The following story is based on an actual experience. Some of the details have been simplified, but the customer service rep and her reaction to the customer request are real.
The call was fairly routine. The customer wanted to know how to return something. She had bought a fly-fishing kit as a gift for a nephew who was planning a fishing trip to Florida, but the kit she purchased just wouldn’t work.
“Why not, may I ask?” the customer service rep inquired.
The customer laughed and explained that her nephew was planning a tarpon fishing trip. Tarpon are quite large and challenging to catch, so tarpon fishing requires heavy-duty fishing gear. But instead, the customer had bought a lightweight trout fishing kit designed for use on small rivers. “If I fished myself,” the customer said, “I would have understood the difference and bought the right thing in the first place.” As it was, she would have to deal with the hassle of returning the first fishing kit and purchasing a new one. “I just hope I can get it all sorted out before my nephew leaves on his fishing trip.”
The rep apologized to the customer: “I’m sorry for our mistake.”
“No,” the customer exclaimed, “I made the mistake. I bought the wrong thing. You shipped exactly what I ordered.”
“No,” the rep explained, “it was our mistake. We didn’t ask enough questions to help you pick the right gift for your nephew. It turns out that we carry a fly-fishing kit specifically designed for saltwater game fish like tarpon. I’ve taken the liberty of placing an order for that one. We still have your nephew’s address on file. So I’m having the new kit overnighted to him, so he’ll have it in time for his trip. There’s no charge for the overnight shipping. And when your nephew gets the new kit, simply use the return shipping label in the package to return the other fishing kit to us. And tell him to please send along a picture of a big tarpon!”
Questions to consider
- If you were the customer, how would you react to the rep’s response?
- If you were the rep’s supervisor, how would you coach the rep if you observed this call?