Great Service Turns Problems into Opportunities

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
What differentiates great brands from their competition is how they recover from customer service problems.

Customers expect great service all the time but great customer service shines through mainly when something goes wrong. And despite their best attempts, organizations will face circumstances when their customers are unhappy with their experience. The trick, and what differentiates great brands from the rest, is how they recover from these roadblocks. I recently purchased a highly discounted cardigan from one of my favorite companies, the flash sales site Ideeli. When the item arrived, I noticed that the belt that was supposed to be included was missing. I quickly emailed the organization to explain what happened and ask whether they could send me the missing belt.

The first indication that Ideeli takes customer service seriously came when I received a reply to my email within two hours--even though I had contacted the company very early in the morning. The customer service representative apologized and explained that while they couldn't replace the cardigan since it was no longer in stock, the company would happily take it back. Here, I have to point out that this particular item was final sale, and I was aware before I bought it that it was not returnable, so the company's offer to take it back was appreciated.

But Ideeli didn't stop there. Instead, the customer service rep added: "Just let us know what you'd like us to do, and we'll happily be of service." To me, this comment clearly shows that the company is willing to work with customers to make sure they walk away from their interaction satisfied. I answered back, saying that I wanted to keep the cardigan, and perhaps they could send me another belt, to which I also received an almost instant reply offering me a $10 credit. Considering that I had paid $25 plus shipping for an item that was originally priced six times as much, this was a very generous compromise. Within minutes of agreeing, my account had been credited.

But the issue goes beyond the credit. It's all about Ideeli's effort to understand what their customers want and making an effort to make things right. The company understood that I was not happy with my latest purchase and made an effort to fix the problem in a way that was acceptable by both parties. What struck me was the unscripted way the company engaged in a conversation that revolved around me, the consumer.

In the end, this was a win for both me and Ideeli. I bought an item of clothing for a bigger discount than I originally thought and have been given credit that I can put towards a replacement belt. Ideeli not only retained a loyal customer, but has won an advocate who will recommend the company not only for its great deals, but also for its customer service.

What this incident shows is that a potentially negative experience isn't necessarily disastrous for organizations. Instead, if dealt with properly, problems can be turned into opportunities to create loyal customers.