You know I’ve written about the connection between transparency and social media in the past. Invariably, when I mention transparency, someone asks about handling those situations that go wrong. And, my reply is always the same – even the best companies hit speed bumps. It’s how you deal with them that defines you to your customers. To give an example, let me share my all-time favorite customer service story.
One day I’m waiting for an appointment, thumbing through the latest issue of Oprah Magazine. As I scan Oprah’s must-have fashion items for Spring, I see a really cute straw tote with red patent leather trim. It’s made by Liz & Co. exclusively for J.C. Penney. Price $50.
Being a handbag collector (Mr. Bartender calls it a fetish)…I had to have it. So I started searching online without any luck. Next, I contacted JCPenny online and asked where I could find it. Their reply: only in stores.
(I know you can see where this is going.) And, you might be saying, “It’s a handbag, give it up.” But I was determined, so I dragged Mr. B to the mall to help me look for this bag. (He’s a saint.) At the store, we walked around for a long time and couldn’t find the bag anywhere. I spoke to a sales clerk, department manager and then the store manager. None of them knew about the bag, Oprah Magazine, or the ad.
I came home frustrated. Then I saw the news headline saying that JCPenney was reporting decreased sales for the quarter. Well, that did it. Here I am unable to spend my money at their store and they’re telling the world consumer spending is down. So I went on Hoovers, looked up the contact info for the exec’s of both JCPenney and Liz Claiborne and fired off a few of letters . . never expecting to hear a word (but I felt better).
About a week later on a Sunday night, my phone rings. You can imagine my surprise when the gentleman on the other end said, “I’m the president of JCPenney and I just read your letter.” I’m like, “you’ve got to be kidding.” So he tells me that he’s going to have someone “look into it.” I say thanks and hang up the phone figuring I’ll never hear another word.
Meanwhile, I get an email from someone at Liz Claiborne. They tell me they’re trying to find the bag at a store and will send me one (at no charge) as soon as they find it. I reply with thanks…again, not holding my breath.
Liz Claiborne’s offices send me a second note – they can’t find the bag at any store…so they’re having the factory in China make me one. At this point, I’m thinking Ashton Kutcher must have started a non-celebrity version of Punk’d because there is just no way…
About a week later, I get the red tote from Liz Claiborne. It’s just as nice as what was pictured in the magazine.
Couple days later, I get a second tote. This one was from JCPenney and it includes a matching red patent leather wallet. (Obviously, they understand that women with handbag obsessions like matching wallets.)
And, a couple days after that…I got (you guessed it) a third bag.
After laughing hysterically, I packaged up two of the totes (yep, I kept the matching wallet) and sent them back with a letter explaining that the tote was really beautiful but I didn’t need three of them. And, I received the nicest letter (PDF) from the Chairman of JCPenney.
The reason I enjoy telling this story is because here’s a fabulous example of recovering from a customer complaint. Every organization will have a bad day. It’s how companies deal with it that sets them apart.
While this story didn’t play out on Facebook or Twitter, it easily could have. Good customer service is more than just delivering things right the first time. It’s fixing them when something goes wrong. Done right, not only do you keep the customer…but you have them singing your praises. This little story about my red purse is one JCPenney and Liz Claiborne should be proud of.
How does this relate to transparency? Well, don’t let a fear of something going kablooey hold you back. When you make a mistake – admit it and fix it. Then, what do you have to worry about?0