Many firms wouldn't dream of providing warranty replacement hardware until after the damaged equipment has been returned. But RapidFire Solutions, a $13-million supplier of computerized point-of-sale systems for restaurants, sends replacement hardware to customers without waiting to receive the defective equipment.

Standing behind its belief that nonfunctioning equipment is perilously close to a broken promise, RapidFire "cross-ships" replacement hardware to approximately 150 customers per month from its office in Hillsboro, Oregon. Duessa Holscher, director of marketing, says the policy reflects a firm commitment to service. Customers depend on RapidFire to be there for them when problems arise.

For example, once a restaurant goes online, it can't afford to be without a working computer system. "We can't fulfill our promise if we pinch pennies on repair service," says Holscher. Maintaining customer trust is critical because two-thirds of RapidFire's sales come from repeat customers. RapidFire customers buy the promise of increased profitability and easier management. At the same time, slow returns and delinquent accounts are kept to a minimum by withholding technical support when necessary.

"The cost of a few late equipment returns and credit holds is minor," notes Holscher, "compared to the goodwill engendered by the policy."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing