on/off in my bedroom from my top bunk bed (my “technology” was string, duct tape, and some strategically placed eye-bolts). Nowadays, there are more elegant solutions offered by a lot of different companies. One of them, and one that I like best, is SmartThings (www.smartthings.com – check them out).

Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of support from SmartThings because their products work as promised and as described in their documentation (okay, I do have a few suggestions for improvements there). But I had a couple of problems last week after I bought several of their various devices. And I got great support two different times:

  1. The first time happened RIGHT after I placed my order. The very next day, I got an email telling me that SmartThings was having a sale. DARN! I’d already placed my order. That didn’t stop me. I wrote to their customer support email address and asked if I could qualify for the discount or, if not, if it would be financially worth my while to send back my order and re-order to save money. I got a quick message back assuring me that there was no reason to return anything as they’d “work with you to make sure you have the best experience possible.”That was a great start! The message went on to (very nicely) point out that I hadn’t ordered the product that was on sale. The person writing offered me plenty of opportunity to save face – he said he might even be looking at the wrong order (he wasn’t). When I wrote back explaining that I felt dumb, he quickly responded that he’d “keep it between us!” I loved that I got fast and accurate support. But more than that, I loved the light-hearted response (especially since he didn’t even need to respond to that last message – he’d already done his job and could have considered the case closed). That last message of his, joking with me on a completely human level turned a very routine transaction into something memorable.
  2. A few days later, I had installed nearly all the sensors and locks and “smart” electrical outlets. But one device (a water sensor I wanted to install to text me if the washing machine ever overflows) just wouldn’t connect to the network. I wrote and explained all the things I’d already done to try to get it to work.Later in the day, I received a form-like message suggesting a few different things to try. I noticed one thing near the bottom of the email that I’d not considered, so I decided to give it a try. After work, I pulled out the email and started to follow the directions when, before I’d even started and almost magically, the sensor connected to the network. I wrote back to let them know the problem was solved (note: it doesn’t take too much to also be a good customer). Again, they were done. No need for a response. All they had to do was close the support ticket and move on to the next thing, right? But I did get a response. And it said, “Glad you got that working. The device should pair much quicker than that. I have flagged that for our QA team to take a look.”Again, that probably only took about an extra minute to write. But what it really said to me was, “I listened to you carefully. I’m sorry you had a problem. I trust in your abilities as a customer. We apparently have a problem here and I’ll see what we can do to fix this for future customers.”

Looking through the “Community Pages” I also see plenty of entries by SmartThings employees offering suggestions and help. This is clearly a company that cares about their customers.

So, what’s the result? I can’t speak for everyone who uses SmartThings, of course. I’ve come to the conclusion that the products are good. But almost even more important when dealing with something a little more technical than my own abilities, I’ve learned that I’ll get help when I get stuck. And that’s led me to buying more products to integrate with SmartThings and I’ll be buying more devices directly from them in the near future. They treat me like a fellow human being and not just a “support ticket.”

Customer Support (or “Technical Support” or whatever you call it in your company) is just as important to me as the great products you build.

I don’t think I’m in the minority.

Do you have any memorable experiences to share?