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How To Handle A Customer Problem

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sidetour-logo-color-1-300x135 It’s an eventuality – at some point, a customer will have a problem or issue with your product or service. Some industries are set up for live, experiential disappointments, like the one I had recently. I wanted to treat my girlfriend to a fun, unique adventure in New York and SideTour looked like the perfect place to find just that. Immediately after booking a behind-the-scenes recording studio tour and band meet-and-greet, I received an email from the company’s Community Manager. He introduced himself, thanked me for joining, and told me how much fun I was going to have. He also noted that there was a minimum amount of people that needed to accept in order for the tour to go on (similar to Groupon, I suppose), so if I knew anyone interested I should share the info. He did it very “soft sell” like. Regardless of whether it was true, it worked – I sent emails and posted the deal to Facebook. I also received a “thanks for joining, let me know if you have any questions” email from the CEO. Though I’m sure it was stock and automated, I still appreciated it. Then it all went wrong…

It was meant to be a surprise for my girlfriend, so I kept her in the dark the entire time (including some good ol’ fashioned teasing). We arrived and met the other couple that was taking part in the tour. We all stood in the lobby waiting to meet our tour guide, Roget, just like the instructions in our SideTour email said. The email even had a picture of him, so we were sure to spot him. Five minutes go by. Ten minutes go by. “Ah, crazy music people, he’s probably dealing with some concert tour crap!” Then 15 minutes. We email him. Then tweet @SideTour. Nothing. After a half an hour, we changed dinner plans and left, me feeling very bad that I couldn’t deliver this special surprise.

This morning I awoke to an email from the Community Manager again. He saw my tweet around 1am and wanted to know what had happened. I explained it to him and a few hours later, I received a follow up message. Now, in those waiting hours I was explaining to my girlfriend that this was the “moment of truth” for a brand. “Everybody makes mistakes, even companies. And as humans, we are pretty forgiving – generally speaking – and empathetic. But where most brands get into trouble is when they screw up in their follow-up to the screw up.”

SideTour did no such thing. The Community Manager apologized, explained that the tour guide had mixed up the times, but did not offer that as a viable excuse. He alerted me that my credit card had already been refunded, the tour guide wanted to give us a make-good free tour, and we were given a monetary credit with SideTour. And with that, I was a satisfied customer that will try the service out again.

It’s not about the money and the make-goods. It’s about the response time, the honesty, the acceptance of wrongdoing, and the willingness to make things right (be that money or otherwise).


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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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