A Little Customer Service Story

Sarah and I purchased an outdoor playhouse kit for our youngest son for his second birthday. It was on sale, we had a perfect spot for this playhouse in our yard, and all three of our children were absolutely in love with it.

Several days ago, the kit was delivered in an unmarked box. When I examined it a few hours after the delivery, it was really heavy and smelled of cedar, which is exactly what I expected. I left the kit in the garage.

The day of our son’s birthday arrives. I had some help on hand for assembling the playhouse, so we pop open the box.

What we found inside was the wrong kit. It was actually a much more expensive kit for a wooden swingset and slide, but we have one of those (it was already in place when we moved into our home).

Obviously, we had intended to complete the playhouse assembly before our son’s birthday celebration, which was to take place later that day. There was disappointment all around.

I called the store, preparing for what I expected to be a battle with a customer service agent. (I’m not going to name the store because I don’t think this incident is really a good indicator of the overall business, either in a good or bad way.)

The first person I spoke to heard the first bit of my story, immediately told me it was out of her league, and redirected the call to her supervisor. The supervisor also told me it was out of his league and redirected me to his boss, which was a regional manager of some sort.

The regional manager heard my story. He didn’t believe me at first. He directly told me he was skeptical of my story.

I pulled out my receipt. I told him my order number, the date it was purchased, and what incorrect item was delivered. He still acted skeptical.

I then suggested that he check his inventory, just to make sure that the right item was picked. He told me he would and then quickly ended the call.

At this point, I was livid. My son’s birthday party had been completely disrupted by this mistake. I was a bit angry at myself for not completely verifying the item, but I was mostly angry at the business for making that delivery mistake.

The first thing I did was I took a few moments to calm down. Getting into a rage at someone on the phone is not a good idea. It’s not going to help either party and it’s going to add to the difficulty of the situation.

The second thing I did was I started documenting the whole situation. I took the receipt for the purchase, the delivery receipt, and the identifiers off the box and immediately created a document with all of the dates and facts of the situation stated clearly.

I created the documentation in case I would have to make a return visit to the store and, if necessary, follow up on the matter through other means. After all, at that moment, I was out the price of the playhouse I wanted with a giant pile of nearly-useless lumber sitting in my garage.

After that, Sarah and I brainstormed a quick solution to the impending party, changing what elements we needed to change to make it work.

A couple hours later, the manager called us back and was extremely sheepish. He left a message that he would have the correct item at our house first thing on Monday morning and that he would take back the wrong item.

After I heard that message, I called his office back again. I told him that the “mistake” had ruined our son’s birthday party. He told me that he was unable to fix the mistake today, but that he would refund half of the purchase price of the item.

If a true mistake has been made against you, make sure the business knows what it has cost you. Few businesses want an unhappy customer out there telling a terrible story about them, and most businesses will go the extra mile to make it right as long as you’re calm and rational about it.

When a business makes a mistake, don’t respond with rage. Document your claim. Report it calmly and without animosity. Make sure it’s clear to them what the mistake has cost you. Most businesses will make it right.

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