What Your Warranty Says About You

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In the last 3 months, I had the opportunity to experience warranty service on three different occasions. How the companies managed the repair and replacement process speaks volumes about what they think of me as a customer once they have my money.

Nowadays, a large proportion of what people buy has two key characteristics:

  1. They are manufactured and supported, and often purchased, far away
  2. They are in constant use

Distant Manufacture and Support

If you buy a book at Barnes & Noble, and it is missing 5 pages, it is fairly easy for B&N to just replace it. On the other hand, if you buy a Nook from them, or a Kindle from Amazon, it is likely to have a one year warranty. However, the service and repair will not be 15 minutes from your house, but halfway across the country.

Just about every manufacturer will pay for shipping both ways, but there is lost time in 2 days of shipping from your home/office to the service center and 2 days back, in addition to several days in repair.

Constant Use

Unlike a book, which once it is read is left alone for some time, your laptop, tablet and phone are in constant use. Each day without the usage of your device is lost value to you. It is hard not to think, "I paid $200 (or $500) for this item, and because it failed and is their fault, I don't have it for 2 weeks! This is what I paid for??"

Two Models of Warranty

Given the prices of these items, the time due to distance to repair, and the daily or hourly value, how you implement warranty repair can make or break your customer's experience.

There are two models of warranty: old school and new school.

  1. Company Convenience: We send you a shipping label, you send it to us, we will repair it and send it back to you. Usually, it will take 9-11 business days from shipping to return. For many people, that is a lot of time to be without phone/tablet/laptop. However, many manufacturers are old school and think primarily about getting the sale done.
  2. Customer Respect: We recognize that you already paid for this device, it is important to you, and your time is valuable. We will immediately send you a refurbished replacement. As long as you send back the defective unit within 30 (or 15 or 20) days, it is free. To protect ourselves, we will put a hold on your card, but we are really good at releasing it.

I replaced 2 defective Amazon Kindles in the last 3 months, and another last year. In all cases, even though they are just reading devices, Amazon respected my time and sent out the replacement units before the day was done.

I also had a defective battery on my Google Nexus 10. Originally, Google thought I had bought it from them and started the replacement process, which followed Amazon's exactly. Once we realized that I had bought it from a retailer, I was sent to Samsung warranty support. Although the representatives were professional, their process was 100% Company Convenience. "Send it to us, we'll repair it, send it back." What should I do without a tablet for 2 business weeks? "We're very sorry, we cannot help."

The irony is that the cost difference between the models is marginal, and more than made up for in customer loyalty. If you were the consumer, which model would you want, and from whom would you buy?