Garmin & Nike – Customer Service Compared

This entry was posted on 4.03.2013

I am using two different devices to track my workout – a Garmin 405 CX and a Nike Fuelband. I had issues with both of them recently. How the two companies handled those issues was very interesting and very eye opening.

I bought the Garmin 405 in May 2011. Until then I used a Polar watch, which was pretty much a stop watch. No GPS, no other fancy functions. It worked, but I never was very happy with it (if I decided to run a different course, I had to do some work on Jogmap to track my run) . I asked around what device I should get instead – a Nike watch or a Garmin.

Most friends recommended Nike, but I loved how the Garmin had so many more possibilities, even though I probably would never use them (and most of them I didn’t). Until now I was very happy with my Garmin 405 (even though it needed to be replaced in September 2011 due to a battery issue), and I really love the function of Garmin Connect.

But then the problems with the battery started (again) earlier this year. The battery went down from 100 to 75% within hours after charging; the device turned off while I was running, even though it seemingly still had 40 % battery life etc. And how could I have used up all my battery cycles in such a short time? It’s not that I am charging my Garmin all the time…

I got my Nike Fuelband for cheaper due to a promotion. I don’t think I would have spent $150 for a device that pretty much can only do two things: Track my steps and show me the time. But if you own a Fuelband, it’s a great incentive to walk a little more, so you can reach your daily goal (mine is 4000, which I easily reach on workdays or on days when I am running). For people who need a little “push” to become active, the device is perfect. But a couple of weeks ago, I lost one row of LEDs.

I contacted both customer services.

Here’s what happened.

The customer service at Nike:

I sent Nike an email explaining my problem. I received an answer within less than 24 hours, stating that I should update my software. If this doesn’t solve the problem, I could exchange my Fuelband either online or at a Nike Store. I sent another e-mail and received another response quickly.

Today I went to Niketown in Manhattan, where a representative told me why I lost the LEDs: I needed to be more careful when taking the Fuelband off. Essentially I had broken a connection, but Nike exchanged the Fuelband anyhow (I think they know that users are not aware of the problem, so they rather make customers happy than start an argument). Two minutes later I was done with the exchange – they didn’t even want my receipt or the original box.

This is what happened at Garmin:

24 hours after I sent an e-mail to Garmin, I received a response from Debbie, a customer service representative.  She told me that I should update the software and reset the device (done and done, no changes). Otherwise I could pay $89 to receive a Forerunner 410 as a replacement.

I was confused:  I should pay 40 % of the original purchase price because of a battery issue? With my old Polar watch I could go to a regular place that sell watches and buy a new battery for $15, but the battery in a Garmin 405 can not be replaced (please note: I didn’t expect to get the battery replaced for free).

I told Debbie that I found the response rather disappointing, and I also mentioned that I already had battery issues once before. That didn’t change anything: Her responses got snippier and snippier, the last e-mail I received only included a link to Garmin’s warranty (I never responded, but I was tempted to send her the link to my Amazon review). Admittedly, Garmin also called me (I assume because I CC:ed the CEO once), but I never had the time to call back.

Anyway: The only solution is – I either keep my watch until the battery is completely done, or I accept Garmin’s replacement policy and pay the $89. For now I keep my watch, but I have to charge it pretty much before every long run now. But I also don’t want to buy a new watch every few years…

Not a big surprise: A few days after my initial interaction with Nike, I received a survey through Medallia asking me how satisfied I was. Garmin? They never cared…

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