12
Dec
2006
0

Costco rocks as it listens to its customers’ calls for help

Frustrated userI just got back from a Costco run (why can’t I ever get out of there with my wallet intact?), and I overheard part of a conversation while looking at the PCs.  This is what I heard a Costco floor rep telling a customer: “…and the tech support is done by experts, it is available 7 days a week, and you will always be connected to someone based in the US.  Oh, and it is free!”  As the floor rep was pulled aside to answer someone else’s question, I asked the customer which computer company the rep had been discussing.  Turns out, it was Costco.

Costco is a membership-based warehouse club chain with stores throughout the United States.  Costco has been listening to the frustrations of their members and has entered the realm of providing technical support to help ease their pain.  According to a store supervisor that I spoke with, Costco will provide free technical support for televisions, cameras and camcorders, as well as desktop and notebook computers.  The service has been available for about one week now in the Southern California area.  It is part of their existing Concierge Services, which Costco started testing for high-tech TV installs this past summer.

Why is this a big deal?  The point that stood out to me was their sign about the services, the first line of which assures members that they will be able to speak with someone in the US.  All you consumer tech support companies, this is your wake-up call.  Customers are tired of calling in for help and trying to carry on a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English well.   When companies with tech support departments really listen to their customers, and prioritize keeping existing customers, they will start to make choices that make customer experiences better.  Today, many customer experiences with tech support are simply frustrating.

With the popularity of and the reasonable prices at Costco warehouses, this could easily increase the number of electronics that Costco is already selling, as the service is a great value-add.  Especially since it’s free (unlike Best Buy’s Geek Squad).  And for the life of the product (most tech support is only for 6 months to one year).

More and more of us are beginning to interact with tech support as electronics become more entangled in our lives.  Do you know any companies that do tech support really well?  Tell me about it, and I will share the stories.

49 Responses

  1. K

    This is an interesting read for m for sure. I am sitting here at work on the lines with Costco custoemrs trying to offer the most help possible. The Concierge line is dffinately a new kind of tech support where we are not only tech agents but a middle man, basically if we can’t help you we will find someone who can. But when it comes to something beyond the phones I find customers have too high of expectations. We already offer quite a lot of services, we support nearly wanything you can purchase at Costco and believe me it’s not easy being that knowledgeable. I was glad to be in a training class that was paying me to learn rather then sitting in the old familiar college classroom and paying an arm and leg for similairly complex education. We are not only located only in the USA we are right here Midwestern one building all working together. Work here isn’t bad, we support each other and usually have a board game running for downtime. Response to our program has been great we are constantly growing. 44 new employees the end of this week to lighten call load. Hopfully this service will be an example to future services and hopefully we can work through the bugs already occuring. Thanks for the positive review.

  2. Hello K-

    Thanks so much for your comment! I love hearing what is going out on there on the front lines. Yes, Concierge support is a different kind of support, one that is leading in many ways. Support these days is about adding value to the customer, and your support seems to do so.

    Come on back again and tell us how it is going!

    Becky

  3. john

    Conceirge Service? It seems they are overloaded or stopped functioning. Phone line is always disconnected after the Concierge introduction message. Getting something serviced through concierge is almost an impossible task.

  4. I was really excited about their service too. But I’m trying to get through to get some help, get as far as a CS rep. (Really quickly actually) and they can’t hear me. I know it’s not my phone since I just got off the phone with someone else.

  5. John and Amber, thanks for your recent reports on Costco’s service. Consistency of service is something I blog about often, and perhaps Costco is still working on that! Anyone at Costco Concierge care to comment? :-)

