Last week, the brush at the bottom of my Bissell vacuum cleaner stopped spinning.
I thought it might just be clogged, so I grabbed my screwdriver and disassembled the bottom section of the unit.
That's when I discovered the rubber belt that causes the brush to spin had snapped.
I purchased this vacuum just over a year ago, so I wasn't happy that something was already wrong with it.
But I was happy I had bought it from Costco: they have a famously generous return policy, and I knew they'd happily refund me for the broken vacuum if I chose to return it.
However, before I made a Costco trip (which somehow always seems to cost me hundreds of dollars, even if the purpose of the trip was to make a return), I thought I'd contact Bissell and see if they'd send me a new belt so I could repair the unit myself.
I went online and found the number to call Bissell's customer service department, and eventually spoke with a very pleasant representative named Mario.
Me: "We purchased this vacuum cleaner last year from Costco, and today we discovered the belt has snapped. Can you send me a new belt, or do I have to return the unit?"
Mario: "Well, sir, belts aren't covered under your warranty...
... but I'm going to go ahead and send you one anyway."
And sure enough, a few days later, I had not one, but two new belts delivered to my door. After successfully installing the new part, my vacuum cleaner worked like new.
There was certainly a cost for Bissell to send me these new belts. If you search Bissell.ca, you'll discover the kit Mario sent me (for free) would have cost me $8.95 (plus $7.95 shipping and handling) to purchase myself. If we assume a 50% markup on parts and shipping, the real cost of sending me these belts for free would likely be around $10.
At too many organizations, "Mario" wouldn't have cared enough, or been empowered enough, to ship me those replacement belts.
Had that happened, I might have begrudgingly purchased a replacement band and made the repair... but it would have been easier (and frankly, more satisfying) to simply return the vacuum to Costco. They'd happily accept the return, and in doing so, earn more of my brand love. Then they'd almost certainly charge Bissell for the damaged unit, which means Bissell (not Costco) would be the one losing revenue.
But more importantly, in that scenario, I would have been frustrated with the company for not standing behind its products. And the next time I needed a vacuum, I'd have almost certainly avoided buying a Bissell.
Bissell's return on their $10 investment is not just the revenue they maintained from me not returning it to the retailer; it's also a delighted customer who's happy to purchase the brand again in the future... and to tell his family, friends, and social media contacts to do the same.
Dollars are important to every business.
But if you want to build a great brand, ensure your customer service policies make sense.