The Gold Mine Of Data In Customer Service

Last summer, a computer system at Whirlpool Corp. raised a warning flag: There was trouble brewing in a brand-new washing-machine model. It seemed that after just a few washloads, the machines were springing bad leaks. As soon as Whirlpool engineers determined the cause--a faulty hose clamp--manufacturing was immediately halted. More important, though, Whirlpool's computer helped identify each of the few hundred customers who had purchased the machines so that mechanics could be sent out to replace the offending part. "Imagine the property-damage liability if there had been a leak in a fifth-floor apartment," reflects Gary Lockwood, Whirlpool's director of consumer assistance.

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