I recently experienced how it feels when a company really understands its customers. It wasn’t that they knew what I wanted to buy – they knew how I wanted to be treated.
I enjoy coffee and am a big fan of Nespresso. Ever since the early days, I’ve liked their approach to delivering great coffee with convenience. My dream machine would be one of those professional Gaggia machines – but they’re not really practical in a domestic setting. So I’m now on my third generation of Nespresso machines and have encouraged countless others to follow and be part of the Nespresso Club.
Recently my machine developed a fault. The coffee wasn’t quite as good as it should be and I had noticed the occasional small pool of water leaking onto the kitchen surface. Based on my usage, I had received an email from Nespresso Club – “It is time to descale your machine” – and although I’d followed the instructions, it hadn’t helped. I rang the Freephone number and found myself in a completely new world of helpfulness. I wasn’t just a customer – I was a Club Member.
I spoke to Jamie, who talked me through various checks, flushing water through the system, resetting the pressure and volume settings, and a full factory reset. It didn’t help. He sent a free descaling kit which arrived the next day but that didn’t help either so I called him back. I braced myself for the possibility that the next step was going to be a costly one. According to the Nespresso website the flat fee for servicing an automatic machine is £79, which seemed a bit steep for a machine which had cost me £135. A new machine costs £119 and there is a £40 cashback on that, so for the same price as a service I could have a brand new machine. Tempting.
My machine was now 2 years 4 months old, but remarkably still under warranty. I often find that warranty periods are unrealistically short and things rarely fail during that period. My machine, complete with plenty of moving parts, a pump, water pipes and all sorts of potential failures had a three year warranty, which seemed uncharacteristically long!
Jamie advised that I would have to return the machine to them for service and repair. He strongly advised me to take them up on the offer of a loan machine in the meantime, and promised to take care of all the necessary arrangements. This is what happened the next morning:
- I received a text message and an email “Your Nespresso machine will be delivered between 10.52am and 11.52am”.
- The delivery man arrived as promised with a large plastic security-sealed Nespresso box protecting a pristine, shrink-wrapped loan machine.
- He took away my machine, neatly packed in the same protective box, complete with new security seals.
The entire process took less than 4 minutes, and I was up and running again with Nespresso coffee.
The customer service was beautifully simple – clean, efficient, and almost entirely effortless. I wasn’t paying for this service as part of an “extended service programme” – this came free with a machine which had cost me only £135 almost two and a half years earlier.
Every step of the entire process had been carefully planned to meet (and exceed) my expectations. The seriously wealthy are familiar with high levels of service from exclusive clubs which often charge them significant membership fees, and where exclusivity derives from the size of those fees. But this wasn’t the case with the Nespresso Club – membership was free.
I don’t know how much it costs Nespresso to run this service, but I’m sure they’ve done their homework. A common rule-of-thumb is that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. When they are offering a service like this, it makes me want to stay with them forever – why would I want to go anywhere else? After all, this is exactly the way I like to be treated.
There are other companies offering great service, of course. First Direct bank are well-known for the tremendous service they offer their customers, and are an example of how the entire operation was designed around the customer experience, rather than from a traditional banking perspective. The real tragedy is that there are so few examples which stand out as being refreshing and exceptional. We are all customers and we can all “demand better service”, but in reality it doesn’t just “magically happen”. Maybe it’s time to recognise that we’re ultimately all suppliers too, and that the only way of offering exceptional service is by delivering it ourselves. It’s not inconceivable that our customers like to be treated in the same way as we do.
It’s not about demanding better service; it’s about offering better service.