The three of us worked together at various levels of system engineering, software, and customer support for the same computer company. This company mostly provided for just a small piece of the computing needs of some major corporations. The common link was that we each had direct customer contact in the course of our jobs and were responsible for keeping those contacts satisfied with the company's products and services. Exchanging notes that evening at dinner, it became clear—even before any wine was served—that we must be some sort of geniuses! How else could we explain the great feedback we each received on a regular basis from our customers about how helpful, responsive, and pleasant we were to work with compared to the bulk of the other vendors they had to deal with? Well, OK, our parents were the geniuses for teaching us these basic concepts when we were six, but it's amazing to think about just how infrequently these lessons are upheld in a typical customer service interaction.
Of course, our jobs at the time also required us to interact with the customer service departments of our own vendors, so we each knew all the letdowns firsthand: being put on perpetual hold, snotty or defensive personnel, clueless personnel, "passing the buck" to another representative or to another company entirely, and on and on… (For the most part, individual service agents are not really to blame. Customer service starts at the top with setting clear-cut policies, devoting resources to guarantee knowledgeable contact people, and ultimately maintaining zero tolerance for anything less than truly satisfied customers.)
The problem was this: we were already doing everything in our capacity for our customers at that point. But our organization and our individual expertise could not reasonably expand to completely fill the great and varied needs of our Fortune 500 company customers. But one main course later (though I think it was the dessert that really did it), we arrived at this conclusion: we, as a team, did have all the expertise necessary to serve ALL the computing needs of small businesses locally while maintaining the level of customer service we expect from ourselves and could only wish for from far too many others.
Small businesses—dependent upon computing systems to run efficiently and effectively just as large corporations are—do not have the luxury of maintaining their own IT departments to keep their computers up and running. They are alone. Here, we reasoned, is where we could really make a difference.
The plan was clear. Provide nothing but the highest quality service and the highest quality parts and always —always—make customer service the top priority. Many things have changed since 1994, but the core principles remain exactly as they were defined during that dinner. Today, we are continuing along a path of steady growth towards our goal of Connecting the Universe…One System at a Time.