How to apologize

It takes a lot for me to want to take the time to write a full, postage-bearing letter to someone. In a day where we can complain in a few brief seconds via email, writing a letter should get some attention, right?

Seth Godin just had a reader send him a breakdown of various degrees of apology.

And it makes me think of two recent experiences that I wish had different endings.

Case One – Simon & Schuster: While out Christmas shopping in mid-December I bumped into an book-on-CD by Franklin Covey that I wanted to hear. I learned long ago that even if I don’t have time right then to read/listen, I go ahead and buy the book…it saves a huge amount of time relative to tracking it down later.

Anyway, the production of this resource was, by contemporary standards, fifteen years behind the times. It was a straight reading of the book. No track divisions, chapter titles, or (even slight) adaptation of the content for someone who is listening vs. looking at a printed word. After much trouble, I did find a customer service form on Simon and Schuster’s website that allowed me to submit a query as to where I might send some feedback. I didn’t want to complain so much as tell them how to improve my experience the next time I bought a product from them.

A few days later I get a reply saying ‘send your response to me’ and I’ll forward it to the right person.

I did. And nothing. Nada.

One follow up note: while I know it’s not possible to cover EVERY online base, but you’d hope that S&S, a division of Viacom who claims multi-media expertise would snatch up misspellings of their website name like the one I discovered when I fat-fingered it. The only reason I don’t post it here is because the folk who camp on those don’t deserve any extra traffic.

Case Two – Cafe Press: I bought some fun stuff for my crew for Christmas, and the order showed up wrong. I’ll spare you the whole story here, but should you doubt it, give me a call for all the gory details. In short, a call to the customer service was not only unhelpful, they were rude.

Maybe it was a bad day. Christmas in retail is a tough gig, and e-retail is no diff. But that’s why we hire grownups, not children.

I wrote the CEO a letter. And nada. Nothing.

So what would I have needed? In the first case, I don’t even need an apology! Just a ‘thx for the feedback…we’re always trying to make our products better’ would have sufficed? In case two, would you expect a call from the CEO? No. But even a form letter would acknowledge that someone there gave a rodent’s gluteous maximus.

So the post in Seth’s blog is timely and personal. Check it out. It leads to one of my favorite quips.

    “Professionalism isn’t what happens when everything goes right. It’s what happens when something goes wrong.”

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