Black Box Catalog, 1997-1998

How long should you wait for technical support?” asks Black Box on its back cover. This question strikes a nerve, as anyone familiar with manufacturers’ support lines can attest. “At Black Box, we think 20 seconds is long enough,” the copy continues. As one judge raves, “This tech services support is beyond compare.” And the rest of Black Box’s customer service is no less astonishing. The company boasts of increasing its order staff 50%, enabling customers to order until midnight Eastern time on weekdays and during business hours on Saturdays. And regardless of which delivery option customers select, Black Box promises same-day shipping on all orders placed before midnight.

Black Box also offers customers free faxback product information on more than 1,000 of its 7,000-plus SKUs and faxback technology overviews to guide purchasing decisions 24 hours a day. What’s more, the company’s product evaluation program lets buyers try items before making a purchase. And Black Box stands behind all purchases with a warranty of at least one year, extending the warranty on most of its own branded products indefinitely, and offers free price quotes, a 45-day return policy, and a one-week repair guarantee for warranty items.

Beyond exemplary service, Black Box sells a staggering array of products. Its 660 pages of densely packed merchandise offer a daunting challenge to the reader looking for a specific item, causing one judge to comment that “some of these layouts are beastly-too cluttered to find anything.” But color-coded tabs and sections, 17 pages of indices (with new products highlighted in pink), and a two-page table of contents help tame the beast.

Black Box never fails to stress benefits in its catalog copy. Often phrased in question-and-answer formats, sidebars offer suggestions in a personal and friendly voice. “We’re adding more servers to our network. It’s expensive and inconvenient to provide a monitor and a keyboard for each server,” begins one hypothetical Q&A sidebar. Black Box’s solution is its ServSwitch: “Plug up to 16 computers into it and control all of them from a single keyboard.” The sidebar then directs the reader to the page on which ServSwitches are displayed with diagrams, cost comparisons, and expanded benefit discussions.

Black Box consistently explains its products in general terms, then in more detail, and finally in highly technical terms that give network professionals enough information to make a buying decision. But the human element is always there, promising advice and additional information 24 hours a day.

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