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Customer Service Lessons

When Things Go Wrong – 2 Customer Service Lessons Every Leader Can Learn From Vistaprint

I hadn’t expected to continue the Vistaprint story that I shared last week, but they’ve created another WOW that should be an AHA! Moment for every leader.

My freshly-printed Vistaprint Christmas Cards arrived last week – right on time, and I eagerly opened the package, envisioning a Saturday afternoon in front of the fire with a cup of rum-spiced eggnog, sending out Christmas greetings to friends and family. The front cover photo and salutation was a wow – a beautiful evening shot of millions of colorful Christmas lights reflecting off the pond at Vancouver’s beautiful Van Dusen Gardens. I opened the card, excited to see my “year in review” photos… and stopped dead in my tracks.

The print quality was horrible. Parts of the text were a faded gray that was unreadable, and the font was choppy, not the elegant sans-serif I’d chosen. The pictures were pixelated beyond recognition. My first reaction was OH NO – now what do I do to hit my Christmas deadline? My second reaction was dread – that I would get a miserable runaround from Vistaprint and end up buying off-the shelf cards somewhere after throwing away my Vistaprint cards and the money I’d spent.

My first pleasant surprise… the Vistaprint website has GREAT customer service options, including phone, email, and live chat. As time was of the essence, I chose live chat and, after a short wait while I multitasked doing other things, an agent came on line, asking how they could help. I jotted a quick note with the situation and order number, and she asked for a moment to check things out. After a bit of to-and-fro while she asked me if the inside image was upside down (it wasn’t, they clearly caught that in the production cycle), she advised me that the image pixels I’d submitted were only about ½ of the resolution they recommend for a great image, although it had looked fine on the preview screen when I’d resized it to fit the card size. OK, note to self, good info. So I asked “what’s next”?

Here’s the WOW. She advised me to simply upload a higher resolution image and to let them know via email once I had done so… and at that point they’d take care of everything and WOULD REPLACE THE ORDER AT NO CHARGE. Whoa! That was FAR beyond my expectations, considering that technically uploading a poor image was unquestionably my fault, and most customer service departments would have claimed “user error” before advising me that I’d simply have to order again, pay again, and keep my fingers crossed that the next job was better.

So here’s lesson #1: Either get it right the first time, or make it right the second.

Vistaprint gets it. By taking ownership of the issue even though it wasn’t really theirs to own, they created a WOW that is worth more to them in terms of positive word-of-mouth and repeat business than grinding the customer down. By empowering that agent to “say yes” – to make it right the second time, with no finger pointing, no scolding, no need to escalate, no waiting for call-backs after checking with a supervisor, no need to negotiate a worst-case solution, no feelings of having to give up, bite the bullet and reorder, or any of the other usual approaches that most companies would take in this situation, they created a lasting impression. By being a path of least resistance that I know I can count on in future, they’ve locked in my loyalty for good. And, now I know what to do next time to get it right the first time on my side in terms of image quality.

Right after that interaction, I got another short survey, asking if they’d solved my question the first time, if I’d had to contact them a second time, or if my problem had not been resolved – they KNOW that repeated customer call-backs drive needless cost into their business, and by monitoring their rate of resolve-on-first contact to eliminate unnecessary costs-to-serve, they’re putting money right back on their bottom line, even when it costs them a little bit of money to take care of the problem promptly.

Here’s lesson #2: If you’re going to resolve most of your customer service issues at some point anyway, simply resolve them on first contact and strip unnecessary costs right out of your system.

Send me a comment below. Tell me honestly whether your company would have handled a similar situation by immediately making it right at your own expense as Vistaprint did, or whether you would have told the customer “sorry, your fault, can’t help you” or made them go through some flaming hoops to finally get to a resolution. Would you have created a WOW… or left a bad taste in your customer’s mouth? Think about it. And in 2015, become the Vistaprint of customer service in your industry. It will pay off for you big time. If you’re already there, share that success with us, so we can all learn from you.

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