I have been involved in the Service Industry for all of my adult working life. I have worked in photo studios, photo laboratories, photo retail, professional photographic equipment distribution and service, and most recently in the IT field through inventory control and logistics.
Throughout that period, there was one Prime Directive (to borrow the term from Star Trek), and that is that Customer Service is, was, and always will be #1. Coming up close to 40 years in the field now, I can attest to how that’s not always the easiest philosophy to live up to; but it is paramount. For truly, years of hard work to build up a solid reputation can be squandered in mere seconds by an instance of lousy customer service. And once you have squandered your reputation and credibility, even with one person and in one instance, word can get around so quickly that it can take years to get back to where you started from.
“What has this to do with Amateur Radio?”, you are probably asking yourself.
There are many service and product providers in the Amateur Radio market, as small as this niche is. We have many places where we can spend our heard earned dollars. There are many very good companies out there that will bend over backward to make sure that your experience with them is the best possible one that you can have. On the other hand, there are also companies out there who quite literally (excuse my language) don’t give a damn what you care about or want. All they want is your dollars and once they have them, you are pretty much dead to them. Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully these companies are the smallest minority and they usually die a pretty quick death, going out of business rather quickly.
On the other end of the spectrum are the companies that go out of their way to ensure that you are happy and satisfied. In my experience, Elecraft has done an exemplary job in that department. I have been a happy Elecraft owner since 2003, when I first bought my K1. Since then, I have purchased and built a K2, a K3 and a KX3, along with numerous sub-kits and accessories. In each instance, I had a great experience. The manuals are extremely well thought out, leaving (at least in my case) no doubt as to how things are supposed to go together. In the two instances where my kits were missing parts, or had a wrong part shipped – a quick e-mail to Elecraft got me the needed pieces in literally a day or two.
I have been fortunate that my radios worked right off my assembly line. However, I do know of instances where that has not been the case for other Hams, for one reason or another. In those cases, it seems that the help that was received from Elecraft via the telephone from their outstanding staff, or from the Elecraft e-mail reflector(s) where other Elecraft enthusiasts congregate got them up and running quickly. I also personally know of instances where “stuff has happened” and telephone calls to Elecraft brought timely solutions, even though the equipment in question would have been considered out of warranty by any other manufacturer.
All that being said, the clincher came for me just prior to Field Day, this year. On QRP-L, many of the guys were beginning to list where their QRP Field Day efforts were going to be held. I chimed in with information about where the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club’s effort was going to be, and I also mentioned that we were going to be all QRP, using my KX3s as our HF transmitters. Out of the blue, that night I received a private e-mail from Wayne Burdick N6KR, one of the principal owners of the company. In the e-mail he informed me that he read my posting to QRP-L and saw that we were going to be using my KX3s. So from there, Wayne proceeded to tell me how to set up the KX3s so that they would cause minimal interference to each other in close quarters. And that information, which he also posted to the KX3 and general Elecraft e-mail reflectors, turned out to be a life saver. After we first got going, it turned out that the SSB station was just swamping me out, and I was basically doing the same to them. When that became apparent, I whipped out the printed e-mail from my back pocket (it was next to my Swiss Army Knife), made the setting changes and from there we were in like Flynn. The two stations sat side-by-side and hummed along for the rest of Field Day – fat, dumb and happy!
This boggled my mind. One of the owners of Elecraft was keeping his eye on QRP-L, saw that one of his customers would be using their product and then graciously offered tips on how to make the radios work even better. That, my friends is ADVANCED customer service – the stuff upon which legends are born.
Now don’t get me wrong. No company in this world is perfect. Far from it. Heck, just go to the Elecraft reflectors and you’ll find lots of instances where people feel they haven’t been satisfied and take ample opportunity to vent. Some of it may be justified, and some of it is pure nonsense. But in my mind at least, Elecraft is a very bright spot in the Amateur Radio market, and I would recommend them highly to anyone. And aside from Amateur Radio, I think that they are a shining example to all industries on what great Customer Service is and should be.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!