Friday, July 9, 2010

Better good than lucky

Imagine this scenario.  A company you have been dealing with for some time makes a terrible mistake and you make it known that you are unimpressed with them.  Following this, the company does its best to reverse the damage done.

What do you do?

The answer according to many people is flip the company the bird and never deal with them again.  The right answer is to do the opposite; this sort of behaviour is a strong indicator that this is *exactly* the sort of company you should be dealing with.  This of course is about Blizzard's RealID "Forum posts will be in your real name" fiasco of this past week.

Blizzard proposes that everyone will in future need to post with their real name.
Forums explode with complains and threats.
Blizzard retracts their plan and tells us it will not be happening.
Many players insist that they will never purchase Blizzard products again, others give public thanks.

I have worked in customer service/sales in several companies now and I can tell you from those experiences, as well as my experiences as a consumer, that companies screw up.  They *all* screw up, and if you deal with any company for long enough they will do something to wreck your day.  You cannot avoid things going badly at some point due to an evil/incompetent/stoned employee, computer glitches, bad luck, weather or whatever.  However, there are big differences between companies in how they handle these errors.  Some companies actually go out of their way to make sure that dissatisfied customers are compensated for any mistakes or change their policies based on customer feedback and others simply ignore the problem.

Awhile ago I flew with Porter airlines and they damaged my suitcase.  I didn't notice until I got home that it was fairly substantially dented though still usable.  I contacted them about it and they said that since I did not report it at the terminal for inspection they could only offer me 25 dollars off my next fare.  Considering the suitcase could not have been worth more than 50 dollars brand new I was quite pleased with that response and booked my next flight with them.

The opposite example is when I started a new job a few years ago at ICM Consulting.  The interviewer seemed thrilled with me and asked me to start the next day.  His boss was evidently displeased with the hiring decision and so decided to simply make my life miserable to force me to quit, which I did.  I will never deal with that company again and will advise anyone I meet to never deal with them and yet the whole situation could have been easily avoided if the boss had simply acknowledged that they made a hiring mistake and offered me a week's pay for a swift exit.  I wouldn't have been impressed, but I wouldn't have held a grudge.

In both cases the way a problem was handled reflected very well the attitude of the company towards errors. So next time a company (or a person!) makes an error that you don't like I suggest you pay more attention to their response to the error than the error itself.  Every company makes mistakes, but only some try to make things right again.

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