How customers are treated when something goes wrong

Customer service is about doing things right, but what happens when something goes wrong? Does the company just sweep it under the proverbial rug or can we realize what a great opportunity it can be to build customer loyalty and goodwill?

Just before Easter, I went shopping with my friend Erika to a trendy boutique on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. I purchased a designer skirt for a phenomenally discounted price; the rack stated no returns. I must add that the price of the skirt although discounted was still expensive. Yesterday I had planned  to wear it for the first time, except as I was zipping it up, the material caught in the zipper and there was no way, no matter how hard I tried, that the zipper was going to be freed without damaging the garment.

This morning I went  back to the Palm Beach store; I was anxious because I didn’t have the receipt, and the rack stated it was a final sale, but what a pleasant surprise that happened.  The sales clerk greeted me with a smile and when I showed her what had happened to the skirt, she graciously apologized and asked me if I wanted a refund on my credit card or would I like to find another skirt similar to the one I had purchased, and she would discount another one in the store to exactly the same price as the first skirt cost.

What a great opportunity the store had to go that extra mile and make a lasting impression on me. Of course, I am going to share my story with my colleagues and friends. Of course, I am going to be a return customer, and of course, I will be recommending the store.

And there was the solution to make lemonade out of lemons. Instead of worrying about the cost of returning the skirt to the manufacturer or the price to have it fixed, the emphasis was on the customer – me! The sales representative apologized, empathized, offered a refund, improved my bad experience to the point of neutralizing the inconvenience of me having to drive back to Palm Beach, and relieved the stress induced anticipation of this being a costly bad experience when buying off a “final” sale rack. And now, best of all, I have a new favorite place to shop!

photo credit: Luna The Moon Girl

2 Responses to “How customers are treated when something goes wrong”

  1. John Tschohl said:

    Apr 14, 10 at 2:59 pm

    Your story is a perfect example of one of the most important elements of a customer service culture: Service Recovery. Word-of-mouth is the most important tool that your company can have, and one of the best ways to generate great word-of-mouth referrals is by fixing mistakes. As you said, “Of course, I am going to be a return customer, and of course, I will be recommending the store.”

    No company is perfect, but the best and most successful companies know that, in order to gain repeat customers and excellent referrals, they have to strive to do things right the first time and go above and beyond when something goes wrong. Great post, Luna!

  2. Kathy Clark said:

    Apr 15, 10 at 10:04 am

    Great story and classic example of a good service recovery strategy. I’m not sure why some organizations have this figured out and some fail miserably but don’t we all, as customers just want what was expected from the purchase or service? It is so exciting to interact with businesses who “get” it. I’ll make a point of stopping at that boutique next time I’m in Palm beach!

    Thanks for sharing!