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Don’t make your issue the customer’s problem

Friday, 9 September 2011

I use the USPO to pick up items people buy from my on-line store. It’s a simple process: I push a few buttons, and the package is scheduled to be picked up at my front door in about 3 minutes or less.

Yesterday, I left the office and noticed a mailer sitting there: it was to have been picked up the day before. I had to go in that direction anyway, so stopped at the post office to ask the manager if there was going to be an ongoing problem.

Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hi. I have a question. You folks have been picking up mail at my door for quite some time now. It’s a really efficient process, and I appreciate it. But yesterday you never got there. Was there a problem? And do I need to adjust for changes?
P.O. Manager: Sorry about that. Yesterday there was a big turnover when folks retired.
SDM: What? I don’t understand what that means to me.
POM: That means some of the new guys don’t know the customers.
SDM: What, exactly, does that have to do with me? I scheduled the pick up.
POM: People are allowed to retire, you know.
SDM: What?????
POM: Retire? People retire! Don’t you get it? The new folks didn’t know what they were supposed to do.
SDM: But I filled out the form online, scheduled the pickup and here is my confirmation.
POM: I know, but maybe they didn’t know. They were new. You’ve got to make some allowances for new people. It’s not their fault.

That was a real conversation.

How often do we have internal problems and not take the responsibility of making it right for our customers? You make promises to your clients. Regardless of your issues on the back end, they are promises. Keep them. And your clients won’t mind when you make a mistake; they will mind when you don’t communicate.

PS: The same problem happened today (one week later) and a package was at my door for days. I went in to the PO, met with the same woman, and her response was totally, totally changed.

POM: Hi. Oh. You’re back! I’m SO sorry you continue having this problem! This isn’t right! You’re one of our good customers. There must be a glitch in the system! Let me fix that for you! Give me your details and I’ll look up on our system what the problem might be, and I’ll call you to let you know what happened and how we’re fixing it for you. And here is my cell number in case there is a next time. That way you can track me down and I’ll take care of it from my end. We’ll get this fixed! I’m SO sorry! And thanks for your patience!

Obviously the woman had had a customer service course in the last week :)  Good for her.


To learn how to create the sort of dialogue that supports your client interactions, take a look at Dirty Little Secrets. It’s more about the collaborative communication than being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

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