Blog post

The Birthday Gift and a Missed Opportunity

11 September 2018

After racking my brain about the best birthday gift for my husband, I placed orders for travel clothing from two competing companies. I chose expedited shipping to assure the items would be received before his birthday.

The order from Company A arrived according to plan. The order from Company B was like a customer service train wreck.

While Company B sent an order confirmation stating all items were available, several days later they sent a separate communique that two of the items had shipped, and the other three items were on backorder. When the package appeared to be missing in action, I checked the tracking status and learned the expected delivery would be two days AFTER my husband’s birthday.  

Upon calling the company to inquire about the problem, the Customer Service Representative acknowledged the catalogue’s expedited shipping verbiage was a “misrepresentation”. She shared she had encouraged the “catalogue people” on multiple occasions to change the language, but they had not done so.

The saga continues….

The day following my husband’s birthday, I received yet another notice that one of the items would not arrive for another week.

And the story gets even better….

When I called a second time to talk with Customer Service, I learned that one of the remaining items was no longer available and another was on backorder for two months!

While Company B refunded the expedited shipping charge, it was at this point I decided to conduct a little test. I thanked the Customer Service Representative for her assistance and shared I knew she was trying to help with a problem she did not create.  

I decided to push a bit more…

I shared I had also ordered birthday items from their competitor and all their items had arrived on time as promised. I expressed my experience with other companies that, when falling short of expectations for any reason, would take action to “make it right”.   

The Customer Service Representative put me on hold to confer with her supervisor. She quickly returned and shared there was nothing else they could do.

And so I thanked her kindly for trying, I sincerely wished her a great weekend, and I concluded by politely stating that we would not order from them again.

Company B missed its moment in the sun as the culture of the company obviously does not view problems as opportunities to serve. And as a result, they lost a customer.

Within the book How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Peter LeBoeuf shares that when you respond promptly and proactively to customers who complain, they are highly likely to be even more loyal than if the problem had not occurred.

I have certainly found this approach to be true. The power of a prompt and sincere apology for disappointment incurred coupled with a commitment to improve have been very effective in customer retention and in reducing organizational risk exposure.

Company B could have taken some easy steps to “make it right”. They didn’t express remorse for creating disappointment on my husband’s special day. I suspect we are not the only customers experiencing disappointment from their poor service as they overpromise and underdeliver.

As a leader, what will you do to assure that disappointed customers receive prompt and sincere care, attention and resolution? Just remember that problems actually are opportunities to serve, and disappointed customers present a huge opportunity to be transformed into loyal patrons.

And oh, by the way, we’re still waiting on that final item to arrive from Company B!

For more information, please see the chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders See Problems as Opportunities” within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.


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