2 Customer Service Stories: Create opportunities for your brand from mistakes & complaints

These days, customer service is as much a part of your brand as your logo.

Ask yourself this:

  • How easy do we make it for customers to re-purchase?
  • How can we transform customer service complaints into resale opportunities?
  • How can we craft loyalty from mistakes we’ve made?

Brand Strategy

Falling under the category of Culture, the way you communicate with customers and clients both online and offline makes all the difference in whether or not they choose to do business with you in the future.

Recently, a couple opportunities arose for businesses to indicate their desire to continue our relationship. How do you think they did?

Vichy: The order that wasn’t

I had to shop makeup brands after what I’d been using started irritating my skin. Having done voluminous research on sensitive skin–friendly products, I settled on testing out Vichy Skin Care. I had never ordered from them before.

I visited their website and was up-sold—not only did I purchase the foundation, but also the Setting Powder, bringing my order up from $30 to $51. I had some events coming up, so I also paid the $15 for 2-day shipping.

The order confirmation came through to my email, and then was followed up by a couple more emails, the last of which gave me the tracking number.

Since I live in an apartment building without a doorman, I wanted to be sure I knew when it would arrive, so I checked in on UPS.com periodically.

At first, the package appeared to be sitting. Normal.

The next day, the package still hadn’t moved, and my doubt crept—no way this stuff gets here in 2 days.

A day later, I got an email from Vichy saying that they were processing my return. My what now?

I headed back over to UPS.com and saw that it still hadn’t moved. So I figure this: Someone labeled the package with the return label instead of the shipping label. Hey, mistakes happen. Maybe they’ll realize it when it comes in and correct the error.

They refunded my card—less the shipping, of course—so I called them.

The woman I spoke with couldn’t have been sweeter, and was more than happy to refund my card for the $15 shipping. She didn’t apologize for the oversight, not that I needed it, but just carried out the due-diligence of handling my request efficiently.

I played along, chuckling internally to myself. Why wasn’t she asking me if I wanted to re-place the order? She has me right here. I’m not demanding or perturbed. I’m primed for purchase because clearly I still need the products.

But nope. She gave me a confirmation number and sent me on my way.

Moral of the story? Train your staff to see opportunity in every interaction. Even a mistake or a complaint can result in a sale, a chance to surpass expectations, and a lifelong customer.

I didn’t reorder the products for one very simple reason: I’m lazy. Most customers are.

If I decide to reorder, I’ll go to a third-party website, to whom Vichy probably has to pay out a percentage of every product sold.

Horizon: That really bugs

First off: The photo that accompanies this story is a freakout, and I apologize.

I’m about to sit down to eat my tuna fish sandwich, and I decide to pour myself a glass of milk. I’m big on organic milk. Who wouldn’t be? It lasts longer. It tastes better.

I purchase Horizon milk, as it’s the only organic milk my store has available. Horizon has cornered the market, in other words, at a busy neighborhood Rite Aid.

I pour out a small glass, and this little fella swirls to the top.

Now, I know you might be thinking: “Maybe he was already in the glass.” That I know for sure not to be the case. I had just taken that glass from upside-down in the dish drainer, and this little fella had been dead some time.

I was reviled.

There was more than a little shuddering and heebie-jeebie pacing around the kitchen, trying to get the image out of my head.

What made it worse? I was halfway through that carton of milk.

But I couldn’t escape it. I took a photo and vowed to report the incident to their customer service department to see how they would respond.

I’m also not an asshole—I didn’t immediately take to social media and blast Horizon for what can best be described as disgusting, maybe even poor quality control.

But I understand that this stuff happens, truly I do. I grew up in the country, near farms, and I get it.

So I emailed them via their website and waited for a response.

I couldn’t send the photo, but someone did eventually reach out and request the “evidence” so they could share it with their quality team. They also said I should call their customer service line so they could gather more information.

Chuckling to myself once again, I sent over the picture. I did not call. Calling a customer service department would be inconvenient for me.

A week later (must’ve been some investigation), they offered to send coupons, I sent over my address, and they arrived about a week later.

What more could they have done? Maybe nothing. Sending coupons for products I need a mental break from doesn’t really do much to build my customer loyalty to the brand, but it seems to be the go-to in the food service industry.

(I once found a tick in my Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese, and their response was much the same. How does this happen twice to one bug-averse person?)

Distinguishing your customer service from that of other brands—going beyond what any other business in your industry would do—will win customers back to you, even if you do screw up. Maybe not immediately, but in a shorter span of time.

Again, I now have to go out of my way—outside my local store—to buy someone else’s organic milk. I still have a need, but I have a feeling that those coupons will expire before I buy Horizon products again.

Take every opportunity to build a brand on all levels, train your staff to think proactively about perception and response, and you separate yourself from your competitors in a big way.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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