I finally got my new laptop today, and it truly is a thing of beauty. You know how the doors close on a really solid car, with a "whoosh" and a thump that conveys confidence and quality? The Thinkpad has that experience when you open it and put your hands on the keyboard. None of that creaky plastic flex that triggers a subconscious fear of dropping it.
I got the T61 with the new Intel chipset, the Core 2 Duo. 2.2 Ghz, 2 Gigs of RAM. Widescreen with integrated web cam. 4.5 pounds. It took me six weeks of waiting when I could have had a Dell on the spot, but it was well worth the wait. I mean, if you were paying the same price, would you take a Volvo on the spot, or wait six weeks for a Porsche?
So let me say a little bit about my experience with Lenovo, which I plan to write up more fully for my blog at MotiveLab, since it’s a case study in the power of social media.
In the first place, Lenovo has done well in staying true to the ThinkPad brand. Anyone who had one under IBM would not want to return to a lesser machine, and at least Lenovo understand’s the quality imperative. My new ThinkPad has the same solid sense of near-invincibility as my 8-year-old 600x. I can easily imagine having this machine another 8 years.
Unfortunately, Lenovo’s supply chain and order management process sucks. There’s no polite way to say it. You can’t maintain a strong market relationship when there’s a steady stream of missed shipping dates and prevarications about "estimated shipping dates". I would hate to see Lenovo’s order abandonment rate. I’m a very loyal ThinkPad fan, but after being strung along three times with shipping delays, I seriously thought about dumping the order and looking at Toshiba. The only thing that saved my order was the quick response to my blog post.
Which brings me to Lenovo’s Web Marketing Group. After I had such a lousy experience with their order management, I was blown away by the speed and efficiency of their response to my blog post. Within 12 hours of my initial post, the VP of Web Marketing commented and publicly supplied his personal contact information. What impressed me most, however, was the straightforward approach and honesty of the customer service group. I don’t know if it’s a different group than the front line that handles incoming phone calls, but they didn’t string me along or spin fantasies about my order–and they didn’t offer me any inducements to say nice things about them on my blog. They told me up front that my order might take an additional three weeks to ship, and they responded to my email inquiries honestly until the laptop shipped last week. And that, in the end, is all I really wanted.
If you tell me my order is going to ship in two weeks, missing that date is a huge dent in your credibility–and is much more likely to get me to abandon my order than if you tell me up front that the item is backordered. Continuing to make empty promises is like poking a bear with a stick–and it’s the kind of thing that sparks lots of angry word-of-mouth on the Web. When Lenovo took an honest tack and kept me in the loop on the status of the order, my frustration dissipated noticeably. I wasn’t happy about waiting longer, but at least I knew what to expect. And with that mindset, finally receiving a product of surpassing quality quickly overcame my negative impressions.
It’s all about managing expectations. And at the risk of starting a political brush fire at Lenovo, I’d say the company at large could learn a lot from their Web Marketing team.