There’s nothing better for business than good customer service

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This week I was smack dab in the middle of a situation where a business’s customer relations went from good, to worst, to best. There is customer service wisdom here for all business owners.

The story begins with the arrival of a New England gift store Christmas catalog. Eileen earmarked one page featuring a Jim Shore folk art “Coastal Angel With Fish” statue discounted 40-percent. The Angel reminded Eileen of her beloved Florida beaches.

We drove to the gift store in Augusta, finding neither “Coastal Angel” nor its companion Christmas wreath ornament. A store clerk said, “Let me check. Maybe we have the Angel in back.”

“We have the Angel,” the clerk said moments later, but not the Christmas wreath ornament.

The store cashier rang up Eileen’s Angel at 40-percent off, and we headed home.

Ten days later, Eileen is decorating the house for Christmas. She opens the Jim Shore “Coastal Angel” box and carefully takes out — Jim Shore’s “Shimmer and Shine Snowman with Holly”?

Eileen called the Augusta gift store, received an apology, and a promise to set aside “Coastal Angel” for Eileen’s 70-mile round trip next day return.

At first, the gift store cashier handled the Snowman/Angel exchange well. The Snowman charge was removed from Eileen’s credit card. For convenience, that amount was added to a new store card, to be removed to pay for the “Coastal Angel.”

Then Eileen asked, “Will you still honor the 40-percent discount?”

The cashier said, “No.” Eileen reminded her, and a nearby store manager, this was the store’s mix-up, not hers.

“Now you’re not honoring your 40-percent discount?” Eileen asked.

“No,” said the store manager, “we can’t do that.”

Eileen canceled the entire purchase, telling the store manager she would never shop again at any of their stores.

The gift shop’s behavior made zero sense. Where was the upside for this business?

Eileen’s wish to own “Coastal Angel with Fish” persuaded her to soldier on to the gift shop’s general website, sending her story and help request through the “Contact Us” online form.

Getting no response, she tried again to reach customer service through the web “Contact Us” form. No response again.

So Eileen visited the gift store Facebook page, where she left a benign SOS message: “Can someone help me or not?”

In almost no time, store Social Media Manager Stephanie had read Eileen’s query, and reached out to Eileen through Facebook Messenger, offering help, and asking to hear more details of Eileen’s story.

Eileen simply copied the account she had written for the business website’s “Contact Us” form, pasted it on Facebook Messenger, and sent it back to Stephanie. The Social Media Manager agreed Eileen had a legitimate beef, and promised a Customer Service representative would follow up with her.

Next day, Josh from Customer Service did call Eileen. He listened to her story, asked questions, and worked 30 minutes to find a solution.

Did Eileen still want “Coastal Angel With Fish” at 40-percent off?

Yes, she said.

Did she still want the Christmas Wreath ornament if Josh could find one?

Yes, said Eileen.

The Angel and Wreath arrived yesterday at our front door by two-day air delivery. Eileen’s reaction? “Wow!”

I’m not sure the store made money on this sale. And Eileen is still smarting a bit by the Augusta store’s handling of this situation. But Stephanie and Josh, and the wise business use of social media, likely won Eileen back as a customer for this New England gift store.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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