“It only takes one apple” or why customer service matters

Hello everyone!

I’ve written before about my recent relocation, but I had something come up in the move that highlights the importance of every contact we have with other people. 

The Digitech Space Station

The XP-300 is one of my favorite effect pedals of all time.  Having said that:

  • the A/D/A wasn’t great, and it was the exact opposite of transparent in the signal chain.  
  • It had 30-some presets but none of the parameters on any of them were edit-able.  

So while it wasn’t a great pedal on paper,  it actually had some great fx.  In addition to some nice swell sounds (you can hear it here on this Visible Inc. track – I ran out of space on Soundcloud – but I’ll have this up again!)

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It had some filter sounds that ranged from wild to really musical:

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and some really cool reverse sounds.  This is from an unreleased TubTime session and a good lesson on how not to solo over a static tonic in 7.  Geoff Chase is killing on drums on all the Tubtime stuff – so a big shout out to him.  Spacestation is in the beginning and the overplaying starts around  1:09.  (As an FYI – If I remember correctly this is a Ernie ball volume pedal, Big Muff Pi, Space Station and a Guyatone MD-2 run through a Fender 4×10 Deville.)

And finally some nice pre-whammy pedal glitch stuff as well (this is actually excerpted from the same piece as the solo above!)

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Alright – anyway I used it A LOT for a number of years and even when I went to line 6 and laptop rigs it and a volume pedal were often the only external pedals I’d have in the signal chain.  The problem was the power supply connection got a little funky from velcroing it to my pedal board and it started to die on me on various gigs.  So it’s been sitting in a “to do” pile while I hoped that Digitech would get smart and just release the code as an AU or a VST.  (I say get smart because when a pedal sells for 3-400 dollars on ebay there’s clearly a market for it still – so if you already have the code it’s really not that challenging to port it over to a shell and make some money off of it.  But I digress with an aside about quibbles with Digitech’s marketing concept).

During the packing for the move, I had to make a number of decisions about what I was willing to get rid of as I simply couldn’t afford to mail everything.  When I came across the pedal – I went online and read a series of posts that said that Digitech would replace the power supplies for a flat fee of $30-$40 (I don’t remember what it was) so I called the repair center.  I had previously gotten an RMA for a GNX and they did a good job of turning it around so I didn’t expect any problems this time. It took a while to get transferred to the right department but I finally got someone on the phone.

Digitech: “Yeah?”

Me: “I’m sorry I just got transferred here – is this the repair center?”

Digitech: “Oh…yeah it is.  What do you need to get repaired?”

Me: “I just have a power supply on an XP300 that I need to get replaced.”

Digitech: “We don’t repair those anymore.”

Me: “ok…So what do I have to do?”

Digitech: “(Sighs and adopting the most dickish tone imaginable) You need to go to the web page and look for an authorized repair center near you.”

(I should mention that this is problematic for some people because having gone to the web page –  if you don’t live in an area with an authorized repair center you’re directed to the Digitech repair center – i.e. you’re SOL).

Me: “Alright – well the repair centers don’t repair all Digitech products right?”

Digitech: “That’s correct.”

Me: “(Still optimistic here) So is there a way for me to tell from the web page who will repair the unit?”

Digitech: “No you just have to call them all to see who will take it.”

Me: “(pause biting my tongue) So if I do find someone who will repair it they’d still probably have to order the power supply from you correct?” (Now finding this silly since the repair center is still involved on some level in the repair of the unit.)

Digitech: “Yeah probably.”

Me: “(Fed up) Clearly I’m taking up a lot of your valuable time.  So I’m going to let you go.  Thanks for clarifying my relationship with Digitech in the future.”

Digitech: “Ok.”

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And I threw the pedal out.

That might come across as petulant – but I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to deal with poor customer service and what I have a difficult time conveying in the post is the sheer smarminess and exasperation of this person’s response.  

