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As a consumer, I am a big fan of omni-channel-commerce especially when e-commerce and brick & mortar blend seamlessly. As a product manager for a tech company, I love new gadgets – but sometimes struggle to get them working.

A few days ago, I was simply deeply impressed by the customer service of 3 online & offline retailers. I bought a brand-new Google wifi router shortly after it was introduced to the German market. To make things even more exciting I decided to switch my internet connection to a different technology and protocol.

The router was praised for being super-easy to install, high security and a superior quality reception even in remote areas of our flat. Exactly what I was looking for. I did not read the implicit fine-print that it needs a DSL-modem to connect to.

A bit of internet research (and a call to my service provider) clarified this quickly but I still did not find a compatible modem. The service provider wanted to sell me their all-in-one package of modem and router. Not interested.

True customer service

I went to the nearby consumer electronics market (who also sell the router). They checked the product spec, searched on the internet: yes, you will need a modem. No, we don’t have one. (We could sell you an all-in-one…)  – and sent me to the gamer’s & hacker’s retailer around the corner. Those guys should have all options. Well, they understood the problem at the blink of an eye, even searched for the optimal modem – but did not have it in stock.

They offered to order it for me – and also checked for me in another “electronics for pros” market 5 km away – from another competitive retailer. They indeed had it in stock, and were still open.

I raced there with the intention to buy it straight away – but the sales person intervened: he would rather first check online whether my router and the new DSL modem were compatible. He had the suspicion that this won’t work.

Another 10 minutes later (and 5 minutes before the shop closed) he returned with a smile: all protocols supported, good to go. I left the shop with a (slightly overoptimistic) smile and a DSL modem in my pocket. (On the DSL modem was a sticker “no configuration needed”).

The last mile is the most differentiating

At home, “no configuration needed” did not actually match my reality. It took us a few trials until all worked out and the new router established a beautifully stable wifi – even on my roof terrace, yay!

Thinking back, I am still impressed by the sales people at Saturn, Arlt and Conrad. All three of them were focused on saving my problem (with a router bought elsewhere). They did not try to upsell my an all-in-one package (that I did not want) but rather point me to a potential competitor who might have a better solution. They went the extra mile to research compatibility – and I can tell you: I will come back as a more loyal customer to each of them.

From an end-to-end-solution perspective, the only complaint I have is both towards the giant online retailer and Google: if you intend to sell a product into a new market please check whether the solution is complete. In Germany, one of the largest network providers does not offer a free modem (or even an option to buy one). Why not cross-sell or bundle a compatible modem directly?

Next time I will buy rather from those nearby retailers – online though. Finally, it is not the speediness of delivery that counts, but the time until my “need” was satisfied and the wifi was operational.

In my proper job, I work with the building products industry, discussing customer experience & strategy. I strongly believe that my router customer journey is a good example how complete solutions (e.g. plasterboard, fixtures and contractor installation service) create the true customer value.

Sometimes this means that you need products and services from other companies to complement your offering. It could mean all the difference to your customer.

This may even include a marketplace approach.

In the long run, customer delight is the way to succeed. It has proven to be a major disruptive force in many industries already.

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