Chris Kranky

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Herman Miller: A Story of Customer Service

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Value is not necessarily what you paid for an item but how the product serves you over it’s lifetime. Back in the mid-1990’s I purchased one of the first Herman Miller Aeron chairs for my home office. Sure it was expensive, but damn if it wasn’t one of the most comfortable office chairs in the world.

By 2006, my little ones (now big ones) had jumped up and down on the breathable mesh seat and it had started to sag, but otherwise the chair was in good repair. Figuring I could replace it myself, I contacted Herman Miller’s customer service department. A nice lady, who seemingly had all the time in the world to help me, carefully listened and gave me the direct telephone number of their representative at a local distributor to arrange for service. The local rep, hearing my story, indicated that this problem was covered by warranty, though I had no paperwork and surely I was close to the expiration of the 10-year limited warranty and plead guilty that it was my kids jumping on it that caused the problem. No matter, she insisted, Herman Miller products are not supposed to fail.

The next day Fedex delivered a new seat to me at no charge and which I happily bolted into place.

Fast forward another 7 years, this Herman Miller chair is now 14 years old. A bit battered, but still in good looking condition. A few months ago the gas cartridge lift mechanism failed.  I assumed the chair was near it’s end of life and put it away borrowing another chair from the office.

Well my borrowed office chair wasn’t comfortable so I contacted a local Herman Miller distributor and despite being a customer with only 1 single chair, they provided me a professional response that yes the chair could be repaired for $150 and I just needed to bring the chair for repair. Happy with what was a great deal, I dropped the chair off.

Like so many things in life, I got busy, travel, work and to be honest I forgot about the chair needing repair. Three months rolled by before I remembered the missing chair and contacted them.

There was a great deal of embarrassment, an employee had left who had failed to contact me. This wasn’t the level of service Herman Miller demands from it’s distributors, they indicated. As a result, the repair would be at no charge and they would urgently dispatch someone to deliver the chair back to my home, which they did in under 24 hours.

Certainly there are many lessons for any company to take away from this story in serving a customer. Seeing the long term value of a customer and realizing now as well the public relations value as well, for now, I’m a Herman Miller fan. No other chairs for me, thank you.