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The things that keep you coming back - redux

posted in Marketing on July 10th, 2008

Close to a year ago, I jotted down some thoughts on how companies treat their customers and what makes me come back to them.

Paypal:

First up is Paypal. Most people know Paypal from eBay, some use it in conjunction with Skype, another eBay property and many people downright hate the service. There is a myriad sites available that deal with how sucky Paypal is and how wrong they treat you.

For me, however, Paypal, means ease of use and I am so comfortable with the service that a month ago, I decided to pay a four-digit sum with it and although the payment initially went through, my account was quickly locked down, pending a number of steps, two of which I could complete (change password, fax / email official document stating my name and address) and one which Paypal would have to do: review my transactions.

Up to this date, I have not found out why they locked my account, but to be honest, I am very happy that they did. For one, my usual transactions range in the single to double digit area, hardly ever peaking $50, now, all of a sudden, I transfer a four digit amount of money to someone and that from a country from which my Paypal account has never been used before. I can see how that would trigger a few security checks along the line.

The problem with having your account locked down is that not only does Paypal hold the current transaction, they also change old, already completed transactions from the last couple of days to “pending review”.

One of the payments that was held, was for Namecheap, my preferred supplier for domains and they quickly informed me that their system noticed a “chargeback” and that I had to pay an administrative fee of approximately $60, as well as the money I, technically, owed them (due to the fact that Paypal had reversed the transaction).

After a few mails to Paypal’s customer service, their Dutch division still was not able to assist me and provided me with nothing but canned responses - not the kind of thing that puts your mind at ease when somebody took a four digit amount of money from you and is now keeping it.

Luckily, after some searching on the web though, I found two community managers and sent off my story in email form. Only a couple of hours later, I got a few suggestions from Jason Miner and was also informed that my case was upgraded to the next level.

One of the suggestions included calling the Paypal customer center, which I promptly did. I had to prove that I am indeed who I am, I got apologies aplenty and the issue was very quickly taken care off, in the most professional manner I could even think of.

With my account returned to me and all my transactions unlocked, Namecheap still was not too happy with me as a customer, so I fired off another email to Jason, who ensured me that his team would take care of the issue and lo’ and behold, they did: the next business day, I got an email from Namecheap stating that any issues were resolved and that they were sorry for the inconvenience.

As for my happiness level: Paypal did not only pick up the ball in this, they ensured that everything was solved and assisted me with anything I needed. Yes, technically, that is to be expected, but looking at the state of the current customer service industry, this certainly deserves a mention.

STM Bags:

Back in the beginning of 2005, I got myself a bag from STM, which I love and use to this day. This bag has accompanied me to every conference I have been to, it has met the forces of nature and clumsy waitresses and through all that time, has kept my laptop safe and sound.

On my trip to New York, however, I managed to break one of the plastic clamps that keeps the bag attached to your shoulders. While it was still technically possible to use the bag, I felt that it would be safer (and better looking) to get myself a new strap.

After drafting a quick email to STM Bags North America, outlining my problem and trying to find out the price for one of the straps, a friendly CSR, Yvonne Studebaker, confirmed which strap I had / needed and also asked for my address.

Three days later, USPS delivered a brand new strap to me, for a product that I bought more than three years ago, that was way beyond any warranty and what is more: the broken strap was normal wear and tear.

The commitment STM has shown in this case not only won my heart, it also made sure that STM will keep my business in the future, because if a company can take care of its customers like that, I believe that they deserve my money.

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Carrying around your office - in style

posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2005

Years ago a mobile professional was anyone with a mobile device, no matter if it was a Palmtop, a cell phone or a notebook. Nowadays lots of people could be considered mobile professionals based on the old “law”.

Carrying around a cell phone is standard, a Pocket PC or Palmtop depending on your job as well. If you have to do more typing a laptop replaces your PDA or is used in addition to one. Entertainment isn’t stationary anymore either.

With HD MP3 Players for dumping prices, flash-based MP3 Players nearly for free, many of us find themselves carrying those around as well…

Students have to carry around even more so; as a fact, I know that most of my friends at least carry a cell phone, a notebook and a MP3 Player with them on a daily base, and of course - the obligatory books, folders and note pads.

