Customer service Management Retail

Righting a wrong: How business owners show they give a rip.

Recently, iStockphoto had a bit of a row after trying a somewhat misguided method of trying to deal with global currencies. The details of the iStockphoto pricing snafu are covered at, but the point of the whole thing is what the owner (or the business) does when confronted with a wrong, or at least the perception of one.

Whether it the customer truly has been wronged or not doesn’t matter. How you handle the wrong is what really makes the difference.

In iStockphoto’s case, they not only refunded the difference from what some customers perceive as double charges, but they also let the commissions on the original charges stand as paid. Sometimes mistakes cost money. In the short term, this one certainly did, but in the long term, it’ll pay dividends.

Earlier today, a customer of my wife’s online business emailed noting that one of the tins he received wasn’t as full as the others. After explaining that the others were actually overfilled and that normal filling to meet the net weight on the label is not “full to the brim”, I told him I’d be sure he received a second tin in the mail just to be on the safe side.

You see, it’s our fault that the customer’s expectations weren’t set properly, not the customer’s. It doesn’t matter whether the tin was right or not. What matters is how it was handled. If I did nothing but explain the issue away, and even if the customer weighed the tin and found it correct, the customer would be happy and nothing would be said about it.

However, sending the customer another tin just because will not only reassure him that he will be treated right in the future, but it will also get repeated to the customer’s friends. And it’ll motivate folks on this end of things to make sure that expectations (“settling may occur” and similar verbage) are properly set so that a second tin doesn’t have to go out every time.

What’s the most memorable problem resolution you can recall by a company, either as a customer, as the vendor who put it in place, or as an uninvolved bystander?

3 replies on “Righting a wrong: How business owners show they give a rip.”

Problem is: a customer in a subway branch wanted extra cheese, told the server that he ALWAYS got extra cheese FREE, and made a real scene… It’s wise to exceed customers expectations, but some customers exceed even reasonably generous limits, no?



Giving a customer more than they expect is not the same as giving in to every demand they make, regardless of how reasonable (or unreasonable) it is, much less how they presented their demand.

In the case of Subway, I’ve seen a lack of consistency from store to store (much less server to server in the same store) regarding cheese portions, so it isnt out of the question that the customer’s expectation was setup by another Subway store, or even another server.

That aside, if the exchange got to the point where the customer had to make a scene, then it sounds to me like the server wasnt properly trained in the first place. Well-trained restaurant staff handle that sort of thing all the time, and can do so with most people without causing problems.

Certainly there will be a small percentage of customers who are looking to push the envelope, or see how they can abuse a server, if nothing else, just to see what they can get away with. Again, properly trained staff and management will know how to deal with these things, and if necessary, let the abusive person know that they can no longer be a customer.

One last consideration, if Mr. Extra Cheese is a regular, weekly customer, what’s he worth to you – assuming you can convince him to stop making a scene? 52 weekly visits times $5 per visit = $260 per year, if he never brings a friend or co-worker.

If he continues to be rude after being properly addressed by the staff, then I’d likely fire him as a customer. It wouldnt be the first time.

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