Saturday, June 28, 2008

Doing The Right Thing

I often use this space to vent about companies that simply don't get it. Every so often, however, there is one that not only gets it, they get it better than I do. Let me tell you about one: eBags.

Don't know eBags? They are just what they sound like: a website solely devoted to selling luggage. Once thought of as a punchline to the great dotcom boom, like Pets.com, they were a highly specialized site selling only one thing at inexpensive prices. Unlike Amazon, who was able to make this model succeed with books and music for their low price points, eBags was widely assumed to be a flash in the pan that would die with the rest of the overspecialized e-commerce sites that were overly rife at the turn of the century. But, led by a dynamic CEO, and a savvy marketing strategy, they not only survived but thrived.

In recent years, they have augmented the hundreds of brands of bags they sell with their own. Imagine a team of people, only focused on selling bags, putting together pieces that incorporated the very best of what they saw from others, and augmenting it with features that most did not. Add quality construction, and relatively low prices, and they were a hit. From carry-ons, to rollaboards, to laptop cases, their products were very appealing to business travelers like me. So much so, I bought one of their laptop bags, the Firewall, 3 years ago for my regular laptop bag, and have never been happier.

A few months ago, I noticed the handle was tearing away. I thought I'd replace the bag with a rolling one, but just couldn't justify spending the $. I was looking for a replacement on their site, and compared it to my Firewall, when I noticed one of the selling points of eBags manufactured bags: a lifetime warranty. I clicked on their Chat link, and started conversing with a helpful rep. He asked me for some details, found my order, and let me know someone would be in touch.

Two days later, I got an email: a new Firewall briefcase was being shipped to me.

Period.

No questions. No demand to get the old bag back. No requests for photos of the damage. No requirement for me to pay a shipping charge. Nothing. Just a new case, no questions asked. Folks, THIS is a warranty. And this is a company that stands behind their product.

If I had any quibbles, they would be these:

- They never actually contacted me after the chat, simply sent me the new bag. Might have been nice to know that was their proposed solution, instead of silence for two days.

- I had been signed into their site; they could have seen I was browsing for a rolling bag. They missed a golden opportunity to upsell me: offering to give me a choice on a new bag, or credit for the full amount towards another eBags bag. I would have actually taken them up on the latter offer.

These small quibbles aside, I can't say enough about a company that not only knows what their customers expects, but cuts to the chase in delivering on their promise. I should disclose that I have done business professionally with eBags at three different companies, and that I have met their CEO a few times and been impressed every time. But unless that information was somehow in my account and they were able to decide in some special way that was the case and treat me differently, I expect this is how they treat every purchaser of their products. Compare that to the supposedly great customer service of Amazon (blech), or the darling Web 2.0 companies with their social network hooks.

They not only got it right, they got it right the first time, and more right than I ever expected.


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