Being a student is not cheap and you want to protect your expensive study materials, naturally - the same is true for your devices and thanks to companies like RadTech, you can carry around your “stuff” without looking awkward.

Enter the Curve, one of the many shoulder bags RadTech sells. Big enough to accommodate a 17″ notebook, I consider this the cream of the crop amongst shoulder bags. Having used many bigger ones, none of them amazed me as much as the Curve.

When you first look at the Curve’s features you see that this bag wasn’t just created “for fun” but rather with students and mobile professionals (who’d rather carry around a nice bag instead of a boring suitcase) in mind.

Since this object is a shoulder bag, the most natural way to carry it is - of course - on your shoulder. Even after long hours of use, the Curve didn’t feel inconvenient to wear. Carrying it around fully loaded, which comes down to about 25 liters, was not uncomfortable at all However, if you want to, you can just carry it on the rubber handle and carry it like a standard suitcase (albeit, a good looking one).

For the times where you don’t want your bag to sling around, the manufacturer of the bag ensured that you can use a strap around the back of the bag. Adjustable in length and even height, this feature protects your bag and it’s contents from dangling around and damaging anything.

I found this particularly great to use while riding a bike or jogging to a course I was late for.

What I liked about the Curve was the fact that, even when it was strapped to your body, you could easily reach any devices in it, much like bags couriers use on their deliveries. The accessibility also takes me to my next point - the plethora of pockets, bags and compartments you will find:

On the outside cover, which is of course padded with as much as 0.5″ of foam everywhere, you will find 3 zippers, one being for a smaller compartment in the middle of the cover - which could be used for chewing gum, notes, invoices and similar stuff.

Then there is the Media Player compartment which will accommodate your i-Pod, any MP3 Player or a CD-walkman. Thanks to a hole at the top of the cover, you can connect your headphones without having to fear that your movement will open the zipper and your device will fall out. The third pocket is at the lower end and can be used for just about anything. The bonus that it’s made of see-through mesh makes it easy to spot your items.

When you open the cover, you will find a flap that protects a compartment which is used to store up to 3 pens, a key chain and there are two smaller pockets, one with a zipper which is about perfect for a flat wallet. The other one is again constructed using a see-through mesh.

Moving from the outside to the inside you will at first see a big area and not immediately spot the left and right compartments. This happens to be a side effect of the way this bag was built and I believe if it would fall down, that this construction will seriously protect the contents.

Of course, when you carry around a USD 1.500+ notebook, the one thing you don’t want to feel / hear is that it’s jumping around inside your bag. This is one fear you will never have to experience with the Curve.

If your device is smaller than 15.5″ you can use the padded sleeve inside the Curve, without the brief, you can even carry up to 17″ big notebooks. Personally, I found the sleeve pleasing to use, especially with the padded handle, you basically have a bag-in-a-bag, which you can just take out when it’s convenient for you and you don’t feel like carrying around the Curve itself. The only downside about the sleeve is that it accommodates only a notebook, there is no pocket for CDs, which you might want to have with you at all times.

Above mentioned sleeve is protected from falling out of the bag through a velcro-closing latch that keeps the sleeve in place. These velcro-latches are also used on the opposite side of the bag to keep two devices in place. The size of those two pockets are built to fit a bigger cell phone and a Pocket PC or PalmOne device. On the front-side of the sleeve pocket, which is on the opposite side, you will also find a little space to store cables, media or anything else for that matter.

Filled up like that, you still have a lot of room left which you can use to store your books, or - if you are so inclined - a gaming system like an X-Box or a PS2, you certainly have enough for that.

The Curve is available in a charcoal combo with either blue or red and costs USD 74.95. Certainly this is not the cheapest bag you will find out there, but this bag is not like your ordinary bag. Packing more features than any student bag, yet being more versatile than a simple laptop brief, the Curve, to me, is the Rolls Royce of bags and it definitely looks cool.

I’d recommend this bag to anyone who is looking for a good all around bag that is more versatile than most other bags.

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