A critical lesson in customer service, connections and social media


First, if you need help with a printer and you live in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the services of Infinity Communications.  Ask for Mark.

But this story isn’t about printers, that’s just where it all starts.  I have an old HP Laserjet 4000 printer.  The manufactured date is April 15, 1998.  A classic.  It’s 44 pounds of metal and only 1 pound of plastic.  Definitely Old School.  I in inherited it along with an extra toner cartridge refill several years ago when our office was getting rid of it to replace it with a fancy new multi-function printer.

It has served me well, but recently the sheet feeder started jamming.  The printer only worked if I fed paper one page at a time into the manual tray.  I decided to get rid of this old laser printer along with my color inkjet printer and a flatbed scanner and replace them with a modern all-in-one printer from Costco.  This new machine is great.  It scans, prints color photos, makes copies, send faxes via the Internet, and even allows me to print from anywhere via facebook.  Not to mention all the desk space it freed up.

On Monday, less than three months since I bought it, it ran out of black ink.  That same day, as if they already knew I would need it, I got an email from Costco advertising their printer cartridge refill service for about $10.  (Perhaps the printer has a feature to alert Costco when the toner is low.  It is certainly capable of it and if Target can predict you are pregnant by your buying habits, then Costco could certainly be monitoring printer alerts.)

I got it refilled, but I also thought back on that old laser printer sitting by the door, waiting to be disposed of properly.  It was such a workhorse.  It should be good for a few more years of printing at least, if only the automatic sheet feeder worked.

But like I said, this story isn’t about printers.  It’s about people.  It’s about customer service, connections and social media.

I decided to call around and see what it would cost to get it repaired.  I consulted the great oracle, Google, who guided me to a long list of companies in my area that service printers.  The first one I called answered promptly.  The woman at the other end was helpful and knowledgeable.  When I mentioned what printer I had, she replied “ah yes, that is considered the old workhorse of printers!  There are many still in service today.”  She went on to explain the cost for repair is $25 for the visit (they come to you) plus $75/hour.  It should take under 1 hour.  And I may want to get the maintenance kit which is $300 parts and labor.  That would be about $400 total.  “Hmmm.  Let me call you back on that”,  I said.

After a few more calls with people reporting similar pricing, I called the listing for a company named Infinity Communications, located just 2 miles from my place.  A guy answered the phone and I explained to him my situation.  “Oh yeah, that’s a great printer.  That’s what I use for all my personal heavy-duty printing.  I service several law offices that use that one and they all have over 100,000 pages.  You can get over 10,000 prints from one toner cartridge.  So here’s the deal:  You can bring it in to me and I’ll charge you $95/hr plus parts.  If it has over 100,000 prints since its last service, you might need the maintenance kit too.  But that’s pretty pricey.  You know, it’s probably something as simple as pulling the two rubber rollers out and washing them with a damp wash cloth.  If you pull out the paper tray and look inside there…”  Over the next 5 minutes he talked me through how to remove the rollers.  Incredibly simple.  I cleaned them up and ran a test print while he was on the phone.  Voila’!  I have a working printer again!  “So look on that test print page”, he says.  “How many prints since last maintenance?”  I read it to him “1410”.  He asks “And what is the total page count?”  I reply “One four one zero.”  He asks “You mean one hundred forty thousand?”  “No, one thousand four hundred and ten.”  “Wow” he says.  “That’s like a brand new printer! You’ll be using that for a long, long time.”  Yep.  he’s right.  I will also be coming to him for all my printer service needs in the future and I will tell all my friends about him.

So to all my readers, his name is Mark Ungacta and his company is Infinity Communications here in Woodinville, WA.
We chatted on the phone for a bit more and I promised him a beer for his help.  By coincidence he happens to know someone who owns a brewery nearby…

The difference between what those others did and what Mark did meant the difference between getting no business and getting a beer, a loyal customer, and potentially many more customers than just the one calling.

The lessons:
1.  Customer service is all about doing more than you have to.  In the end, more likely than not, the dividends will more than make up for it.
2.  Social media provides individuals with a much stronger influence than in the past.  Be keenly aware of that as you make choices. In this instance I’m hoping this blog post drives new business Mark’s way.
3.  Take the time to listen to the people you meet.  You never know where those connections will lead you.

Do you have a similar success story?  Please share it.

Footnote: if you have this printer, you can get the maintenance kit and detailed instructions at http://www.precisionroller.com/instructions/hp-4000-4050-maintenance-kit-instructions/

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Posted on July 21, 2012, in Marketing, social media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Henning Heinz

    You don’t make much money with people who seek free advise. You need those customers who pay you for the work and buy the maintenance kit. Everything else will not pay your bills and in the long run only cause a liver cirrhosis.

  2. Henning, thanks for the feedback. You’re absolutely right. If you give everything away, you won’t make any money. But consider this:
    1. Mark was smart enough to recognize that as a small business owner I probably wouldn’t/couldn’t pay $400 for a repair. (I had already written this printer off.) And only a dishonest repairman would have put a maintenance kit on a printer that had at least 100,000 pages of life left in it.
    2. His business is built on long-term maintenance contracts, not the occasional quick fix. Helping me with this simple problem would not lose revenue.
    3. By giving me this free help up front, he may have lost one hour of revenue, but who do you think I’m going to call when it needs serious repair work? I guarantee you, I’m calling him first.

    In addition, our businesses happen to be very complimentary. In this case, we both have an opportunity to gain referrals and help each other grow our businesses. By giving up 5 minutes of his time he has gained a valuable ally that will hopefully profit him many times over.

    Put another way, after having read the post, who would you trust to service your printer, Mark at Infinity Communications or that first place I called that was ready to install the kit without ever seeing the printer?

  3. Cissy Bassett

    Loved your story David. I too have come to really appreciate a person with strong customer service skills. There is nothing more annoying than someone who doesn’t know their product or everything that I may want to know about it. That Mark took the time to converse with you and help you through what turned out to be a minor issue; he paid it forward many times over! I hope he will see the rewards for being a nice guy since there seems to be a shortage of that these days!

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