Good e-commerce beats great local service every time

A recent chain of events reminded me that dealing with a good self-service, e-commerce website can be so much better than dealing with good-hearted, human beings that offer great customer service. Let me tell you my little story.

On July 28, I went to turn on our TV and heard the lamp pop. Our TV is a Samsung DLP rear projection unit purchased about five years ago. At the time, a plasma screen was north of five grand and out of our budget. My first instinct was to jump in the car and go to Costco or Best Buy and replace the TV, but my wife (the more practical one) convinced me to just replace the lamp.

First stop, the electronics store where I purchased the TV. "Sorry sir, we no longer carry that style of TV and we can't order the lamps either." I went home, did a quick search online, found compatible lamps on eBay and other sources. But my former Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce President voice in the back of head said, "You should try to shop local." A call to another locally owned electronics store yielded success, or so I thought.

On August 10, after returning from our summer vacation, I checked in with the store. The good hearted, polite clerk checked his records, but couldn't find any record of the order. "Call back tomorrow, 'Mike' will be back."

I went back and forth for a month. All the while being given friendly, prompt attention. Great customer service but lacking a great product.

"Sorry, the lamp is backordered."

"Sorry Mr. McAlpine, we've tried another supplier and they are looking at another source."

All with a smile and a good heart.

After missing the Olympics, I decided I wasn't going to miss the premier episodes of a few of my favourite shows, so I went online again five days ago, clicked on the top link, got a trustworthy looking website, entered the product code, entered my credit card info and my TV is now working. I called the local shop, got my credit card deposit back and now have an extra $100 in my pocket.

Questions raised relevant to credit unions

  • Are credit unions kidding themselves with the local, actual people, better service myth?
  • If the perceived switching inconvenience factor was removed, would your credit union members hang around?
  • Once there is no need for branch visits for things like signature cards and forms, why should members care about the local credit union?
  • Is your credit union's e-commerce up to snuff?
  • What is your credit union doing so much better than the other options out there that your members would never consider moving?
  • How are you raising your products and services above commodity level and building member loyalty?

Granted, my TV story might not be the best example of great customer service, but it did get me thinking.

Tim