Selling Online Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry

Thank you, Susan, for suggesting I write this article.

Susan had a bad experience with an e-commerce company when her order wasn’t delivered.

In an e-commerce environment awash with swanky Customer Relationship Management Solutions, it’s not always easy for a customer to get the response they would like.

In many cases, bruised by poor service or non-delivery, a customer will feel battered further when they hit the roadblock of automated email responses.

But in Susan’s case, she did manage to get past the automation to correspond with a real person by the name of Mickie.

This was good because at least the company in question was smart enough to use real, breathing people to deal with unhappy customers.

So you’d think that Susan’s problems would be happily resolved.

Not so.

Because Mickie-from-the-company appears to have placed more trust in what appeared on her screen than she did in what her customer actually told her.

Here’s what happened.

The item Susan ordered hadn’t arrived, so she sent an email to the company to that effect.

To which the company replied:

    “Hello, just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that your order #161544 has shipped from our warehouse.”

(BTW… nice tone to the copy.)

So Susan tracks her package, makes an interesting discovery, and emails the following:

    “I have not received this order. UPS shows that this package was delivered to Portland, Oregon, and I am in Memphis, Tennessee.”

To which Mickie replied:

    “Your order was returned because you moved and UPS was unable to complete the delivery.”

Well, no, Susan hadn’t moved, she still lives in Memphis. But it seems that Mickie knew better. Or at least her computer did.

And so on.

Of course, I’m being unfair. We all make mistakes, and Mickie did send Susan a $15 gift certificate to compensate her for her problems. And we’ve all fallen into the trap of taking what we see on our computer screens as being the absolute truth.

But when Susan emailed me, it wasn’t to complain about the screw-up. It wasn’t about not receiving her order.

It was to say that nobody had bothered to say that they were sorry.

How can saying that you’re sorry make such a difference?

Because apologizing is a uniquely human thing to do. Computers don’t say they’re sorry. Customer Relationship Management Solutions don’t say they’re sorry.

But humans can and do. And with an apology comes the possibility of forgiveness.

In other words, if Mickie had just said that she or her company was sorry, Susan would likely go back there and shop again.

But as it stands right now, she won’t. Not even with $15 in her hands.

The moral of the story is: Whatever the technology you deploy, behaving like a human is the most powerful CRM solution of all.

So Mickie, if you’re reading this…

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