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Credit: GRAPHIC BY DENISE BAKER

David Peterson was scheduled to fly to Greece, and he wasn’t looking forward to the seemingly endless hours in the air. So, to help pass the time more quickly, he purchased a portable DVD player from Crutchfield Electronics, an online electronics retailer based out of Charlottesville, Va.

But when it arrived, with only three days remaining before his trip, Peterson discovered a minor problem with the player, rendering it unwatchable.

Dreading being routed through some infuriatingly endless automated response system, Peterson was surprised — and relieved — when an actual person answered his call, and immediately offered a solution to the problem.

That is the standard of customer service he hopes to provide people calling his own office.

“I firmly believe in providing that same level of service,” says Peterson, owner of Watershape Consulting in San Diego. “Like when I called their 800 number and somebody actually picked up the phone. And with my business, I’ve made a conscious decision to not have a voicemail system here. When someone calls, I want someone to answer the phone, and if they’re looking for me and I’m not here, I want someone to be there to help to try to resolve that person’s question right then.”

Peterson has dealt with Crutchfield for many years, and has found the company’s customer service to be “phenomenal” every time.

So phenomenal, in fact, that even after his initial purchase of some small, forgettable electronics item 10 years ago, Peterson continues to look to Crutchfield first for his technology needs. When the first product he purchased from the company arrived, Peterson was impressed with the level of organization and thoroughness in the presentation of the literature that came with it.

“They had this nice packet with all the paperwork,” he says. “It even included return shipping labels just in case there was a problem, and I needed to send the item back. If that were the case, I wouldn’t even need to call them.”

As a result of his dealings with the company, Peterson plans to implement some new digital paperwork in hopes of emulating Crutchfield’s speed and efficiency.

“We’re starting to work on getting a PDF form, a questionnaire with fields for clients to fill out and just e-mail back to us. Having everything consolidated into one simple form is the goal. That idea kind of came from the Crutchfield concept, where they just had all of this great paperwork that was very well organized; we were kind of thinking this would be a similar thing.”

Peterson also was impressed with Crutchfield’s ability to provide simple innovations that come with minor costs to the company but high value to customers. For example, the firm provides a sheet of labels included in its shipments to help keep the cluttered nest of wires behind an entertainment center somewhat organized.

And even though he can’t give his customers a sheet of labels, Peterson still tries to provide those little things that make their experience with his company extraordinary, such as showing them 3D models of projects to help them envision the waterscape of their dreams, or simply treating customers with the familiarity of a valued family member whenever they call the office.

“For our company, we try to do a couple of things,” he says. “One is that internally, we try to promote a real family kind of atmosphere within in the office itself. Most importantly, we just want to provide that great service.”