Last month we messed up on an order, it can happen, and the customer was not very happy to say the least. I was taught a long time ago that if a problem happens, it is not about wasting time on the 'why' but actually how you deal with it that sets you apart from the crowd.

The story below is a true story with only the customer email address being hidden. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we handled this...

The Customer Story
The customer ordered a Personalised Ride on Racer which we customise with the child’s name on the number plate so each one is unique and made to order. The warehouse despatched the order on Wenesday 6th April to arrive Thursday 7th April (day before the 1st birthday of her son). Knowing it was for a Birthday and need by specific date, we called her on the Thursday at 8.30am to let her know it would arrive between 10am and 11am but she was going to be out so asked for the builders working on her extension to sign for it... sadly, they failed in this task having not heard the door bell and we were told of the failed delivery midday on Thursday.

Knowing it was for a very important birthday I called the customer to talk through the options and she chose to have it re-delivered on the Friday 8th (the day of her little boys Birthday). I checked the order tracking that morning and sure enough at 10.05 the parcel was signed for and what should have been a happy end was the start of a much bigger problem.

Somehow the warehouse had muddled up the Personalised Ride on Racer order with another customer order and I received a phone call from the customer at 10.30, distraught that she had received a Bow & Arrow set instead of her car!

I promised to call her back within 1 hour with a resolution. I knew we couldn’t just send a new car because there would be no personalised number plate so I had to find out where her car had been sent. Looking through the orders that were despatched Wednesday 6th, I started with the customer that had ordered the Bow & Arrow set hoping that it was a simple case of the orders being labelled incorrectly by the warehouse.

This is where the problems really started because the notes on the CRM against the customer that ordered the Bow & Arrow set order showed that he was going to be on a flight to South Africa that day and he had asked us to deliver to the porter at the apartments where he lived in
central London, the only contact number we had was a mobile number of the man that was now on a plane! So thinking laterally, I worked on the logic if the apartments had a porter, they were likely to also have a management company so a quick Google search identified the management company and two calls later I was speaking to the Porter that had signed for the car just 30 minutes earlier. Having explained the situation, he then told us that the car had already been left in the man’s apartment and he was nervous about just handing it back. I suggested faxing a copy of the order that he ‘should’ have signed for and having seen this he agreed release the car as soon as the someone at the management company agreed (clock now running at 45 mins – only 15 mins before I needed to call my customer back).

The call came through with 5 minutes to spare and he confirmed it would be available for collection after 2.30pm which was too late to sensibly organise another courier so now my only option was to jump in the van and shoot down to Baker Street in London. (from Wellingborough). I called my customer as I had promised to do and explained the mix up and said that I would send a van to collect the car from London and it would be with her by teatime – I don’t think she could quite believe what I had agreed to do but the thought of letting her down for a 1st Birthday was unthinkable especially as I knew if we turned it around, we could have a very loyal customer for a good few years!

I collected the car and on my way back up from London I thought about Tony Hsieh at Zappos and what they would do in this situation, I called Interflora on my mobile and arranged for some flowers to be sent but to arrive after 6pm so I wasn’t there when they turned up. I knocked on her in Dunstable door at 5.05pm and she stood there with her mouth wide open in disbelief. I apologised in person for messing up so badly and handed her the car. She offered the Bow & Arrow set to me that had been sent in error but spotting a little boy standing behind her I told her it might come in handy so to keep it with my compliments. She explained that all the family were due any minute for a Birthday Tea so my timing was wonderful, I then left leaving Interflora to do their bit.

I got back to my desk about 7pm and there was a delivery confirmation email from Interflora – job done.

Our Thinking
Since Christmas, we have been on a mission to WOW our customers and throughout this whole episode, two things were front of mind, the fantastic book by Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness (he used flowers occasionally to WOW a customer) and the comment by Richard Penny that you can only give ‘awesome’ customer service if you have a problem customer. To then receive an email from the customer who has worked in a customer service environment stating it was the ‘best bit of customer service to hit this Earth...’ has left me with such a massively good feeling.

To be honest, knowing that she will tell the world this story for weeks to come is more than enough, if she buys from us again well that is just a bonus!

The Customer Response
From: sam []
Sent: 11 April 2011 20:11
To: Marketing


Just wanted to tell you about the amazing experience that I've just had with you. I ordered a retro car for my son's birthday from 'When I Was A Kid'. An attempt was made to deliver the car on Thursday, 7th April. It was then re delivered on Friday 8th April (my son's birthday). I was devastated to arrive home to find an archery set in my porch....
One phone call later, and I received the best bit of customer service to hit this Earth...
Within the hour, a driver had been despatched from Wellingborough to London, where my little retro car had ended up. It collected the car, and, still smiling (bless him!) a very nice man arrived at 5.05pm on my doorstep with a rather fetching racing red car. Not only did he save the day, but he refused to take the archery set back (that'll come in handy for my other son's birthday), and I then received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers I've ever seen, complete with apology. Having worked in customer service, and now being self employed, I understand how hard it can be to keep the general public happy, but this went way above and beyond the call of duty. What a company! I have, and will continue to recommend you, and hope that Paul from When I Was A Kid has many years of happy trading to come. With such fantastic customer care, he cannot possibly fail.

Just had to share my experience, so many companies would've been quick to palm us off, but my son's first birthday was well and truly saved.

Many thanks to all involved, a massively impressed Sam Hannaby.

Customers have more choice now that at any time in the history of retail. Small shop keepers moan that the government are to blame, the banks don't support them, their rates are to high... basically, it is always someone elses fault but the bottom line is, if you look after your customers, they will look after you - simple!