This is the first time I am doing something like this, but I just had the absolutely worst customer experience I have ever had, and it was from two startups. The culprits are Bookeen and BooksonBoard. I decided to try an eBook to see how things work. i settled on a Bookeen Cybook (the Kindle wasn’t available, and I wanted to use it to read mostly PDF’s so I decided on the Cybook.) Well, it was broken out of the box (though it took me over a month to try it out, I just didn’t have the time to get around to it). The first time I turned it on I was impressed with the resolution and was dying to try one of my books - but I couldn’t navigate - all the buttons seemed to be dead.
At first BooksonBoard were pleasant enough we spent about a week trying to diagnose the problem - recharge it, reinstall firmware. Finally I just asked for a refund. That is when they got nasty and told me that since it was over a week - they just don’t give refunds. period, even though the device was dead on arrival. After some nasty emails back and forth it seemed like the only way they were going to do anything was if I sent it back to Bookeen in France at my own expense.
So I sent it back, packed as they suggested. Today I finally get an email from Bookeen telling me that the screen was broken “either by a drop or pressure” and therefor wasn’t covered by warranty. yeah right. It seemed to me that the only thing that was working was the screen. Now I could pay another $130 and maybe it would work or just write it off. Those were the choices they gave me for a few hundred dollar device that never worked.
So what have they accomplished? They have one irate customer that will NEVER recommend them to anyone, and of course this negative blog post. I am not sure how they (Bookeen and BooksonBoard) think they will succeed with this level of customer service. They broke cardinal rule number 1 - the customer is always right.
This got me think how difficult it is to create a hardware based consumer electronics startup. The level of service they are expected to give just doesn’t jive with the level a startup can provide, unless you team with an experienced retail team.