Leadership on Point

The Death of Customer Service?

November 2, 2010 Meghan Vincent

Someone once told me, it’s not about not making mistakes … everyone makes mistakes. It’s how you respond to those mistakes that matter.

While this is true in all facets of life, it is especially relevant in business. It is unrealistic to assume that you will never make a mistake or be forced to face a disappointed consumer (or client). Something unexpected will happen – will go wrong – and it is up to you, as a business leader, to respond. If done quickly and appropriately, you can do more than simply salvage your company’s reputation. You could actually improve it immensely.

Anecdote time. I recently placed an order through Linens-N-Things’ website (once a brick-and-mortar store, it is now solely online). I checked the “order status” page of their website daily, waiting for my status to change from ‘pending’ to ‘shipped’. After a little over two weeks of no change and no communication from the company, I decided to contact customer service myself. I was informed, two days after my initial inquiry, that my order had been canceled because the phone number associated with my credit card was different than the phone number listed for the delivery address. At no point during the previous two weeks had I received a phone call (at either number) to confirm the order nor had I received an email/updated status on my order page to alert me to any existing problems. When I emailed customer service (again) to express my disappointment I was told simply, “sorry for the inconvenience”.

LNT’s clear disregard for the customer experience is a perfect example of how not to respond to a mistake. Alerting me to the situation or offering compensation for the inconvenience (free upgraded shipping, anyone??) is a small gesture that goes a long way to the consumer. I know this experience has certainly made the decision for me as to whether I will ever shop there again.

The moral of this story? The customer (or client) is your greatest advocate. Do right by them and you will reap the rewards … treat them as expendable and you will pay the price. After all, no matter how great your product or service, it is worthless if no one is willing to pay for it.


Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent.  Meghan can be reached at mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com