Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth is in Customer Service

About ten years ago, two weeks before Valentine’s Day, a female customer, whom we will call Sue, stopped into the store to buy a bike for her husband. Because she had gone all out to get the very best bike she could for her husband, she needed to pay us in increments. So, she put a deposit on the bike until she could save up the remaining $200 to pay it off. Wanting to surprise her husband on Valentine’s Day, Sue asked Greg, a Zane’s employee, if he could put the bike in the display window that evening after she had decorated the bike with some ribbon, balloons, and a sign she made that read, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Bob.” Greg, of course, said he was happy to help her pull off the surprise and that he would put the bike in the front window.

Sue planned to bring Bob by the store, along with a few co-workers who were in on the surprise, prior to their romantic dinner. She had been dropping hints along the way and couldn’t wait to see the expression on Bob’s face. Everything was in place, except that Greg had forgotten to put the bike in the display before heading out that day.

We arrived the next morning to an irate message from Sue. Realizing how serious a mistake we’d made, we knew we needed to go above and beyond the call to duty to turn this disaster into a positive experience for the local couple. We waved the remaining balance owed on the bike, tried to re-create a romantic evening at the best Italian restaurant in the area with no spending limit and we called up a gourmet coffee shop down the road to have an elaborate lunch delivered to Sue and her co-workers who had come out to see Bob’s excited expression the night before.

Obviously more concerned with rectifying our mistake than the budget to do so, we spent about $400 to correct our error and maintaining the integrity of our lifetime customer culture. Plus, considering that Sue and Bob could be worth $25,000 to Zane’s Cycles, it was well worth the investment, particularly because I don’t think Sue expected as much as we gave her. We provided more than she thought was reasonable, and as a result, we turned a terrible mistake into a positive experience for Sue, Bob and all of Sue’s co-workers.

The best part of the story, though, is that Greg—the employee who forgot to put the bike in the display—sent me an envelope in the mail with a $400 check enclosed to reimburse us for the cost of rebuilding the customer relationship and a letter apologizing for jeopardizing a prospective lifetime customer. Of course, I never cashed Greg’s check. I have it framed with the letter above my desk as a reminder that although we lost a few hundred dollars that day, it was worth every cent in two culture-reinforcing ways. We managed to save our relationship with the customer, and we had the great thrill of witnessing our employees take our principles to heart. To me, that was priceless.

Source: Reinventing the Wheel: Creating Lifetime Customers by Chris Zane | ChangeThis

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