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Customer Experience Cx: Being generous when service fails

How often have you been promised to receive a product by date X, or even within 24h, but it didn’t arrive on time?

  • And how many times have you received a pre-alert beforehand of a more than likely delay?

  • What was the customer care response when you called to ask when the parcel would be delivered?

To illustrate this part of the Customer Journey and highlight plausible reactions, I’d like to share what I recently experienced. A few days ago, I wanted to replenish my coffee stock and placed an order for a delivery with my usual supplier. In the same week, I also realized that I needed additional business cards for an upcoming conference, thus placed an online order. This time with a new supplier, who was claiming delivery within 24h. The coffee supplier I have been using for many years, has a very good delivery performance ie. matching words to delivery on time. On the other hand, the business cards supplier was new to me and I was attracted by their good prices and short lead times for standardized business cards. Thus, decided to give them a try.

So, what happened?

In both cases, the products arrived late. Since no pre-alerts were sent I wasn’t expecting a delay at all. So, I did what most consumers do, wait 1-2 days depending on the urgency of your need and get in touch with their helpdesk. Both suppliers’ responses came within a matter of hours, the business card supplier called my cell directly apologizing for a techn. problem and informing me of a delay of overall 2-3 days. Further, as a good-will gesture I was awarded a 15% discount on a potential new order.

The coffee supplier sent an email and was committed to tracking down the package for me. Since it showed as delivered in their system though, we assumed the parcel got lost hence an identical new order was issued automatically while working with the postal office on the previous one. Furthermore, I got a 100% discount on a potential new order.

Finally, the “lost” first package arrived a 2 days later, and their emergency and free delivery just one day after. Plus, I had a 100% discount on the next order. As a passionate coffee consumer, I was happy after all.

Now, I have been reflecting about the approach of both companies, starting with the Communication, Issue Resolution and “After-Sales” support as well as the Customer Lifetime Value for each.

Service Delivery:

In todays’ inter-connected world, it is key to make sure that customers are informed about their product delivery. We live in a real-time data and news-flooded world and expect to know when something will hit us. Knowing that something will be late and why is different than be caught by surprise and not having a choice.

Delivery challenges can always arise, and customers will show some level of understanding, but showing transparency is imperative to gaining the trust of a customer and increasing their loyalty.


Equally important is to realize that what a) is communicated and b) whether by phone or email is not really as important as how it makes you feel. Fact is, we remember feelings longer than words. Thus, although a phone call will have an advantage being more personal as opposed to email/chatbot, one will rather remember the tone of the conversation, the candidness of the customer care member, the authenticity in the apologies, and no so much the exact words used.

Issue resolution:

Resolving the issue in a timely manner might be the most important of all. This will co-define whether there might be any subsequent financial actions required, and the level of impact to the customer. Slow resolution can go as bad as signaling no interest for the customer and be perceived as if little effort is undertaken to help remedy the situation. A slow issue resolution can quickly become expensive for the supplier and put the customer relationship at risk.

In these particular events, both companies did their best to resolve the query and knew their Customer Lifetime Value. In both cases, a discount was awarded based on how many orders per year I might be placing with each company as well as how loyal I had been in the past. Of course, one can always argue how much discount is fair and whether eventually it will really increase the likelihood of a new order. One thing can be said though, a generous offer will decrease the likelihood to change supplier.

It might be hard to mimic this approach in more complex and high value services. However, it remains true that when a service fails, in order to not put the customer relationship/loyalty at risk, it is important to a) have a direct line of communication where updates are shared (overcompensate), b) show candid understanding and comfort the customer (be generous), and last but not least c) fast issue resolution to ideally bring your delivery back on track (actions and involvement).

What are your thoughts ?

If you have any other questions or want to know more about Customer Experience Cx mapping and coaching, etc please get in touch here.

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