  6. I served 6 months on the Costco Concierge Service (CCS) staff, as both an agent and a manager. I say served as it was more like a jail term than a somewhat decent paying job ($11 an hour as a manager is not much). While the idea behind the service is wonderful, the current CCS staffing is a joke at best. Google and the OEM support sites (manuals, drivers, updates) are the main troubleshooting tools used. While as an agent I did my best to make sure every issues any of the members might have had was resolved before we ended the call, I made sure that if the manufacture was setting up a bench repair (when the device is sent to them to be repaired) I made sure I contacted the member back when they were expecting to get their device back. These were the set rules, provide excellent customer service. I hate to say it but I was one of the last technical people to quit, there are two agents that I can honestly say have the ability to properly diagnose and troubleshoot the issues Costco members have (in the computer area anyway). The majority of TV related questions are basic – how do I hook this up? How do I add channels? All of these questions can be answered with the device manual yet when I was a manager I had to take escalation calls from agents who never bothered to look or ask simple probing questions. It’s as if they were just bodies to answer the phones and when they needed to solve something they contacted the Customer Relations Managers (CRM) to get the info faster than either typing it in Google or just checking the manual. If you are on the west coast, be sure to call BEFORE 6:00 PM PST. You are more likely to get an agent that is not willing to go out of the way as you get closer to the 10:00 PM PST cut off (which is 1:00 AM EST in the Florida call center). I don’t know how many times I have received an escalation request (to take over the call) at 12:50 AM, as any time a member requests a supervisor (CRM) the agent must transfer to the call over. The ONLY two highlights about the CCS service is The Costco Extended Service plan – where Costco repairs your computer or TV after the manufacture warranty expires – and the level of support you get if you need to be transfered to HP, which the CCS agent connects the call to HP’s tier three support. If you are a Costco member and you need to have your problem resolved, your best bet is to ask to speak with a supervisor (CRM) as they are the only ones left at CCS that actually care about the job they do. By the way, there are only 10 of them for the entire service.

    Your milage may vary :-/

  7. John, thank you for sharing your perspective. It is important for organizations to make sure the right level of resources are available when providing a service. Hopefully, Costco will continue to invest in this program, as it does set them apart from others.

  8. The costco concierge service is the best customer support in the country. No competitor offers such a good program. We offer a 90 day return policy. Would probably still be lifetime but too many people took advantage of Costco’s return policy. These are the same people who say that the service is not any good. The same people who would take back a 7 year old television and get a better one in return. When you call Costco Concierges you will get an english speaking person within minutes. You won’t be sent thru endless loops and prompts that don’t do anything but make the customer hang up in disgust. We got trained for 4 weeks before we ever hit the phones. No other company I have ever worked for offered this kind of training. Most places say here you go do what this guys does. Which we all know is the wrong way to be trained. The problem here is that were are only supposed to support televisions, computers, ipods, and cameras. Members see that sign and call in from everything from ceremic horses to coffins. And the members expect us to be experts on everything. I don’t know anyone who can memorize the complete inventory from coffins to dvd players and be expected to memorize everything and how it works. Also alot of times the problems occur because costco is too nice and they try to help everyone with everything. This causes the customer expectation to be too high and thus frustration with the callers.

  9. Bill, so glad you left your comment! As you know, customer service is a tricky one, as customers expect the moon and stars to be delivered to them – now. Being too nice and trying to help everyone with everything won’t help the service be more effective; there are probably better ways to serve customers if that is not your main goal.

    Setting very clear expectations of the service would be a good place to start! It would help avoid frustration on both the rep’s and the customer’s end of the phone.

    Let me know if Costco wants some help with this! 😉

  10. Brian

    My first experience with Costco Concierge Service has been unhelpful. My case is ongoing after almost 2 months. If you are calling about a technical problem for warranty service, the only thing Costco does is call the manufacturer’s support number and connect you. In my case, Philips has replaced my LCD TV twice now, and both times the TVs have been received damaged, and poorly repaired refurb units. This last one they sent me is so scratched that the black bezel actually looks white. Costco has not been able to help at all, and they just stand a watch as the “middleman”.

    I am quite disappointed with the concierge service, and in the future will not consider it an added benefit for buying from Costco.

  11. Sid

    Got right in on the 800# for tech support. Tech seems very knowlegable. Am on hold right now as she is consulting for more info. After fighting with HP and having their Indian representative call me 3x around MIDNIGHT EST, and not calling during the hours I told them I was available, this is much more pleasant. I’ll update this later with how it goes, but it’s looking good so far!

  12. I worked at Costco as well and John is right, we didnt know ANYTHING. Well, I did, and a few other people. But, the girls, knew NOTHING.

    It was pretty bad…but I was 20 and made $10.50 an hour to do nothing, so i didnt complain.

