Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

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

Posted by Becky Carroll on December 12, 2006

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.


13 Responses to “Costco rocks as it listens to its customers’ calls for help”

  1. K said

    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!


  3. john said

    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. Amber said

    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. Bill said

    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! 😉

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