A few days ago, I ordered some parts from Digikey. I’ve ordered a few things from them in the past, and a while ago they sent me a free catalog without my requesting it (which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside). Not only that, but the parts I ordered that evening arrived around 11:00am the next day. It was amazing. The parts I wanted were there nigh on immediately, and were extremely cheap, and very good quality. Now this is probably the case with most electronics distributors, but I have had very good experiences with Digikey in the past. Their lack of minimum order size (most of the time), and excellent customer service made me giddy – so I felt I needed to write them a letter (below).
Now I haven’t become a “sell out,” not that the occasional passersby that read my blog would give me much opportunity to sell out, but the whole thing got me thinking about brand loyalty and how it might begin to change as people become more intelligent about what they buy in the recession.“I felt I needed to say that you guys are *amazing*. I ordered parts yesterday evening and they got here *this afternoon*. Whenever I have talked to service agents they have been knowledgeable, helpful, and courteous. On at least two occasions they have saved me quite a bit of money on shipping by pointing out that I had accidentally used the US store rather than the Canadian store, and switching the order from one store to the other for me seamlessly. I also received a catalog in the mail recently, and I didn’t request one. I’m not sure if it was a mistake or if it was intentional, but it made me feel valued as a customer even though I order infrequently and in relatively small quantity. Keep up the good work, and thanks for providing a great service. Digikey is definitely my first stop for electronic parts. -Peter”
The reason I “pledged my loyalty” to Digikey is not really simple one. I’m not a fan of companies that try to condition their customers with the “cradle to grave” philosophy. For those companies money does grow on trees: us. We, the customers, are the trees, and our leaves are our precious, hard earned dollars. Well this tree spends its leaves wisely (I think… I hope…). But I am a sucker for one type of brand loyalty: deserved loyalty. Digikey doesn’t create enormous, ugly billboard with cheesey puns and catchy slogans that assault my eyes as I walk down the street; they don’t sponsor ads on TV that dull my brain to the point where I can’t even remember what show I was watching before; they don’t try to tell me they’re the only game in town – they just provide an amazing service and treat their customers well. It’s quite possible that one day the Digikey I know will turn sour, and I’ll have to find another supplier for my electronic parts – and I think Digikey knows that too. My loyalty is not absolute, but they have my respect.
The road they’ve taken is a hard one. They have chosen to get more customers the old fashioned way – by deserving more customers. Where other companies simply pay someone else to do the dirty work and get people to think they want a particular product or service, Digikey has to actually work for their customers. In my opinion they have succeeded. It’s my opinion that people are going to start moving back to these sorts of companies. People are getting fed up with people who try to tell them what to buy and when*. I think they’re starting to realize that just because a company can pay to have a bunch of ads made doesn’t mean they are necessarily a good company or that they provide a worthwhile product or service. I think companies that concentrate on quality and customer service will ultimately win, companies that don’t think quarter to quarter but that think 5-10 years ahead, who keep employees rather than throwing them out like used trash.
Granted, I’m not a business analyst, nor am I otherwise qualified to project the future of global business, but as a customer I’m going to spend my money on the companies like Digikey, Makerbot Industries, and many other companies that realize I’m more than just a source of money, and that if I want I can take my money elsewhere.
*According to The Pirate’s Dilemna by Matt Mason on page 125.