Turning Technical Mistakes into Human Relations

funny pictures of dogs with captionsSometimes things just break. In this day and age, servers crash, websites are hacked, and new programs go haywire. At its worst, hackers can get access to private client information. It is moments like these when a company is truly tested. So many try to cover up mistakes, sweep them under the rug, or just pretend they did not happen at all. This is the biggest mistake a company make, and with the increase in popularity of social networks, the sharing of information between customers is more prevalent. Read: Hiding is not an option.

There are a few companies that are “taking the blame” and sucking up their pride to ask for help and forgiveness. At Distilled we want to give kudos to the companies that approach an issue right the first time. Take for instance, this time last year, TechCrunch noted an email from Netflix to it’s customers giving a 2% discount to their customer’s monthly bills. Some were not even aware of the issue. MG sums it up at the end with “Companies often seem curious how other companies get ‘fanboys’ — this is how. This tipped off our 2 most recent tales of companies turning technical mistakes into true human relations.

Miracle Industries

A good friend of Distilled, Dr. Peter Meyers, just had a new addition to their family. To the family’s surprise, they got 2 swaddling blankets in the mail from Miracle Blanket within a few weeks of each other when they had only ordered one. Instead of just letting it go, the company did something out of the ordinary. They emailed about the mistake and asked for help.

Hello,

I’m Marshall Gatten, the Vice President of Customer Services here at Miracle Industries.

This morning we received an email from a customer whose order was somehow accidentally shipped twice. We thought it was just a small mistake by our warehouse. Then we got a voicemail from another customer with the same experience, followed by a couple more emails. We realized something had gone wrong.

As it turns out, a large number of orders from last week were accidentally transmitted to our warehouse a second time on Monday due to a computer glitch, and new shipments were made for all of them. Needless to say, this has the potential of being a very expensive error for us, and we’re hoping you can help us out.

Your order was one of the duplicated ones. You should be receiving your order a second time some time this week or maybe early next week if you haven’t already.

When you receive a second package from us, please simply write ”Refused, Return to Sender“ on the outside of the unopened package and drop it back in your mailbox and the post office will return it to us at no cost to you. (If it’s a FedEx or UPS shipment, just hand it back to the delivery person and explain that you would like it returned.)

If you’ve already received and opened the package, or if FedEx/UPS left it on your porch so it can’t simply be sent back that way, please respond to this email with your order number (or, if you don’t know your order number, then your address) and I’ll have our warehouse send you a postage-paid return envelope. We don’t want anybody to pay for postage to return the blankets to us, and want to make it as easy as possible for you to return the duplicate. This was very much our mistake, and the last thing we want to do is to inconvenience our customers as a result of it.

I’m truly very sorry for any inconvenience this might cause. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

Thank You,
Marshall Gatten
VP, Customer Services

Now I added the emphasis there, but notice what they did there. They made a mistake and asked for their customers to help. This costs the customer no money and appeals to the human side. I would venture that this move saved the company more money in the long run. And how does this help the consumer? Why not just keep the second one? They could have easily, but this gives the new families a way to give back and keep prices down on this awesome (or so I hear) product. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Great job Miracle Blanket!

Take Aways

  • Your customers are human too. Treat them as such.
  • Admit the fault as soon as possible.
  • Do the work for the customer if they are helping you out.
  • Think about rewarding those that return the product, or do the desired action.

Tempur-Pedic

Now I’m going to follow that up with my own story from this past week. I bought a Tempur-Pedic bed when I moved to Seattle, and a few months later purchased the Tempur-Pedic mattress cover from their store too keep my investment safe. The item was delivered on time and everything was great. A month and a half later, I got an email telling me that my order is being delivered, again. Do What? Thankfully, clicking the tracking number in the email revealed that this was the same order as July. So I deleted the email and went on with my day. A few hours later I was met with the following email from Tempur-Pedic:

Dear Valued Tempur-Pedic Customer:

I am writing to let you know that due to a technical issue involving our email system, we mistakenly sent you this weekend a “Shipping Confirmation” email for an order you had previously placed with us.  I would like to assure you that no duplicate order was actually placed or shipped, and that no duplicate charges were made to your credit card.  The error consisted only of sending a duplicate email letting you know that your original order with us had shipped.  I want to express our sincere apologies for this error, and the confusion and concern it likely caused you.

We are in the midst of upgrading our eCommerce and eMail platforms so that we can make shopping with us easier and more enjoyable.  We regret this technical error that occurred as we put in place our new systems and we look forward to serving you better in the future.

Sincere Regards,

Patrice Varni
Vice President, Direct-to-Consumer

TEMPUR-PEDIC North America

Simple. Easy. They admitted their mistake and just moved on. But here is the kicker, they didn’t protect the user’s email addresses. *sigh* So in that win, there is a minor fail.

Take Aways

  • Even if there is nothing to recover from the customer, at least let them know you know the boo-boo.
  • Let the customer know why it happened.
  • BCC people at least. I didn’t need to know who got the same mistake email as me.

In the end ...

It’s about treating your customers like human beings and transparency. We all make mistakes. Just admit to them and move on. Hey, you never know when it is a nice reminder for your customers that you are there, human, and paying attention. It might just cause a few more unexpected purchases.

Kate Morris

Kate Morris

Kate joined us after a year running her own search marketing consultancy in Austin, Texas. She brings with her a wealth of experience having worked in-house and agency-side in SEO and PPC. Kateh264 // A native Texan by birth, Kate got her BBA...   read more

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3 Comments

  1. Donnie Cooper

    I think these emails were great P.R. for the companies.

    "Think about rewarding those that return the product, or do the desired action." When I read this, all I could think about was Walt Disney saying, "Plus-it"- meaning to add something extraordinary.

    I think these companies would have done even better (IMHO), to give each of the customers a 20% off discount card, good for 6 months. In return for taking the desired action of course.

    =More (positive) conversations, more company mavens, more revenue!

    Great Post Kate Morris, thanks!

    reply >
    • Thanks for reading Donnie! I agree with you, I think that backing them up with a thanks would be awesome, but at least showing some weakness is refreshing. People have to remember that companies are collections of people, not cold hearted machines. And this is one way of doing that. :)

  2. I agree. I'm not sure what kind of contact information came with these apology emails, but having a representative from the company deal directly with the customers would enhance the human touch.

    My experiences in the UK haven't been so favourable. Regardless of who's fault it was, customers find themselves on impossibly long telephone calls where no one seems to be able to solve your problem. I've been over charged, and shipped defective products and not once have I received an apology. On top of that, just to call most customer support lines in the UK will cost you an average of 15p per minute.

    I'd like to see more companies step up and acknowledge their faults more often, however sometimes an apology letter just isn't enough to keep me coming back.

    reply >

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