Most companies have a guiding philosophy that governs how they do business. This guiding philosophy (the true mission statement, if you will) largely governs how they view a standard business transaction as well as how they react to customers, both when things go well and when things go badly.
How these philosophies are communicated to customers vary. Some do it with advertising, some do it with employee training, and some only communicate their true philosophies by accident… especially when there’s a problem.
At PowerMax, we decided to take a direct approach and just tell anyone who wants to read them what our guiding philosophies are when it comes to our business. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful when determining whether you want to buy from us, or if you run into a problem you’re asking us to solve. Either way, these philosophies will give both our customers and our employees a framework within which we can find common ground, and hopefully make you a PowerMax friend for life.
This is all actually a little off-the-wall and unconventional. But you know what? Those are adjectives we like to use when we talk about PowerMax.
Joshua Benton, CEO
Much of what makes us who we are has to do with our location in Oregon. You see, Oregonians are a bit of a unique lot. We tend to be a little laid back, very friendly, and delight in marching to our own drummers while letting other people march to their own. There is a lot of tolerance for divergent views in the Northwest, as well as a lot of creativity. As for Oregon’s largest metropolis, Portland is either a small city or a large town, depending on how you want to look at it. But one thing’s for certain: Portland is also a very good Mac town. We have no specific data, but based on the number of specialty Mac retail outlets vs. the total population alone, we’re pretty certain that Portland ranks among the top cities in the country when it comes to the percentage of Mac users.
It could be said that Oregonians enjoy being unique, but we don’t do things just because it makes us unique. We’d be just as happy if the rest of the world acted the same way we did. On the other hand, at PowerMax we’re pretty proud of our unique approach. In an age where the trend is all about faceless website transactions where personal interactions are kept at a minimum, we encourage our people to engage in nice, long conversations with our customers. We want to understand what you do and how you do it, so we can best impart our experience and knowledge into your purchasing equation. We like to get to know you, and have you get to know us.
We also try and do that with a very friendly and humorous attitude. We remind our employees regularly to 1) Not take themselves too seriously in any situation, 2) Don’t sweat the small stuff, 3) Care. Care. And keep caring… about all our fellow human beings, 4) Have a sense of humor. 5) Enjoy life. Smell the roses. Make sure you only expend that extra energy on what’s really important, like relationships, good communication, and sunsets with a good chardonnay. In Oregon, that probably means sitting in the rain. But we don’t mind that at all.
We do like to tell it like it is. We offer a huge variety of choices, because we know that not everyone can afford, or even needs, the most expensive new computer systems out there. When you come to PowerMax, you have choices from very inexpensive used Macs that still work great for a whole bunch of things all the way up to complete professional editing systems. And we offer it all with a smile, hopefully a laugh or two, and just good-old fashioned customer service.
We invite you to experience the PowerMax difference, mostly just by giving us a call. We hope you like what you hear.
Everyone has read sayings such as “The customer is always right,” and “Customer Service is our number one priority.” But whether those reflect the day-to-day transactions, even from the companies that tout those phrases, your experience can be another matter, especially if a problem crops up.
One can often judge the quality and commitment to customer service a company has based on how a problem is handled. It’s a given that there will be problems. Every company has them. But how are they solved?
At PowerMax, we refuse to operate based on policy alone. You should never hear the words: “You are right, but it’s against our policy” from one of our employees. We view the word “policy” to be a lazy manager’s way of running things. When there is a complication in resolving a problem, real people hear the facts and make a decision, as opposed to reading a Policy Manual. Sure, we have guidelines and basic rules, but they’re mostly in place to give us a starting point. The good people who work here would like nothing more than to make people happy, but any resolution to a problem has to consider both the customer’s and PowerMax’s sides of the equation. We remain flexible to make sure that we do our best to balance both sides. Everyone has a different situation and problem, and we do everything we can to make things right within that framework.
Our customer interaction structure is much of where that starts. When you talk to a sales consultant at PowerMax, that person becomes your personal consultant whenever you call. (Unless of course you want to talk to someone else: after all, it’s your consultant and you can choose whomever you want to work with.) So rather than turning into a customer number, or making a call into a call center where you talk to someone different every time you call (or worse yet, when you have a problem you’re forced to work through a returns or technical department that couldn’t care less about all the history you have, at PowerMax, you start with your sales consultant, who then facilitates the solution with you, only getting our returns or technical departments involved when it’s necessary to complete the details of the transaction.
Does this mean we’ll take back product well after it’s allowable return time, or opened software, etc.? Probably not. As we stated, we do have rules and guidelines. But frankly, every manufacturer is a bit different as well. So we don’t plop our policies on top of everyone else’s and make you live with that. But mostly, we treat you as a valued customer with respect. And that’s where it all begins.
