Recently, I decided to buy a new backpack to carry all of my stuff for work and the gym. After doing some research, I found two bags I liked. One was from a well-known brand and the other was from a company I had never heard of before: Datsusara.
Datsusara is a small company based in Portland. They make bags with a focus on martial arts. They use hemp, which apparently has a lot of good environmental and hygienic benefits (listed on their website). The hemp advantages, although nice, weren’t a selling feature for me. Both backpacks cost the same, so price wasn’t a factor either. They had similar carrying capacity as well. What drew my attention though, was that according to the vast majority of the reviews I read online, the customer service from Datsusara was phenomenal.
Customer service can be a big differentiation factor!
We tend to think that when we buy anything –from a bag to a car-, it’ll be problem-free. But the reality is, sooner or later, we have to deal with customer service.
Going back to my story, I gave in and ordered the bag from Datsusara. If it arrived defective, I could exchange it for another one or ask for a refund, with a –hopefully quick - call or e-mail. A week or so later, the backpack arrived, and I liked it a lot.
There was one small problem though. My order was incomplete. As an added value, Datsusara includes an additional nylon bag to store sweaty or dirty clothes when you buy their backpack. The bag didn’t arrive.
What gives? I had to contact customer service after all. They responded promptly: I contacted them on a Saturday night and they responded by Monday morning. They would send me the missing bag, as expected. No problem.
Meanwhile, I shared my initial impressions about the backpack on a martial arts forum. I also mentioned the missing item. The interesting thing is that Chris Odell (Datsusara’s owner, I believe) replied to my message, asking me to keep him updated on the order. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but man, his response was fast (a few minutes after I posted).
Days later, the second package arrived. Again, it wasn’t the right item. I updated customer service as well as the reddit forum. This time Chris said he would personally take care of it and send the package.
A third package arrived. Again, it wasn’t correct. At some point I mentioned that it was ok, they didn’t have to keep sending items with all those shipping expenses. At the end of the day what I cared about was the backpack, and that was flawless.
That wasn’t good enough for Chris. The next day I received the correct item AND a symbolic present he sent as a form of apology.
You may be thinking that this whole process sucked, that my order should have been fulfilled from the beginning or at least on the second try. And you may be right.
Then, why do I still consider this case to be exceptional customer service? Because Chris demonstrated all of the following:
Ownership: He took responsibility from the beginning and followed up until the end.
Commitment: He wanted to have things done right no matter what.
Responsiveness: His replies to my messages were clear and fast.
Most importantly, he cared!
Let’s remember that this whole chain of events started because of a missing nylon bag! If they put that level of intensity and effort into accessory items for their customers, we can safely expect that they go the extra mile and a half for more important issues!
You may argue that this level of attention is because this company is relatively small, and they can provide it. I disagree. The intensity should be the same regardless of the size of the company.
Do I think the martial arts forum had anything to do with his response? No. I believe that even if I had kept the e-mail conversation or given him a phone call the response would have been the same. I think it’s just another tool he uses to be in touch with his customers.
You also may argue that I could have gotten the same response from the other company I didn’t choose. Maybe, but we don’t know.
I’ve dealt in the past with known and unknown companies that, despite sending wrong items, charge a return. Or, simply reaching their customer service department is a nightmare.
Customer service is what gives us trust in a company and builds our loyalty. We recognize this in companies like Amazon, REI, and, now, based on my experience, in Datsusara.