When It has to be there overnight

Good service requires more than taking care of the customer's needs-it also requires servicing the customer's reputation. Just ask Brad Armstrong, CEO of Armstrong Professional Services. The IT specialist's one-person, Chicago-based business provides network installation and support for a wide array of organizations, from corporations and medical centers to Armstrong's hometown church. 

 

In late 1999, one of Armstrong's clients, venture capital firm ARCH Venture Partners, hired Armstrong to install a much-needed file server during a business-critical deal. Although not directly related to the deal, the work required a seamless installation so it wouldn't disrupt ARCH Venture's e-mail or network links, which the business needed to coordinate deal-related communications.

A Professional Promise

Knowing that his busy schedule wouldn't allow him to conduct the installation for weeks if postponed the 48-hour operation, Armstrong promised his client that he could get the job done without interrupting any deal-critical

systems. He then planned a smooth installation that would allow him to arrive in Austin and get ARCH Venture's server work finished before the company entered the most significant steps of the negotiations. 

 

The IT specialist ordered the necessary equipment from CDW in advance: a Compaq Prosignia file server, server memory, and a 3Com 10/100 switch. He and his CDW account manager, Wyatt Witte, even arranged for everything to be sent directly to ARCH Venture's Austin office ahead of Armstrong's arrival. Armstrong again assured his customer that he could safely install the equipment and would not have to postpone the operation.

Deal Day

Unfortunately, Armstrong arrived in Austin and made a horrifying discovery: the shipping carrier had mishandled the hardware, and it never arrived. Frantic, the IT specialist called his shipping carrier-and learned that more than a few days would be required to locate the equipment and redirect it to Austin. To make matters worse, Austin was an unfamiliar city to Armstrong, so finding replacements locally would take more time than his 48-hour window allowed.  

 

"ARCH Venture was about to close the deal in that office. I had told them I could get this done without a hitch," Armstrong recalls, remembering the day's pressure and anxiety. He had no time to lose and very few options. "I could hardly think," he remembers. 

 

He did think, though, and called Witte at CDW to explain the situation. By that time, the working day was about to draw to a close; Witte, however, sprang into action. The account manager first advised Armstrong to refuse delivery on the mishandled shipment so Armstrong's shipping carrier wouldn't bill him twice. 

 

Next, he reordered Armstrong's equipment and stayed late to see it out the door. "I told Brad he'd get all the new items in less than 24 hours," Witte recalls. As promised, everything arrived in Austin the next day. Armstrong completed the installation smoothly and within the set time frame, and the Austin office successfully closed the deal without any technical disruptions. 

It's Good to Have a Friend

Although the fast turnaround saved Armstrong from having to go back on a professional promise, CDW's actions hardly surprised him. The IT specialist has worked with Witte for three years, so he's familiar with the account manager's customer-focused style. Armstrong points out that he relies heavily on Witte's extensive product knowledge. "Wyatt makes suggestions and plays devil's advocate. Sometimes he'll call me back after we've found a solution with yet another, better idea."

To Witte, the attention he pays to Armstrong's small business is simply the right approach to customer service. "I always try to be cost-conscious for the customer," he explains. If the account manager knows of a more costeffective

solution for Armstrong, he suggests it-and goes even further: "I take what I've learned about a product for a customer and apply it to other customers."

Armstrong is certain that he couldn't do better with another vendor. "I use nothing but CDW. They are my partner." Witte agrees, happy that Armstrong is pleased with CDW's service. He laughs and says, "I think if we sold toaster ovens, he'd purchase them at CDW too."

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