No one, or especially no group of people, is ever perfect. We make mistakes. When we do, our guiding philosophy is to make sure the customer doesn’t suffer for those mistakes. If we ship the wrong thing, and it’s really our fault, we’ll pay to pick it up and replace it. There’s no reason the customer should have to pay extra shipping because we messed up. At the same time, we expect our customers to treat us the same way. We believe that if a group of people (i.e. a company) is honest, then they can expect honesty in return. We don’t believe honesty and truth are situational prerogatives.
Sometimes it’s a problem that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and we’ll help any way we can to interface with a manufacturer who is too large and/or guided only by policies (or worse yet, dedicates too little resources to customer service) to make it easy for a customer to get them to honor their warranty easily. We want to slap manufacturers who instruct customers to “take their product back to where they bought it” when it’s six months into the warranty and is going to have to go back to the manufacturer one way or another anyway. (And sometimes these same manufacturers then tell us we can’t return that very same product because the owner of the product needs to deal with them. Oy.) But that’s why we’re here- to help you navigate through the maze that so often presents itself in this digital age.
But the bottom line is that if you have a problem, we’ll do everything we can to reasonably solve it based on your personal situation.
If you feel you are on the receiving end of one of our rare mistakes, and/or we dropped the ball somewhere, simply send an email to your sales rep, or to email@example.com, with as much information as you feel we need to track down your situation. We will email you back or give you a call as promptly as possible… the same day if we can figure out what’s going on and it’s not too late in the day to do so.
Being consumers ourselves, we know full well that a lot of companies, if not most, seem to need a mallet upside the head and/or a bunch of screaming, shouting and threats to get their attention. That’s not what’s necessary at PowerMax. We don’t need threats that you’ll denigrate our good name publicly to get us to do what’s right.
But if it helps you to get all shouty at us and everything… feel free to do so. Just know it isn’t going to change our response in either content or reaction time.
Truth be told, we really like dealing with nice people, because we’re very nice ourselves. But we won’t be bullied or threatened into doing something different than we’d do for the nice folks, because we don’t think the nice folks should be punished for being unwilling to be unreasonable or threatening.
To prove that we’re willing to wade into treacherous waters just to prove both our honesty and uniqueness, we’re going to publicly answer that question. Drum roll please… and yes, the real answer to that is “no.” Someone invented that trite phrase and it’s probably done more damage to retail/consumer relations than any other individual phrase in the English language. What? Heresy you say? Well, here’s why:
First of all, and perhaps especially in the computer business, the customer may not always understand the intricacies of the product and/or the situation. A common joke among technicians is to describe a particular problem with any one of a number of variations of the phrase, “There is an interface problem between the computer and the chair.” In other words, it’s not the hardware or software, it’s the user (we don’t allow that phrase at PowerMax, because it’s a bit demeaning, and we strive to appreciate every level of computer awareness, from novice to expert). But, condescending techs aside, it’s simply very true that these electronics can be complicated enough that the user is simply misusing the product. We have avoided many a return by having our tech support people walk customers through multiple steps to get them on the right track, even though they originally called to return the product.
So, sometimes the customer has it wrong, and the demanded solution is just not going to make the problem go away. Or maybe the demand just isn’t reasonable, like those who want a merchant to replace a product that’s already covered under a manufacturer’s warranty and the manufacturer dictates a repair strategy only, or the thing is months old.
Secondly, we live in an age where entitlement and sometimes a lack of personal responsibility create an attitude where a reseller is supposed to relieve a customer of all the responsibilities of owning a product. We won’t go into all the social reasons why some of this has happened, but let’s just say it can bedevil the most well meaning of merchants.
For instance, if you drop your laptop in the bathtub, it’s not really the merchant’s responsibility to replace it. Or if you take a trip to Antarctica for six months and come back to a product that is out of warranty, the fact that you didn’t use it for six months is neither the merchant’s nor the manufacturer’s fault. Believe it or not, we do run into customers who expect something different (or sometimes believe if they’re belligerent enough they’ll get what they want). We just don’t think it’s right to reward bad behavior while those on good behavior don’t get the same benefits.
If you encounter a problem with a transaction at PowerMax, you’ll find we respond best to reasonability and good humor, and we do that by not needing to be yelled at or threatened to make something happen. If it’s a good thing to do, and reasonable, we’ll do it. If it’s not, we won’t. And those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with only basic guidelines, so we’re able to help each customer according to their needs.
The bottom line: we understand some companies need to be screamed at and demands made for managers to be brought in before the company will listen. That isn’t the case with PowerMax. All of our people understand they’re here to listen, and do what they can to solve a problem.
Many companies forget what’s truly the most important thing in human beings’ lives: family, friends, health, and happiness. Sure we gotta work and earn a living, but that should never come at the expense of the four aforementioned items. If a company treats its employees poorly, chances are it will treat its customers the same way. At PowerMax we’re proud to have some of the longest tenured sales people you’ll ever find on the other side of a phone, email, or online chat. And we think that’s because they’re happy to be here… just as happy as we are to have you as a customer!