Coffee on the Laptop
Sometime last year, I was sitting at a coffee shop in JKIA waiting for my flight to Dar es Salaam. Working on my Dar assignment in typical last minute fashion, I had my laptop on the table open in front of me as the waitress brought my steaming hot cappuccino. Call it fate, call it a bad case of slippery fingers or all of the above, I lifted the coffee cup and it slipped pouring all of its hot contents across my shirt, my jeans and –horror of horrors – my laptop. I let out a very unholy howl that pretty much caught the attention of everyone in the café. But my angst was not coming from my coffee flavored seared skin, but from the fact that my laptop with all my work and presentations had mocha colored stains snaking across its entire surface. While the waitress quickly tried to sponge me dry, I held the laptop upside down in the air trying to feverishly shake off the liquid contents and hyperventilating at the potential disaster in the making.
A tourist who was seated in the next table quickly pulled out some paper towels from her bag and began toweling off my machine (why she would be carrying a whole ream of paper towels in her bag still beats me to this day) as she completely understood where my distress was coming from. Anyway ten frenzied minutes later –with a semi-amused coffee shop clientele openly staring at the fact that my clothes were now completely stuck to my body and I seemed to care nothing about how I looked – I sat down and with much trepidation tapped on the keyboard. It was functioning…somehow. I seemed to have lost the use of the letter “t”, the number “5” and a few other punctuation marks. I shut down the laptop and for those who know the fruit related brand, you realize that it does not lend itself to jua kali interventions such as opening the back so that one can remove the battery. Steve Jobs never intended for untrained hands to muck about with his products. I then resorted to Twitter and sent out a heartfelt plea for anyone who might know the brand’s dealer outlet in Dar. The responses were swift and extremely helpful and by the time I landed in Tanzania two hours later, I had been given the number of and spoken to an outlet manager who happily gave my airport cab driver directions to the service centre located within a quiet suburb of Dar es Salaam where I breathlessly arrived ten minutes before closing time.
I stood at the unmanned reception for five tortously long minutes, dry heaving in a state of catatonic panic, and waited for anyone to catch my eye as I was well aware that at 4:55 p.m. I was very likely to receive the response “Come tomorrow” which was not an option as my assignment started at 8 a.m. the following day. Eventually a stocky, bearded fellow finally caught my eye and proceeded to assist. The interesting fact that caught my attention is that the technician –turned out that stocky beard guy was the main techie at the centre – never uttered more than ten words and five grunts to me the entire time that I nervously peered over his shoulder making inane conversation on the viscosity of cappuccino and is laptop penetrative capacity.
Following a heart wrenching diagnostic test which included opening screws tinier than a baby’s thumbnail and a surgical post mortem of its key body parts, the computer was given the thumbs up for temporary use as I stood by shuffling from foot to foot awaiting the verdict. Now if I was asked to rate the customer service at the centre, I would most likely have scored it a low 3 out of 10 largely due to the fact that the reception was unmanned, the technician was unfriendly and it was only my forthright attention seeking that got me served in the first place. But that would be completely unfair on the service centre. After spending at least half an hour on my computer (and successfully ignoring my non-techie attempts at computer speak) the technician dried out the battery and meticulously ensured that I could use the computer for a short while before returning to Nairobi where I would get the ultimate solution which ended up being a whole keyboard replacement. He then charged me the sum total of…zero.
I was gob-smacked. I at least expected to be charged some labor costs. I was willing to give up all the contents of my handbag for that service and he didn’t charge me an iota. My score after that experience was a high 9 out of 10 for no other reason than the fact that at the end of the day, it wasn’t a smile or a reassuring pat on the back that I needed to get my laptop fixed. It was a professional diagnosis and quick problem resolution that would ensure that I was able to undertake my assignment on time. It wasn’t served on a silver platter with a cherry on top, but it was served gratis and that converted me into an unexpectedly satisfied customer.
I have now redefined what customer satisfaction means to me. It is not the bells and whistles that accompany a fawning employee bending over backward to make me comfortable. Au contraire. When the chips are down, talk less, act more and exceed the customer’s expectations. Oh, and by the way, I have also sworn off making small talk to computer techies. They really couldn’t care less what I think about the price of tea in China and are much happier working in megabytes of silence.