Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Unintended consequences

Did you mean that the way it sounded?

Thursday was quite a day! It started with an email from an author I know. This is, word-for-word, the contents of his message, which was accompanied by the image referenced:

In a random search I came across this photo of a black man with my name and your web site. Any idea who this is and why he has my name?

To which I replied:

He is a longtime client, but I have no idea what you mean about him having your name. And what does his being black have to do with anything????

And I’m really not certain what the question-asker meant, making the answer a bit difficult to get to. He mentions a “random search.” So he Googled himself and my client’s image came up when he searched for his name? Why? I’m not sure. They’re both authors I know. Maybe I mentioned each of them in this very blog. Or perhaps both authors had books at an event I hosted. Could be any of a few reasons.


None of this, however, gets to the question in my response. Was there a racial aspect to this message? Perhaps not. Maybe the racial undertone was inadvertent, careless … unintended. But it was difficult for me to construe it any other way, especially given that I received no further comment from the question-asker.

An expensive $2 lesson

Midday found me at the local office supply store, waiting in line to purchase a printer cartridge. And waiting. And waiting. It’s not my way to stand on top of the person in front of me, so I had no idea why either of the two ongoing transactions seemed to be taking much, much, much longer than normal. Finally, one of the customers stalked away from the checkstand and came back, speaking loudly as he re-approached the clerk, “It’s a difference of two dollars!”

Seriously? I spent 17 minutes in line because the guy in front of me was making a case for saving $2? (Still no idea why the other simultaneous transaction took so long.) I got so aggravated at one point that I thought about leaving – but it would have taken me longer to go to another store and start over, so I stuck it out. Some might view those two dollars as important and worth fighting for, but I’d like to focus instead on the 17 minutes. If this guy earns more than $8 an hour, a very simple cost-benefit analysis proves that this is not a smart use of his time. I don’t know about you, but my time is worth way more than that. Not to mention that such an argument comes out of a poverty mindset and creates another unintended consequence. Focus on lack creates more lack.

money mindset

A few years ago, my very smart sister made one of the wisest declarations I’ve ever heard. She said she’d decided that unless it was $10 or more, no financial issue was worth the argument. Think about it: being overcharged, incorrect change, splitting the check. My sister views the energy spent arguing over trivial amounts (like $2) as just not worth the stress or irritation, relative to the reward. I try to keep that in mind when I find myself in similar situations – and I was sure reminded about it the other day while I waited.

What really great customer service looks like

Then I got home just in time to have UPS deliver a box I was expecting: banners for the Holiday Author Event, which esignstook place on Saturday. I signed for the banners and went inside to open the box. Uh-oh. These were definitely banners I had ordered from Esigns.com, but they were signs for my business, not my signs for the event. I’d ordered them from the same company – two weeks after I’d placed the original order for the event banners.

I headed over to the Esigns.com website and looked at my orders. Accckkk! My original order – the event banners – was en route back to the Esigns.com factory in Texas. So I picked up the phone. It turns out the error was with UPS. Evidently and for reasons unknown, someone from UPS had altered my address on the package, so it was undeliverable.

Understandably, the first offer from the Esigns rep was for them to re-send the package when it arrived back at their offices. However, this was Thursday and I needed the signs for Saturday. No time to wait for the original signs to be returned and re-sent. As soon as I told this to the rep, she said she needed to check on something and would call me right back.

Without any hesitation, Esigns stepped up to fix my problem – a problem they did not create – and reprinted my banners at their cost. The banners were delivered to my door about 18 hours later. So what was the first thing I did? Post this story on Facebook. And guess what! No fewer than 13 of my FB friends saw it. Several people shared the post. And Esigns likely picked up a few more customers. Not to mention that you’re hearing the same story now.

Perhaps this was not exactly an unintended consequence – more than likely, the pros at Esigns fully comprehend that the value of outstanding customer service far outweighs the cost of reprinting a couple of signs and paying for next-day delivery.

Every decision we make has consequences. Human nature seems to be set to default for the easy answer. I’d suggest that we take a page from William Penn:

If you think twice before you speak [or act] once,
you will speak [or act] twice the better for it.

Here’s to more intentional consequences!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.


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Overheard: Listening in on a barmaid’s conversation

So I’m having a little get-together on Friday night, a combined birthday/Cinco de Mayo celebration. That might mean a lot more to you if you lived in Phoenix (or other areas of the Southwest with large Mexican-American populations). I chose, of course, my favorite Irish pub (hey, I’m of Italian, Mexican, AND Irish descent) for the party.

The last few times I made reservations for events like this, I overbooked the restaurant by about double. This time, I went conservative, making the reservation for 12. This morning, the count was up to 21. So I called the restaurant back to change the number. The gal who answered was friendly enough, but immediately asked me if I could hold on. I guess there’s no hold button, though, as the next thing I heard was, “Hi, what can I get you, hon?”

“I’d like a Jameson, please,” came the quick reply.

Then came the upsell: “Would you like to make that a double for just $3 more?”

“Sure, that’ll work.”

Simple as that. If you’ve ever wondered why the guy at the Burgerland Express drive-through always asks if you want to giaganticize your order, there’s your answer. People say yes, when asked.

Then the bartender handed the phone over to a coworker so she could focus on fixing the gentleman’s drink. When I explained my situation, the guy told me they were pretty booked for Friday night so they had room for my larger party, but they would be at nearby tables instead of all together at one large table. Good enough for me. Latecomers will sit nearby.

So there are three primary lessons to take from this little phone call. One is an etiquette lesson; one is a marketing lesson; one is a customer service lesson.

ETIQUETTE: Watch what you say when you’ve got someone on hold without a hold button. In this instance, it was nothing offensive, but it could have been. And in that case, this would have been an entirely different post! Think about all the “hot mike” faux pas the media loves to report and you’ll get the idea.

MARKETING: Have at least a two levels for your offering, and when the customer orders the first one, ask if they’d be interested in the larger purchase. How can an author do this? For one thing, by bundling your books, workbooks, audiobooks, and eBooks.

“Buy one and get the second half-off.”

“Buy the book; get the workbook for $4.99.”

“Buy two books and get a free audiobook.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Put the customer first. The folks at the bar did this twice. Once, when the bartender handed me (the person on the phone) off so she could focus on the person standing in front of her. The face-to-face customer should always come first, in my book! The second time, when the guy offered me the nearby-table alternative in the positive. He didn’t say, “No, but…” He started with, “They’d have to be at nearby tables … but we can do it.”

Keep your eyes and ears open – you never know where the marketing lessons will come from!



We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.


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