Monday, February 23, 2009

Don't surprise the customer!

I recently purchased a replacement toner cartridge for my laser printer.  I really, really wanted an OEM cartridge.  My experience with compatible ink jet cartridges were unsatisfactory and even though OEM was significantly more expensive, I believe that's the way to go for the best quality results.  Since I use my laser printer for business correspondence, it is important to have crisp, clear copies.  

Furthermore, as a toner cartridge for a SOHO printer ages, the light sensitive imaging tube becomes less sensitive and the copies start to come out grey.  So, simply refilling the toner powder won't do either.

However, I was horrified to see the prices for the OEM cartridge.  Nothing less than $75, some over $85, and then there's shipping! Yowza!  $120 for a cartridge -- I could practically purchase a new printer for that!  I seriously thought about it, but knowing that my wife would kill me for such blantant consumerism, I went back to looking for a replacement cartridge.

I Googled, and Googled.  Seriously searched for an OEM cartridge that would be less.  I would have been happy with $60 shipped.  I was delighted to find a site that was selling a cartridge for $32 shipped.  That's was the same price as the compatible and refurbished cartridges.  I check and double checked to make sure that this was an OEM cartridge.

The product ID was the same as the OEM ID -- "ML 1210D3".  Check

The product description was the same as the OEM -- "Samsung ML-1210 D3".  Check

The description did not say "compatible", "refurbished", "refilled" or any such thing.  No where did it use those words on the product page.  I even searched for them. Big Check.

I placed my order satisified that I had finally done it!  I found a site that was selling OEM cartridges for deep discounts.  I was ready to trumpet the value of this place.

However, when the product came, it was clearly a knock off.  I called and emailed the company.  I pulled my receipt.   Yep, "Samsung ML-1210 D3"  I was not expecting a knock off.

I got a response in less than 24 hours.  Here is the first line:  "If you would have read our paragraph about what we do on our homepage you would have read we provide toner replacements for expensive name brands(OEM)"

I never saw the home page.  I came to the product page from a Google product search.  I never saw -- and I looked for -- something that said I was purchasing a knock off brand.  In my mind, this is a complete failure on behalf of the company.  It's folly to assume that your customers are (1) going to enter your site on the home page and (2) read it if they do.  

This isn't right.  I will not ever do business with this company again for any reason whatsoever. There isn't any need to.  They have so much competition and their products and their service is an absolute commodity.  Plus, they surprised me and then blamed me for it.  By the way, I did look at the home page.  It does say that.  Right in the middle of a paragraph of text that I never would ever have ever read ever.

Here's the take away lesson:  Don't do this!  Do not suprise your customers unless it makes them very, very happy!

If you are in the product industry, you must make sure that your customer knows what they are getting and are satisified with the value of the product.  If you are in the service industry, you must ensure that your customer knows what they are getting and are satisfied with the value of the service.  Unpleasantly surprising the customer is the very best way to kill your up sale potential.  

But, Peter, you say, I can't spend all day hand-holding every customer.  Sure, OK, I'm good with that.  However, you can -- and you must -- ensure that your customer knows what they are getting.  Period.  Your promotional material, your descriptions, your literature needs to be complete and honest.  Because you can't afford to acquire a new customer for every single sale.

You might be interested in which company it was.  I was initially going to reveal that, but I decided not to make this a "bash the company" posting because I really want the lesson of good customer relationships to come out.  So, I'm not going to say.

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