Monthly Archives: June 2009

Seamless Problem Solving

I recently drove all the way to San Francisco to buy a bicycle, a major purchase that I had been planning for many months.  The arrangements for the bike and the schedule for the fitting were made via phone with an employee who assured me that the bike I wanted was available and that I could complete the transaction in the time I had.  After driving 4 hours to reach the store, I found that the bike they promised was in fact not my size and the key employee required to do the fitting was not going to be available as promised.

As these problems unfolded, the owner of the store got involved and took over the transaction.  His process not only got me more and better product than I was expecting but delivered it ahead of the original commitment.  He made it seem like there was no problem he couldn’t solve, and in what was a fairly complex transaction, he upgraded components, extended warranties, offered to swap parts that did not fit correctly, even after future weeks of use.  This situation could have turned into a real disappointment with lasting hard feelings and certainly loss of my future business.  Instead, the effect was that problems were solved seamlessly, almost before I was aware that there was anything wrong. I was left feeling like I was their most important customer.

A key business fact to notice is that this situation did not involve giving away anything, it did not require any apologies, it did not involve any disagreements, complaints or confrontations. The exceptional part of this transaction was that the owner realized what the problems were almost before I did and so was able to take care of me before anything became a problem.  In fact, I  felt so well served, I bought several additional products that I had not planned to buy and would recommend this store to anyone.

I have said before that the true test of an organization is not that they never make mistakes, but how they handle the mistakes when they do happen.  I will add to that basic principle that in the continuum of ways to effectively solve a customer’s problem, having such a keen awareness of the customer and their needs that the problems are solved without drawing attention, before the customer needs to voice dissatisfaction, is the ultimate level of this great customer service.

By the way, the shop is The Bike Nut at 2221 Filbert Street, San Francisco.  I would recommend them to anyone considering a bicycle.  Their slogan, ”Yes Can Do,” is printed right on their business card and they truly live up to it.