Ok, I just have to tell you about something that happened to me this week.I like coffee, quite a lot. In fact, I’m a big coffee nerd: I roast my own coffee with a home-brew contraption, I grind fresh and measure and weigh things, I’m not the most nerdy coffee brewer I know, but I’m pretty high on the nerdiness scale. Back in December, my wife bought me a french press for my birthday. This was a nice french press, really nice: stainless steel, double-walled, extra mesh filters – it also had an amazing spout. No one thinks that you need a good spout until you use a bad one, and the hot coffee dribbles down the side of your cup, the pot, and your fingers. The spout was the best part. This was the perfect gift. We used it for a few months, and it was fantastic. It kept the coffee hot for ages – like, once drank a cup of coffee before running out the door, and when I got back from the errand the coffee in the pot was still slightly too hot. Luxury. The rose began to wilt ever so slightly when we were brewing coffee last month – we poured the hot water in the pot, and immediately a whistling noise began, a thin, wailing sound that we had trouble placing at first. Then we noticed sputtering coming from one of the edges of the french press: on closer examination, there was a flaw, a tiny hole in the edge of the pot, and when the pot was heated it sputtered and whistled. This was concerning. I wasn’t really sure if the flaw in the pot would be a problem in the future, or not – the worst-case scenario part of my brain was whizzing: I could see several bad endings, which included the metal deteriorating, massive gobs of mold forming in the space between the stainless steel walls, or me being driven out of my mind by the whistling and throwing the heavy metal pot full of hot liquid through our kitchen window. I struggled with the idea of returning the pot, because I don’t do that sort of thing. My conflict-avoidence and midwestern make-do upbringing was prompting me to just let it go. But as I thought about it more, it wouldn’t do to just keep quiet about it – I should at least let the company know that the flaw happened, so they could keep it from happening again. Besides, I really wanted a new pot, because I didn’t like the fact that my beautiful new pot might have a flaw – unthinkable. My misgivings well justified, and the 30-day Amazon return policy well over – I contacted the company involved, and tried to ask for a new pot without asking for a new pot. What followed was a fantastic example of how to treat all people, and especially people who interact with your brand. The fellow I e-mailed told me right away that they stand by their products 100%, and he thanked me for letting him know about the problem. He requested a picture so his manufacturers could ensure that the problem didn’t happen again, and he immediately put a new pot in the mail, without asking me to send the defective one back. His tone was warm, and friendly – not the cold compliance that you often get from companies when they’re agreeing to something that chips away at their bottom line. He told me that the pot would be there soon, and to let him know when I got it.
I got the pot yesterday, and here’s the amazing thing – he included a (lengthy!) handwritten note in the package, thanking me again for letting them know about the flaw, with an assurance that he had hand-inspected this one to make sure that it was perfect. He then kindly asked for a review on Amazon, and signed his name at the bottom.
Do you think I wrote him that review? Yup. It was only the second review I’ve ever written on Amazon –the first being an Apple laptop charger that turned out to be a knock-off – and I gushed about the company, exhorting anyone who read the review to buy, promising that they wouldn’t regret it for a second. The company had made me into a raving fan, not just because they replaced the defective part – anyone will do that – but by making the experience so pleasant, and human. I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, but that I was helping the company out, and they valued me for that. What’s the opposite of this kind of experience? Not refusal to replace the product – almost anyone will send you a replacement if you complain – the opposite is indifference. Making you jump through hoops. Treating you with with hostility, forcing you to ship the product back to make sure that you aren’t lying, and trying to get you to pay the shipping. Grudgingly sending you the replacement, and including a printed slip of paper that says they hope you had a good experience and could you please rate them on Amazon and follow their Facebook page, please pretty please. Treat people like humans, and how a little humanity yourself. Not only is this the right thing to do, it’s good business. Surprising how often those go together.