This summer I committed a murder. It was an execution long overdue, and when it was over I felt more satisfied than the Duke contemplating his last duchess. Like the Duke, I gave commands ... and all smiles ceased. (If you don't get this, scroll to the bottom).
The murder in question was killing off Jill, the American female voice that came with my GPS. Her coy, psuedo-sexy smirk when she said "arriving at destination" reminded me of David Sedaris doing Crumpet the Elf in his "Santaland Diaries." I replaced the smarmy bitch with a British male named Daniel, whom I promptly renamed Miles. Miles isn't coy ... he's direct, sure of himself (even when dead-ass wrong) and altogether easier on the nerves.
Miles's certainty and authoritative tone were welcome ... but didn't solve the real problem with the GPS. During last summer's trip to Alaska, I found my Garmin Nuvi 660 increasingly unreliable. The further away from the lower 48, the worse it got. The Nuvi was so wrong regarding database information that it couldn't find the Post Office in Seward Alaska, couldn't find a gas station within 150 miles while I was looking at one. So wrong that relying on it was plain dangerous.
I think part of the problem was inaccurate mapping and POI (Points of Interest) data, and part was positioning problems .... but I would consistently get accuracy readings of under 12 feet, with umpteen birds in view ... while giving me a position miles from my actual location.
That sounds like no big deal, but when you're talking truly isolated places, where missing a turn is not a good idea, and where it can be 250 miles of more to the next gas station (which doesn't look like one, just a big white tank and a scruffy cafe), you really do need to know where you are and what your resources are going to be.
So when my Nuvi finally stopped speaking altogether two weeks ago, I called Garmin. After 3 tries (getting disconncted while on hold is most annoying), I got through to someone and they sent a replacement. It arrived defective. I'm still waiting for the next one.
Compare that with Navteq. Nav who? Navteq is the firm that supplies POI data and maps to Garmin and other GPS makers. Garmin told me this when they were trying to say it wasn't their fault that their instrument was physically unreliable and data-base challenged.
Navteq had no direct phone number listed on the web, but I got through to them by the simple expedient of sending Navteq's PR firm an Mp3 file in which Miles is going around in circles while I was driving a straight line. My note asked if I could speak to someone there BEFORE I posted this file.
Now comes the good part, and it really is a good part. 24 hours later I received a call from Cory Hos, who is product manager for Navteq's map reporter, global product management division. Cory not only listened, he wanted all the data I could send him. Luckily, I had pretty complete tracking every step of the way and could give him what he needed. Cory is eager to get his "driving teams" out to the field to upgrade their maps' accuracy and POI data base.
Obviously, I'd have preferred more accuracy in the first place. But Navteq's "let's get on this and make it right" attitude is refreshing. They're not letting the grass grow while committees hem and haw. They're ON it. Like now. And most important, I feel really, truly listened to, not blown off as a crank.
Garmin's people are very nice to deal with, once you get through to a human in the right department. But their product quality isn't up to snuff (not the first Garmin GPS I've had problems with), and the maps are, by their own admission "a little behind." They don't take ownership the way Navteq has.
Customer service isn't about being perfect. Customer service is about making things right, not just the immediate problem, but the root cause. And it is totally about listening to the customer. This is what Navteq is making every effort to do. I salute them.
Browning's dramatic monologue "My Last Duchess" is wonderful read-aloud stuff. Try it yourself, and see.