Customer Service – Dead or Alive?

Don’t worry – this story has a happy ending. Last summer, I invested $400 in advertising in a national women’s business magazine. Part of that was for a listing in a directory featuring coaches in one of their fall issues, and the other part was for an annual directory (50,000 copies) of prominent business women in 2004. When the long-awaited issue came out, it was full of typos and other errors, including my email address printed incorrectly, a big problem for me since 80% of my communications (other than coaching calls) is via email.

Very disappointed with the unprofessional presentation, I requested a refund. We ended up settling for reprinting the listing in the next issue and a refund of the deposit for the directory. They faxed me a copy of the credit card refund. When the credit did not appear on my statement, I called and they said they would send a check. Long story short, the check was “in the mail,” and never came, despite repeated contacts by me.

In the process of trying to resolve this, I emailed several employees with whom I had interacted, only to discover they were no longer with the company. I found out from former employees that they had been scammed themselves by the publisher/editor, who actually sent me a threatening email that she would sue me for slander if I spoke further with her former employees. Unfortunately, she had no intention of ever refunding the money. I basically got zero return on that investment.

Or did I? There is some good news. Yes, I wish I had the money back, but many good things came out of it. First, I shared my experience with a coach listserve with over 700 members from around the country and got many supportive comments. Many of them guessed correctly the magazine I had dealt with (which I had not named) and had had similar (or worse) experiences with that same company. Afterward, I didn’t feel so alone and I felt supported and reassured that there are many ethical business people out there. Secondly, I became much more aware of other people I do business with who model good business practices and my gratitude for them skyrocketed.

For example, over a year ago I had bought an educational program on CD and recently had some follow up questions. After exchanging some emails with the owner of the company, he invited me to call him for further clarification, which I did. This man knows and lives that “what goes around, comes around.” I was so grateful for his freely offered help.

Another example: last month I needed to borrow a lap top and projector for a presentation and sent out a broadcast email. I received dozens of suggestions and offers of help from different people.

I heard recently a recipe for a successful marriage, by a man who had been in one for 70 years(!). “Give and take, but mostly give.” I think that applies to business, too. I am loyal to the businesses that have bent over backwards for me.

Let me know of a super positive experience you had as a customer. I want to show that customer service is not dead and inspire all of us to be outstanding in this area. . . . .P.S. In another example of how the universe works, when I finally gave up pursuing the money owed me, a check for $400 – the exact same amount – arrived unexpectedly in the mail from an unrelated source.

© 2014 Anne Alexander, all rights reserved in all media

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