I understand that companies can’t update their products forever – but when a consumer has already purchased a product why would you expect them to go through the legwork when they eventually have to fix it? (Especially when Digitech could have easily just had some unpaid intern contact those repair places and gotten a list of who does what repairs and put that information on the website rather than just say, “Oh we’re not fixing those anymore – so go figure it out.”)

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The Line 6 Variax

I bought a AC-700 from Sweetwater when they were discontinuing the line and it was a really cool instrument – especially for tracking acoustic guitar parts at home and not having to deal with setting up mics in a noisy apartment.  When the guitar shipped one of the piezos was dead so I contacted Line 6 customer service.  The  person on the phone was really helpful.  They offered to give me a list of repair centers and when I said that I couldn’t be without a guitar for a length of time to get it repaired – he asked me if I was comfortable with soldering (I was) and then said he could just send a replacement piezo and that I could call him when I had to install it when I got them.  He actually mailed me 2 of them (in case one of them didn’t work), and after removing the bad one – the new one worked like a charm.

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Some thoughts about customer service

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So the similarity between the two experiences is that I dealt with only one person from each company.  

The difference between the two experiences is that while I will probably never own another Digitech product, I would tell anyone who asked that Line 6 is a good company and that they’re good to deal with.  

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(In a related note, I have a good relationship with Sweetwater.  Do they always have the cheapest prices?  Nope.  But they have things in stock, they’re knowledgable and they’re pleasant to deal with so when I a/b purchasing something from Sweetwater versus, say Guitar Center and the almost universally awful experiences I’ve had there – it’s a pretty easy decision.)

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Admittedly, I am over-reacting (and dealing with every other stressful reaction of a move made my desire to deal with repairing something nil) – but the lesson here is that it sometimes only takes one person and one interaction to instill or ruin good will – and it takes a LONG TIME to rebuild that good will. 

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How many times have you gone online to research a product and found someone just going off on it?  If you really care – you’ll look for other reviews but you only need to find a few of those about a company or product to move on.  Those people kill products and ultimately they hurt companies as well.  

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As a working musician – you are a business and your business will succeed or fail based on what you offer, who you offer it to and how you offer it to them – so customer service skills are essential.  

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Please take the preceding and the following as merely the incomplete and well-intentioned advice that came from years of making costly mistakes that it is.  

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  • Treat every person and every interaction seriously and with respect.


  • Communicate proactively and clearly and put the emphasis on listening rather than speaking.  People generally don’t know how to ask for what they really want – by listening you can help piece together what they are asking for and what they are really looking for/inquiring about.


  • You’re not always going to be able to say yes to everyone or make everyone happy but if you have to say no, offer compromises or other solutions.  Be helpful.  


  • Don’t assume something is clear or understood.  Actively reach out to people you are working with to make sure you’re on the same page and have the same expectations. (I re-learned this lesson again recently the hard way.  So hopefully you’ll benefit from it now!)


  • Be careful of what you say and what you commit to.


  • Never compromise your integrity.  Do what you say you are going to do, but don’t do anything that compromises what you are all about.


  • Create clear expectations and clear boundaries.  There are people who will ask the world of you and trying to give it to them will kill you.  Be firm but fair, and set real limits on what you are trying to do.

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It’s one thing to say something on a forum or post on the internet – but a whole other thing to deal with people on a personal level.  I’ll talk in more depth about this in the future, but if you don’t already, consider putting real stock in your interactions with people.  If nothing else, in the long run it’s to your advantage to do so.

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As always, I hope this helps and thanks for reading!

-SC

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PS. If you like this post, you may also like:

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Where To Get Your Guitar Repaired In LA Or Lessons For The Self Employed Musician

“A Tale Of Two Cities” – Or A Lesson On Managing Consumer Expectation

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One thought on ““It only takes one apple” or why customer service matters

  1. I hear you. After working in customer service, I find it more than annoying when they act like I’m bothering them. Good post.

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