|In stock Tuesday|
That failure looked like this. Someone sitting in their living room last Sunday afternoon used my stolen business credit card number to buy airline tickets at an online travel site. The $1,300 sale instantly set off alarms at the credit card company. They texted me alarm. I texted back my denial. The sale was declined and a few minutes later, the card canceled, another card promised in a few days. This happens about once a year, but that's another story about the American credit card industry. Monday morning our D&D order should have auto shipped from Wizards of the Coast with my credit card on file.
The card was obviously declined. Wizards let me know later on Monday. I called early Tuesday morning with a new card. The order was confirmed and it normally would have shipped that day. A Tuesday ship means a Friday delivery for me, so I hedged by buying a bunch of product through our local distributor, just in case.
This exception at Wizards didn't go well, with a process flaw on their end, since my order was now an exception to their process. The order never actually shipped. Our local distributor order didn't cover all the pre-orders, mostly because I was hedging, knowing I had 40 copies of the book arriving that afternoon. Big mistake. The whole system collapsed after our Fedex order arrived with no books and that uncomfortable phone call to WOTC was made. Failure.
Not only would I lose sales over the weekend, but I had promised people this book, people who had given me money and trusted me. This is an opportunity of sorts. Before I talk about that, let me say I truly am sorry about what happened. I don't want to make light of a broken promise or a process failure in all its complexity. It sucks. I'll do what I can to make it right. I've contacted each of them. I'll pay a price for sure. But here's how failure opportunities work:
It's generally believed that good customer service should be the norm. Not being a screw up, besides what others might tell you, is expected. Nobody talks about how they didn't get their coffee order screwed up today. However, they will tell, on average, about ten people, if their coffee order was screwed up (mine was messed up last night at the Barnes & Noble cafe in Emeryville). People like to talk about their drama. Everyone does it. So screwing up and not fixing it is an enormous negative hit, essentially anti advertising.
Now, what would it take to fix it? Make me another cup of coffee and you've inconvenienced me further and made the experience less than great. Could you take an extra step to fix the problem? You tell your friends your coffee order was screwed up and they make you a new coffee, and give you a free muffin? That's conversation worthy, although, I'll admit, the corporatization of this process will take the sincerity out of the equation. Manager on register four! Muffin compensation override!
How about an apology song sung by the manager? Just change the words to Happy Birthday. You can't really overdo this. I read a business book about a very successful bicycle shop. They screwed up an order for a kids birthday. The owner took that bike, adorned with streamers and birthday wrappings, and drove it thirty miles to hand deliver it to the customers door. I might have made up the streamers bit, but you get the idea. You're not trying to pacify your customers, you're trying to win them over. Wizards shipped our books Fedex Air to get them in ASAP, which is a personal bicycle delivery of sorts.
Make it better. Fix it for the customer and it's just an extension of your process management. It's an opportunity to show you care. It's an opportunity to spread the word that this business is not just about making a buck. They go the extra mile. It feels good too. If you're concerned about cost, try to think about what that customer is worth to you. I once figured ours spends an average of $600 over their lifetime sales with us. Or put "screw ups" as a line item in your marketing budget. Whatever it takes. Seize that failure opportunity.
And I truly am sorry.