Netflix: Now This is Customer Service!

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We spend a lot of time taking technology companies to task for lousy customer service. If you don't believe me, take a look at Mark Sullivan's rant about ISPs, cable and phone companies. Or Ginny Mies' work solving readers' problems in On Your Side. So given that we're tough when necessary, it's only fair that we single out companies when they get things right. And Netflix really did right by me today.

Last night, my wife mentioned that she'd had a hard time streaming a movie included in Netflix's Instant Watching service to our PC. I didn't think too much of it at the time -- after all, the problem could have been with our ISP, our wireless network or our PC. It's the kind of problem that can have so many different fathers that establishing paternity later seldom seems worth the effort.

But this morning, I got this email from Netflix. It said their records indicated we might have had a streaming problem, apologized for the glitch -- and offered me a 2 percent discount on my next bill!

What hoops did I have to jump through to get my discount? Call Netflix and wait on hold for 10 minutes? Fill out an online form documenting exactly what happened and when? Nope. All I had to do was click a link in the e-mail. I was taken to the Netflix site, where I saw a message that my discount would be applied to my next bill.

Technology companies take note: This is how you provide great customer service. We consumers all know that things can go wrong with any technology device or service. When things do blow up, companies should take responsibility and offer amends, making the process as simple as possible for consumers. That's the kind of behavior that breeds customer loyalty.

A lot of customer service execs I've met would probably say that that kind of customer service costs too much. But Netflix has been known for customer service like this since their inception and somehow this former startup has managed to grow and prosper while their behemoth competition, Blockbuster, is tied up in such serious debt problems that it may need to close its retail stores. Seems like treating your customers well may pay off.

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