Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Get Smart

It's odd to think that it has been over a year since I got my apartment - and almost two years since I made the decision and signed the papers for it. It took me quite a while to get some furniture in it, because I was picky. An artist friend came up with an idea for the interior, and putting together the correct set of furniture was nontrivial. It had to be comfortable, functional (there isn't enough space in my little studio for fanciful decoration), and above all, interesting. I've spent two decades in a Lasnamäe tower block, and I spend all day in a bland office, but I could control my environment with the apartment.

There was one bit of furniture that I was missing until yesterday. I had been using a ghetto arrangement of boxes and trays in its stead, because I just couldn't find anything worthwhile in my price range. With a bit of disposable income from a freelance job, I finally fixed that. So, since I've talked about customer service recently, I figure it's worth actually praising the companies that deliver remarkably good service.

The item of furniture itself was bought from ON24, one of many online furniture shops in Estonia. It is distinguished by a special marketing trick: if you register an account, you start accumulating a small credit - something like 25 EEK per month, and occasionally they have campaigns where you'll get a bigger chunk of credit as a one-time deal, for signing up to a newsletter or something. This credit can then be used for up to a quarter of the price of an item you're buying from the store. The point is that you sign up long before you actually start buying anything, and they get to send you targeted ads. They might sell emails to a spam list as well - I didn't check the T&Cs, and since I gave them my spam-catching email, I didn't particularly care either.

Anyway, they had the exact item I wanted. I got to save a very decent chunk of money thanks to the credit. The website said the item would be delivered within six weeks, which I more or less expected, since it was from a small Estonian manufacturer of designer furniture and it seemed logical that they would make these things to order. In the event, I got a call from them saying they got the item a month early, and could deliver it ASAP. Which was nice. Good work, ON24. Recommended.

My other recommendation is the delivery outfit, SmartPOST. These guys are setting up a country-wide network of drop boxes in malls and shopping centers. I'm guessing they are targeting e-commerce websites who are not being trusted with people's addresses, or intend to do discreet shipments. The idea is that the seller leaves a package in one of these postbox affairs, and sends you an access code by SMS. You come to the mall at your leisure, punch in the code, and the box containing your item opens up. The obvious gag here is that the service will be of particular convenience to drug dealers (you can even leave a mail-order package in the box and the customer will use his credit card to pay a set amount before the goods are released), but actually it does solve an important issue - that of delivery times.

Estonians love to shop online, that goes without saying. There are a number of home delivery services, and they are affordable enough. The problem is that they have the same business hours as anyone else. You can order your stuff to be delivered to your office, but there are any number of legitimate reasons why you might not want to do that; say, it's a bulky item that you do not want to be dragging home afterwards, or you've just ordered an inflatable dildo from eBay. Otherwise, you have to wait for the courier to call you, then rush home to pick up the package. I've done that many times, but I live in Tartu, and can get from work to home in five minutes. What if you live in Lasnamäe and work in Kopli?

Anyway, the post box network is not quite online yet, so in the meanwhile SmartPOST is acting as a regular delivery outfit. Except they're better than the competition, such as ELS or DPD. When my package arrived at their central sorting, I got an email with a link to a web form, where I could select from multiple days, and then choose whether I wanted the package in the morning, afternoon or evening. Or I could leave a plaintext message for them, explaining what time would be convenient for me. In the event I selected Monday evening, and was told the package would arrive at my home at 18:11 +- 30 minutes. Actually the courier was twenty minutes early, but waited for me to get there. And whatever the size of the package, SmartPOST will deliver it to your home - literally. Other delivery services I've used only included delivery to the front door, if you wanted help getting your couch or grand piano or whatever up the stairs you had to pay extra. These guys will, apropos of nothing, set the couch down in the room where you want to keep it.

I am not in any way affiliated with either of these companies, but they did provide remarkable customer service: good enough that I am remarking upon it. ON24: excellent response to customer inquiries (fast and to the point), and a genuinely useful customer loyalty program.

SmartPOST: rilly klevur, akshully.


Alan Mendelevich said...

Being picky how do you buy furniture online? I always wondered how do people buy clothes or furniture or some other stuff online. I understand that you can go to a local store, "feel" the thing and then go and buy it online only cheaper. Was this the case?

antyx said...

More or less. I've seen other items from this manufacturer in a store, and knew what the quality and materials were like; and I looked up the dimensions online to get a good idea. The web store was just far cheaper.

I've bought T-shirts online, but no clothes much more complicated than that...

Dasanjos said...

Estonia is full of great Ideas (like this one) that foreigners are not aware off just because of language barrier! Thanks for sharing, and making a dumb foreigner (me) a little more smart!

Peep said...

Thank you for the positive comment about our serveices. You don't need to be afraid, we don't sell our loyal customers e-mail addresses to spam lists :)

Best Regards
Peep Kuld
ON24, Smartpost


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