What would you do?

"What would you do?" , I asked my three sons as we drove the other day. I described a situation on the walking stick site where a customer had written to me expressing her opinion about the quality - or lack there of - in the compass that we had placed on her walking stick.  She felt that the presence of a low quality compass on her walking stick diminished the value of the walking stick.

"She could send the stick back and we'll refund her money. " , one said.

"But why should she have to go to the trouble of returning the walking stick? She'd have to pack it up and send it back - and then what are we going to do with it - a stick with a broken compass in it?" I replied. 

"Well, then we could just refund her money and let her keep the stick.", another said.

"But is that giving her what she really wants? Did she come to our site to buy a low quality compass and a walking stick?  No,  I think she came to obtain a high quality stick with a high quality compass."  

"I've seen those compasses, Dad, they are geezy.", my oldest son said. "So even if we send her a new stick with a new compass in it, it is still going to be a geezy compass."

"So what are you going to do?", they finally asked. 

I'll admit that I was enjoying this little bit of in-the-car training in customer service. I enjoyed them wrestling with the issues - and more so because I already had my answer completed.

"Here's what I did. I wrote her back and thanked her for taking the time for writing me. I then told her to expect a new stick by express delivery on Monday (this was on a Friday). I told her that we had taken the compass off of the website until we could find one that would meet our standards. Then I told her to watch for a package from Amazon. As we had not been able to find a high quality compass to put in her stick, I ordered her a compass from Amazon. I then followed up the email with a phone call to make sure she was satisfied." 

"But how can you afford to do that?", one asked. "You lost a lot of money on that order." 

"I couldn't afford not to. The most important thing we have going for us is the trust our customers put in us when they buy our products. If we loose that trust - it will cost more than a stick and a compass to gain it back. By going beyond her expectations, we communicated to her - that we value her and the relationship more than the profit. It's the old saying - if we watch out for the customers - they'll watch out for us. You should have heard her on the phone - she was tickled - kept saying how she couldn't believe it - that she was going to tell all her friends what had happend. "

I continued.

"You can't buy good will like that - the key is to do everything you can to turn an unhappy customer into an asset - otherwise they become a liablity.  You only get one chance to do that - so why mess around with it." 

And we did find some Grade A compasses to put on the walking sticks. So in the end - we ended up with a better product.