  13. Toby 'Zuckman

    We were having a problem with a Sceptre 46 flat screen where there was a film which covered the screen periodically. I contacted Sceptre who I found very cut and dried and wanting me to return it to them in a box I did not have (2009 pourchase) and requesting me to pay $150 or so for UPS to pick it up. Sorry.but I was not about to have to pay for it. I contacted the concierge dept who put me in touch with Wilfredo (801801 bad int he Ft Myers Call center) dispatch team. He as on it immediately. I have read reviews on Sceptre and not too impressed with their customer service. Wilfredo not only got themto pay the $150 but also along witht he Atlanta Peachtree Dunwoody warehouse manager got someone to come help me pack up the tv to send it back to Sceptre. Sceptre did send me a box to pack it but I am not physically able to pack up a 46 inch tv. Wilfredo was in contact with me almost daily togive me an update. When Sceptre could not repair it, Wilfredo informed me they would send me a replacement (refurbished) and kept in touch with me until I receive the new tv. He went way out of his way but gave me confident . I am a big fan of Costco. Because of this experience I would only make these purchases thru them as their warranty is a real big plus. If I ever had a problem again, I would definitely be in touch with him. I also found whenever I called and he was not in, everyone was so kind and receptive. When we call with a problem is it nice to have a positive friendly voice at the other end. And I did learn one more thing…do not buy from Sceptre. I am not impressed with theitr customer service at all. They do not care one bit (i don’t even see Sceptre at Costco anymore nor at other stores they claim to sell their products)) about their customers. I have found Costco to be very Customer friendly and helpful and especially Alfredo on the dispatch team . Yea, Wilfredo. Now I only hope this tv lasts thru the 90 days warranty.

  14. Anthony

    My computer froze up and i needed help, and evidentally i saw the concierge service. (im 16 and i didint want to bother my dad with the trouble of calling and fixing my computer himself because he was going through a rough time). I ended up talking to a guy who pulled me through and helped fix my computer. However, at the end he asked my age, and when i told him, he said “dont worry about it, we’ll keep this between us and your dad wont know your computer broke.” I was so overjoyed that i HAD to write a review about how great the service is.

  15. victor stone

    At this moment i work for Costco Concierge Dispatch Team which we deal with the extended year of the manufacture and the Costco warranty; and my experience has been great. Im glad that i navigated through this page and saw how much an impact we give to our costco members of great services. Well i want to thank you all for being costco member and if anything we are here to help you guys !

  16. charmaine leary

    I have been on the phone all day with the concierge service regarding my visio TV that was unwatchable. I was connected right away with a representative & was delighted that I could understand them. We went through troubleshooting & I was then connected to visio personnel while the concierge stayed on the line for further assistance( it took visio about 15 minutes to come to the phone) my concierge apologized but not visio. I sent photos & videos of the problem & the concierge told me to wait 20 minutes & call them back to see if they went through. They did not. I sen them again & again called concierge & they ooked me up withg visio who told me that it was not a warranty problem but an”impact problem that was not warranteable.My concierge was on the line & asked hat they have someone higher up review the photos.They still insisted his was not their problem. I reiterated that I had been on vacTION FOR A MONTH & WATCHED tv BEFORE i LEFT & FOUND THID PROBLEM WHEN i RETURNED HOME & TRIED TO WATCH tv. tHERE WAS NO ONE IN THE HOUSE WHILE i WAS GONE so how did this damage happen.I told visio that I would certainly return to Costco but it would not be for another visio TV. This is by far the best customer service I have ever gotten from a company. I spoke to Chantal & Havran & I can’t say enough about their assistance. I can’t believe the negative comments I’ve read from customers & personnel alike. My experience was nothing but positive.

  17. Daniel Thorn

    I too work for Costco’s Concierge Services. I’ve been doing tech support for eight years, and have been working here for almost a year, and while there might be a few faults in the system, many of the members I’ve spoken to get their issue resolved through us, and unless we have to contact the manufacturer, the issue is usually resolved in under thirty minutes. It was because I work here I am even considering becoming a Costco member. The tech support is free yes, and free doesn’t always mean six out of five stars, but I would say we get a solid four out of five. We are prompt, we answer the phones quickly, most of us know electronics more than the average person, and yes, we do speak English.

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