Btw Jon's knowledge about knives would be hard to beat and the fact that he is one of us makes it easer for him to talk to us on a personnel level as he knows many of us one to one. I have had similar experiences with So from JT, sometimes it takes me 6 months to order what I want because he talks so much, but I have learned a lot and consider him a frend.
I find it maddening when a company isn't able to take my money. About a year ago, I tried to buy a bunch of stuff from CKTG. For reasons pertaining to my desire to not have to sleep in the garage, I wanted to pay via a SWMBO-proof money order. I called them up and the clerk just flat out said they wouldn't take my money that way, and he wouldn't budge, even though it's legal tender guaranteed by the government. Needless to say, I had no trouble finding the same items elsewhere.
What bothers me most is that I know if I were able to speak to the proprietor, he would have figured out a way to accomodate me by taking taking my money.
There is no substitute for good service.
I really am related to Tony Clifton.
I'm pretty sure that in the case of CKTG you're not actually talking to them when you call.
Probably no one single vendor is going to have everything you want. Sometimes you'll have a great experience, sometimes terrible, sometimes neutral. I think what sets guys like Dave & Jon apart from the pack is that they both encourage active participation while you're trying to decide what to buy. They'll ask you the questions: what are you looking for? What's your skill level? Why do you want this particular thing? They both put a huge amount of effort into making sure that you're gonna be happy with what you get. The other vendors by and large are pretty cool, and they'll answer whatever questions you might have. But in my experience so far, Dave and Jon are the only ones that will ask questions right back.
I should point out that custom knife makers are a totally different ballgame. Active participation is not just expected, but necessary to the process.
I certainly understand the efficiency and volume rationale for an outsourced call center service. It makes a lot of sense for a lot of industries and for many customers.
On the other hand, I think a lot of times when we - those of us who take our knives and sharpening to a degree way beyond the general norm - ask questions, we expect some serious knowledge and hands-on understanding from the responder. We might ask questions about the suitability of obscure equipment (kiritsuke? mukimono? funayuki?), or how one knife handles over another, or how one stone feels over another. Those are not questions that someone working off a script can answer. It is my opinion that only someone who is neck-deep in the topic, who has gotten his hands on the products (and many others besides), and who chose the products for reasons beyond just sellability and margin that can really provide expert service.
Dave and Jon certainly provide this kind of expertise and more. The asking questions back part arises from the fact that they have extensive knowledge and are trying to make sure the customer ends up with the right product(s).
I've been bouncing questions off Jon for the last little while now, as I await a few new JKI items to become available. The plus side of answering my sequence of questions, though, is that my order when I finally place it online will be a little bigger than what I had originally intended when I asked that first question
We vote with our dollars based on what we need, what we want, and what we appreciate.
Just my two cents but I have had outstanding service from Jon, Mark, and even Koki, although the end decision from me was not always an immediate purchase; it is darn certain I will buy from them in the future.
Speaking from the vendor side, customer service is a double edged sword. Personally, I make some customers happy and some I can't. I can't please everyone and when I try to settle a dispute, I try to do so with an eye to the customers needs and the needs of my business and try to find the happy medium in between. As I said, it is a double edged sword that cuts both ways, and can cut deeply.
As for an outsourced call center, that may work for some but not for me. The most important thing I do on any given day is speak with a customer or a potential customer to answer questions or to solve a dilemma. After being on the road as an outside salesman for 30 years or so, I know a one-on-one discussion will go a long ways to avoid future problems. Not to disrespect anyone, but if I ever get such a big head that I can't speak to someone about a board, depending on someone in a call center who isn't intimately knowledgeable of my products, I hope you guys will kick the throne out from under me and bring me back to earth. In fact, I enjoy talking to customers. It gives me a break during the day where I can sit down and change gears and relax a little.