Sunday, April 03, 2005

When Mistakes Happen...

Read this on Seth Godin's Blog

Noses cut to spite faces department
Petra Rankin shares this story:
I went for a drive to pick up some business cards from my local printer. When I got there, I was handed four boxes of very shiny business cards, even though I had specifically ordered matte. I had specified matte a number of times because it was very important to me, and he was also charging me a premium price for the matte laminate.
So I told the person who was serving me that they were not matte, and I was told in response “yes they are.” (!)
Given that these cards were so shiny I could almost see my reflection in them, I asked to speak to the manager. He come out and agreed that they were not matte, and also agreed that I had asked him a number of times to print matte cards, but he would not lower the price of the cards. I offered him what I thought the cards were worth given they were a misprint, but he was too proud and said I couldn’t take them!
So he is throwing away 1000 perfectly good (albeit shiny) cards, because he didn’t want to accept a discounted price for a mistake!
I wonder how many other small business people operate their business like this? They would rather have a big loss than accept a small one?
(PS She just wrote me and said the printer called her at home, told her had changed her mind and even offered to drive the cards over if she'd just pay the discounted fee.)
find Petra: Achieving Our Potential (And Beyond).
Posted by Seth Godin on March 31, 2005

My Response to this story...

This kind of situation has happened a few times in my 33+ years selling promotional products (promotional products are useful items [t-shirts, pens, calendars, mugs, portfolios, etc.] with a imprint that are given out to promote something or someone).

Maybe something is wrong with the order... wrong item, wrong item color, wrong imprint color, mispelling of a word, missing some of the copy... mistakes happen and then I have to find a way to take care of the problem.

The easy way out would be to offer the customer a discount and cut my losses, like was done in the story above. But that's exactly the wrong thing to do. The printer should have offered to re-do the cards and make the order right.

In Petra's case, her business cards were on the wrong stock and she really wanted a matte finish "because it was very important to me". She did get a discounted rate, however... do you think that every time she gives a card away, she might look at the card and think, narn (or something else), it's on the wrong paper.

Now then, when she is almost out of cards and is thinking about buying more. She thinks about the mistake the printer made on her previous cards (and remembers the attitude of the employee) maybe just maybe she will think that she had better find a new supplier this time, someone who will listen to her instructions and give her what she is paying for.

We would never let a customer keep an order that has anything wrong with it. Customers who have product they have accepted with some flaw, always remembers... something was wrong!

I know, I have gotten new customers, who have said "my previous distributor made mistakes and I don't trust them anymore".

It's better to lose a little money on one order than to lose a customer forever.

1 comment:

Petra Rankin said...

This is a very interesting interpretation to my printing story! I agree completely that offering sensational customer service is more important than making an immediate business profit, because by doing so you receive repeat business and potentially referrals. But I think that in these kinds of situations it is more important to ask what the client actually wants (again a customer focussed approach). Why? Because in this case I was happy to take the cards for the price I suggested because I felt like I was doing my bit for the environment and getting a bargain (and the cards did still look good).

Maybe in the case of a promotional item the client might actually like the mistaken colour for example. In any case, as long as the customer's desires are put before the business manager's ego, that customer will leave satisfied. And satisfied customers is true success!