Sunday, November 9, 2014

Customer Service and Response Times

Today's seemingly random posting focuses on customer service and response times prompted by recent interactions with the four vendors shown above.  This exercise is bifurcated into two trials.  The first regarding gift card availability and the second regarding order lead times.

After my subtle pitch for gift card usage in the Secret Santa Ideas posting, I took a look around to see which vendors actually offered the option of gift card purchases.  While many of the distributors such as Eureka USABrigade GamesOld Glory 25s, etc., do, some my favorite vendors do not.  Since some manufacturers offer gift card options, I must not be the only customer desiring that capability.  In a clearly non-scientific survey, three vendors selected did not offer the option for purchasing a gift card.  The three manufacturers chosen for further scrutiny were Front Rank, Aventine, and Perry.  To each of these three, I sent an email asking if a method existed for purchasing and using gift cards.    

First response back was from Keith at Aventine Miniatures.  While gift card purchase and redemption was not available,  Keith said that he would create a crude form immediately and get IT working on it.  Well, within a day IT had added a Gift Card option with the ability to take PayPal.  One day turn-around?  Amazing!

Second reply was from Alan from Perry Miniatures.  No gift card capability at present but he would sort it out on the website soon.   

The last response was from Angela at Front Rank.  While gift card capability was not present on the website, I was given detailed and explicit instructions on how to go about a gift card purchase and/or redemption manually.  With instructions in-hand, buying and redeeming a Front Rank gift card will be a snap.

Frankly, I was surprised by how quickly my enquiry was addressed by each of the vendors. All offered quick response time and in both Front Rank and Aventine's case, immediate solutions. Good job, guys!

Next, consider order lead times.  For pre-cut bases, Litko Aerosytems make a terrific product.  Before the days of Litko, I cut balsa by hand to construct each base.  That was painstaking and sometimes hazardous work (I likely have a few finger scars for proof) and the results never delivered the precision I preferred.  While communication with the company has always been first rate, delivery times were more often than not, slow.  I have waited up to four weeks for an order to arrive.  I know, each order is cut on demand and if a long production queue exists, my order waits in queue.  With long lead times, my orders must be prepared and submitted far in advance to receive bases entering into my production line in order not to slow my hobby work.

Given the history outlined above, I could not wait for Litko's annual Black Friday sale to restock.  Imagine my surprise when an order placed on Nov 1 arrived on Nov 7!  Unbelievable!  Did my order arrive during inventory build-up to support Fall-In?  Did my order happen to fall into a slow period?  Whatever stars aligned to send out my order within one week, I thank you!

Before the Internet, was this level of vendor interaction and rapid response time and resolution possible?  Across multiple countries?  I think not!  In this age, customer service and response times are better than I ever thought possible.

6 comments:

  1. Dealing with the small manufacturers in the wargame business is really easy these days. It also makes you feel warm inside when the reply to your query comes within hours of sending it. I actually sent out an order to Heroics and Ros recently asking whether some of their troop types would be a suitable proxy for a nappy swedish unit they didn't stock. I just included a uniform plate in the mail and the owner was kind enough to research a suitable product from their range for me. That's a kind of service you won't get from the big boys.

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    1. Well said, Mikko! Your retelling of the Ros & Heroics encounter shows that many of the people behind the figures are devoted hobbyists just like ourselves.

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    2. I know I get a thrill whenever I get an email from one of the best known names in our hobby, even if it is in response to an email from me.

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  2. I love Litko's products (I have some of the same scars from cutting balsa wood, masonite, and artist's board) , but it is wise to plan for a 1 month turn around time on orders. You will often get them much quicker than that, but some times it will take the full 30 days and then some. They never fail to deliver.

    I am impressed with the quick Gift Card responses. Of course, 'tis getting to be the season!

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    1. Yeah, I love Litko products too; really great stuff. Yes, they do ALWAYS deliver but lead times and be painfully slow when you need something NOW. I also do not like how shipping cost is padded to almost double actual costs. That annoys me.

      As for vendor response on gift cards, yes, I was impressed too especially when websites were changed to accommodate my request.

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