There is so much to be said for individual customer service. At the shop level, individual customer service can make or break a shop. Don't give good service and you won't be able to build a customer base and you'll quickly fold. Provide excellent service along with a solid product and you should easily be able to retain a good customer base and through word of mouth continue to grow that base. Everyone has a story about bad service at a shop, especially as a newbie to the world of bikes. Shop level customer service is simple and extremely important to the operation of a business.
On the level of manufacturer customer service can be a little harder to come by. Unless you have to deal with a warranty issue or something along those lines you typically will never see what type of service a bike maker may provide. The stories I've heard from folks tend to fall into two categories when a manufacturers' customer service comes into play; they're basically terrible or excellent.
Those who receive terrible customer service generally vow to never bring their business back to that manufacturer and will likely be very vocal about their feelings regarding them. The lost business of a few sold bikes due to one poor interaction to me seems like a bit of a disproportionate loss. On the other hand the people that receive excellent customer service tend to spread there good feelings around as well. Whether through blogging, forums like Bike forums or the MORE forums or worse, mtbr.com which I always review before I purchase, word is spread of the encounter is spread. In the days of the interwebs and googles, much farther then a local group of fellow riders.
So, when a company actually takes the time to provide the service and personal interaction on the micro level, I for one am always super impressed and somewhat flattered. After the Big Bear debacle this summer a guy from Ellsworth took the time to look into things and found and commented on my blog. Made a big impression on me and I know I've passed word on about it since then. I've got a lot of love for Ellsworth bikes and if my price range fit better into their products', I'd very likely be thinking Ellsworth as my next mountain rig.
Yesterday I posted about my latest bike malfunction and low and behold Jamis' product manager finds the post and comments, letting me know what I need to do to go about getting the frame replaced. My post may have sounded a bit rough on the bike though that was not intentional. I have the most recent review on it in the mtbr.com forum and while I plan to edit it, I also plan to include my experiences with dealing with their customer service. I've heard the new frames have corrected for the cracking issue and assuming all goes well I'll very likely provide a very favorable review, possibly even more so then before.
The fact that the mountain bike product manager from Jamis actually took the time to search blogs, found mine and commented on it says a lot to me about the company. Either they're just really slow and bored right now (kidding of course :) ) or they really care about their product and keeping their current customers happy and prospective customers interested. Mike May over at GamJams.net is really on to something with the whole micro level web and weblog centered philosophy.
Helmet tip to Jamis for taking the time for an simple individual customer.