Saturday, March 20, 2010

Basket Case

I took up snowshoeing this past winter. I'll never be mistaken for a backwoods trekker, but I have enjoyed some excursions around the fields and woods of Lackawanna State Park, which is just about 10 minutes from my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I started out with a borrowed pair of snowshoes and wound up buying my own. I even got my wife to join me on a few of these jaunts as the season wound down, and now we're planning to make it a habit come next winter.

We were both using hiking poles from Swiss Gear, one of the brand names of Wenger, N.A., the Swiss firm that makes the Swiss Army Knife. On one of those hikes, one of the snow baskets that were attached to my wife's poles worked its way loose and was lost. (The snow basket, for those not into snowshoeing, is a circular piece that can be attached to the bottom of the trekking pole so that the pole doesn't slide as deeply into the snow – sort of like a snowshoe for the pole itself.)

Since the stores that sell the poles don't carry any replacement snow baskets, I thought I'd chalk that one up as a "just have to do without." But I decided to contact Wenger itself. Using their email contact form, I simply asked if it would be possible to buy either a single replacement or set of snow baskets from them directly. I told them that I owned several of their items – backpack, waist pack, poles and, of course, two Swiss Army knives. I hit SEND on the form without much expectation.

I received a form email almost immediately saying that someone from Customer Service would be in touch in 48 hours – unless it was a weekend. Standard stuff, I thought. What I didn't expect was another email from Customer Service an hour later that said, "Good Morning Paul, I do have one basket here I can send out if you are interested. Please provide me your address and I will be happy to get this out to you right away. Thanks!"

The email wasn't signed, so I have no idea just which Customer Service person was responsible, but I replied with my address and thanked them. Several days later, I received a snow basket – it was actually a larger basket from a higher-end model that fit my pole – for even better snow-pushing action. From the look of the packaging, someone must have just had that basket sitting on a shelf and took it upon him or herself to send it out – in a heavily taped, regular business envelope. It was clearly an act of good customer relations that didn't go through the company's "official" handling and shipping channels.

I've always liked Wenger's Swiss Gear "stuff" – and now I've decided I like the company even more. It's easy to beef when a company messes things up; you wind up telling half the world. But I think the good experiences should get at least as much exposure as the bad ones. So to that unknown Customer Service representative at Wenger: Thanks very much. You really made a good impression and were a true ambassador for your company.

An interesting footnote: neither Wenger nor Swiss Gear seem to be on either Facebook or Twitter – I wonder why. Their Customer Service reps are certainly sociable.

FTC Disclaimer: Other than being the owner of several Wenger/Swiss Gear products as explained above – products I purchased from them – I have no business relationship with the company, nor do I receive compensation of any kind from them.

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