Customer service

Several months back, I pre-ordered a Judy Collins concert DVD called “A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim.” It was still in production at the time but was supposed to be ready in a matter of weeks.

I’m really good at ordering things and then forgetting about them, so I didn’t think about it again until we got a note saying there’d been a delay, and the DVD wouldn’t be ready for a few more weeks.

A few more weeks passed. And a few more. And then one morning about a month or so ago, Ron went out to get the mail, and there was a package from Wildflower Records.

“I think your DVD is here,” he said.

I opened the package. It wasn’t the DVD. It was a copy of Ms. Collins’ latest CD, accompanied by a note from her record label apologizing for the long delay, explaining the CD was a gift to make it up to fans for having to wait so long, and assuring us the project was still in the works and should be finished shortly.

The election happened. Leonard Cohen died. Leon Russell died. I forgot about the DVD again.

Ron went out to get the mail Saturday morning, and lo and behold, there was another package from Wildflower. Inside it was the DVD, autographed and accompanied by another note apologizing for the delay, this one signed by Judy Collins herself.

I wasn’t upset about the wait, but I was impressed by the customer service.

Things go wrong. You can’t always control that. But you can control how you handle the situation. Anybody who’s ever waited tables knows the best way to keep a screwup in the kitchen from costing you a tip (and the restaurant a customer) is to apologize, maybe bring the customer an extra basket of chips, and issue regular updates on the situation so he’s not left wondering what’s going on. If you can upsize the meal or throw in a free dessert, you do that, too. Most people are pretty forgiving if you apologize and try to make it up to them, especially if they know the situation is beyond your control.

Wildflower handled this situation about as well as they possibly could: After one delay, they sent a notice. After a second delay, they sent a gift. When the product finally became available, they added value with the autograph and enclosed a note signed by the artist.

That extra effort was a classy move that showed the label — and the artist — cared enough about the fans to try to compensate for the unforeseen delay. It made me smile, but it didn’t particularly surprise me, once I thought about it.

After all, Judy Collins used to wait tables before she became famous.

Emily

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