The Customer is Always Right!

I recently had a horrendous experience with an international florist.  As a single mum of a beloved only daughter, turning 21 and thousands of miles from home, I desperately wanted to surprise her on the morning of her birthday since I couldn’t be with her.  I did my research and opted for what seemed to be the perfect company (“100% satisfaction guaranteed”) and selected a beautiful bouquet of red roses, a special gift and a birthday balloon for delivery the next morning (they even offered same day delivery).

Now I’m not given to being overly emotional (at least, not since I trained to do what I do!), but I spent the entire day of her birthday in floods of tears.  By the time I woke in the UK, it was already late afternoon in Hong Kong, and there had been no sign of a delivery.  To make matters worse, when I contacted the company they informed me that they couldn’t deliver until they had made contact with my daughter as the delivery address was university accommodation and from past experience they had found receptionists unwilling to take in flowers unless the student was on the premises.  They claimed to have attempted contact with her several times, but she wasn’t accepting her calls.

To cut a long story short my daughter received only one missed call.  By this time I’d had to tell her about the planned delivery and the surprise was completely ruined.  And we still don’t know for sure whether the missed call was even from the florist as every time she tried to call that number back there was no response – and despite several requests from me for them to provide us with a number for her to call, they did not.  Suffice to say that I got a full refund through PayPal’s dispute resolution centre.  Am I satisfied? Absolutely not.  When a refund is given, the PayPal case is automatically closed, and so the florist had the last word in the process.  They insisted it was my daughter who was at fault for ‘not accepting’ their allegedly many calls!  And compensation for the sheer anguish I suffered was, they said, out of the question.

Nothing can make up for my utter distress as a mum at ‘my’ inability to get a simple bunch of flowers to my only daughter on her 21st Birthday.  I will never, ever use that company again. I will tell everybody I know about their poor service and how simply dreadful they made me feel – indeed here I am writing about it.   Now it is a well known fact that ‘the costs of gaining a customer can be five, ten, a hundred or a thousand times greater than retaining a customer.  All that many customers require is not to be upset’ (source: Businessballs.com).

Customers will quickly spread the word about poor service from a company that let them down, but are slower to praise good service – unless you truly bend over backwards to put things right.  In fact, something going wrong can lead to even greater customer retention if you handle it well.

As a business it is essential to step into the shoes of your customer and understand what they truly want.  Your product or service is not what they are buying – they are buying a solution to their problem, their pain or that gap in their life.  If something goes wrong, remember, all they require is not to be upset.  In fact, if you are targeting the right sort of customer for your business, going above and beyond the call of duty, feeling their pain and putting it right – no matter what it takes – will do far more for your business than if nothing had gone wrong in the first place.

My daughter won’t have another 21st birthday.  But the florist could have made me feel better and brightened her day in a whole host of other ways.  When things don’t do according to plan in your business, what can you offer your customers as an incentive to stay?