DriverSavers & Its Awesome Customer Experience

This mail is a big shout out to the Incredible folks at DriverSavers, who saved over 20K of our photos from a HD and backup regimen that went horribly wrong.  I also think that there are some terrific lessons here that any company–large or small–can take in terms of delivering a great customer experience.

The background

My wife is a serious amateur photographer.  She takes a lot of pictures that are artistic, and as we have two young children, she also takes tons of pictures of our children.  Our approach to backing these up was to use an attached HD to her mac, with a backup HD that used Apple‘s Time Machine.

The problem we faced was that the HD failed slowly.  When my wife would look at photo thumbnails, they would appear to all be there.  When the HD finally failed, and we went to Time Machine, we weren’t able to find any archived copy that had the actual JPEGs of the 25K photos that it was supposed to be backing up.  Disaster time.

After a few trips to the Apple Store and elsewhere, we got pointed to DriveSavers.  DriveSavers is a data recovery service in Novato, California, that promises to deliver data from hard drives that have suffered massive failure.  They’ve apparently been involved in recovering data from drives damaged in 9/11, drives that have been in fires, underwater, etc.

From the beginning of this experience, DriveSavers approach impresses.

First call. Upon my first call to them, I was instantly connected with a real human being–no long number prompt trees.  Despite the fact that I was *desperate* to get a solution, my advisor at DriveSavers slowly and calmly asked me to walk through the situation in detail.  This works to his favor, as it lets me and my wife get out all the concern and anxiety around having lost all the photos our children.  He listened very patiently, would have let me go all afternoon, if that was going to be needed.  As he listened, he then started asking a few questions about what happened with the specific drive, how big it was, when it had failed, had we continued trying to use it after we had had it fail, etc.

After about 20 minutes, our Advisor suggested his path forward.  First off, as we only needed photos recovered, he thought we’d qualify for a price point that was roughly 40% less than their normal drive recovery.  This was a relief as this ain’t cheap.  Second, and frankly more important, he was confident that they could have excellent chances for successful retrieval.  This is what I wanted to hear.

I wanted to hang up immediately and get myself up there to hand off the disk, but he then asked that I work with him to answer some more questions, as he walked through what they woudl do with the disk and how it would work.  This turned out to be awesome–he made me understand that they do this all the time, that the disk failure I experienced was very common, etc.  Now I was in the car and ready to run stop lights to get to him to save our photos.

DriveSavers Office.

DriveSavers office in Novato has its entry wall covered with photos of celebrities who have had their drives saved by them.  The Late President Gerald Ford, Bruce Willis, Brad Bird (writer/director of Pixar’s The Incredibles), Johnny Depp, etc.  That wall dropped my blood pressure even further.

The people in their offices had the same message as our initial advisor–they’d have the disk back to us in about 5 business days, all the content they could recover put onto a brand new drive we provided.  They also gave us a phone number to call anytime–24/7–in case we wanted to check in.

Very impressive.

5 days later.

5 days later, they called me to let me know that our engineering supervisor, Bohi Nadler, had successfully signed off on a saved data set that we could pick up at our convenience. My wife drove up to pick up the photos.  We have the business cards of the specific engineer who did the work, a set of new tips on how to manage data backup and recovery at home to a stronger degree than ever before.  (We now use 2 HD backups and have all our photos on Smugmug as well.)

I love these guys, and had to share the experience a bit.

Lessons on customer service

This experience really showed me how few companies really get on it regardign customer service.  Here are some of the key tips and techniques that I think are important:

  • Have someone answer the phone, and if not, then at least be super responsive.
  • Let your customers vent, listen, and guide them through your solution.  This both disarmed me and gave me a sense of hope.
  • Always offer a deal.  It was very smart of them to offer me 40% off for a Photos Only recovery.  I felt it was expensive, but at least not full price.  I was “saving” money.  Help your customers feel like they’re saving money, always.
  • Get every human at your company to have a consistent message to your custoemrs.  Having the receptionist have the same information as the sales advisor and the engineer made a difference, I felt as though they knew who I was and were willing to help me.
  • Humanize the service–they told me the name of the perrson who actually did the work.  Having a name behind the work made me feel even happier about hte experience.

I can hardly believe that a data recovery service can create such a positive feeling in their customers–part of it surely is the magic of finding what is lost that is valueable.  But I truly believe that their ability to think through the experience they want their customers to have is waht makes their business truly stnadout.  We can all learn from this, and I wanted to both share my tgratitude and my lessons.

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