Customer Success Stories

How Failures Help Us Serve Customers Better

We all love to read customer success stories. The good feedback and praises that customers give, makes us love what we do. But this is not always the case.

There are times when we make mistakes, misunderstand instructions, do not pay attention to details, miss deadlines, etc. All this results in a very frustrated and unhappy customer.

How do we respond in such situations? What do we do to gain back their trust?

As a first step, we send them an apology and assure them that we will improve. And then, we take concrete steps to improve our work quality.

Here, I’ll share one such situation that happened to me a few months back with one of our customers. The purpose of this story is to share what I learnt. How my team and I turned lemons to lemonade! I believe such stories can inspire and motivate others who land in a similar situation.

My story goes like this…

Every Wednesday our customer would send us docs and images that we needed to format and transfer onto an HTML template and send it back to them for their weekly newsletter, OTR or ‘On The Radar’. This has been going on for 5-6 years (I’m not sure).
Over the years, we always billed this work for 2 hours.

There were times when the content was longer and there were more images to work on. We often needed more than two hours to complete the work.

But somehow, we managed it and billed the customer for only two hours since that was what has been communicated to us over the years.

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On July 7, 2017, our customer wrote an email to us -
We have a number of problems with the On the Radar files we receive from you every week and we need to ensure these problems are remedied, starting with next week’s issue. We are spending an inordinate amount of time on our end making corrections before we can distribute the newsletter every Wednesday…

When we got this email, we realised that we had not been paying attention. We had not done a good job.😞

We apologised and worked on our mistakes. There was no negative feedback from the customer for a while after that. Fivestarly who was managing the project, QCed the work himself and we assumed that the customer was happy.

Unexpectedly, out of the blue, on January 12, 2018, Joanna (Director) got an email from the customer saying-
Hi Joanna – I edit the On the Radar, the weekly employee newsletter, and I send a word document to Fivestarly... he is unfailingly responsive and a pleasure to work with, but we’ve had some recurring technical problems such as broken links, bad characters and poor image quality that we’re hoping you can help us resolve. Would you have time next week for a call…

Our work had been called out on quality issues. There were problems with links, images and bad characters. We felt horrid! We reviewed our work and processes and we were determined to make amends.

We found two serious problems:

  1. We found out that billing for two hours for work that was taking longer was one of the root causes and several of the issues pointed out were because of a domino effect of less time spent on the work. Some of the links that customer provided were already broken, we could not check all those within the 2-hr time frame. Because of this, we could not proactively alert the customer for broken links or any other potential issues that we found on their docs.
    We had been working on the assumption that we could not bill more than 2 hours for the project.
  2. The second main cause was our neglect of the image resource file where all image links of previous OTR work were stored. We were not making use of this file and neither were we updating it. Because of this, we would create images for use in the document and that impacted image quality and consistency, not to mention the time it took.
We presented our action plan to the customer and gave extra attention to our next task. We kept the image resource file updated, we made sure all their profile images were of the same dimension (even though they had not mentioned this). We spent some extra time proofreading the content.

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The customer noticed the change and on their call with Joanna, they said the latest OTR was perfect!

What surprised us that when Joanna spoke to them about the 2-hr cap, they came back saying that they were not aware about the time limit!

They were fine with us billing on actuals and asked that they be informed about time spent when we sent in the deliverables.

We stepped up from there and did few more things differently. When we spotted some of the issues on the OTR document, such as missing links or bad characters on the docs, we corrected them as per our understanding and proactively communicated the changes to the customer. We also noticed that there were less errors on their OTR docs when we started doing this.

Fivestarly and I worked closely together and the collaboration paid off. In cases where we were not very sure about the format, we created two versions and communicated to the customer about why we were doing so.

On 15th March 2018, we got a very encouraging email from the customer saying-
Hi Fivestarly – the timing of this note is perfect. I’ve heard from my colleague that since our calls, the entire process with On the Radar has been seamless and easy as she migrates your files into Marketo.

Thank you so much for checking in and for all the careful improvements you’ve made.

This was not the end as far our efforts were concerned. We need to keep up this momentum and we cannot drop quality again. But this email motivated us and gave us a sign that we had done something right and the customer noticed it.

To sum up, here are the lessons I learnt from this:

  1. We should not be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Sometimes it takes courage to acknowledge that we have made a mistake. It also takes courage to ask for extra time. So, if quality suffers because of less time, make that move and ask for more time. When we communicated this problem to the customer, they were more than happy to let us bill on actuals. Never compromise on quality.
  3. Team work always works. Fivestarly is good at formatting but needs help with proofreading. I am bad at formatting but good at proofreading. Working as a team helped us add value to the customer.
Mistakes, failures and negative feedback, taken in the right spirit, can contribute to growth. They are useful too as they keep us on our toes, help us sharpen our skills and also make us humble. It is up to us to either sit and complain about how hard our work is, or to wake up, take responsibility and turn those ‘lemons’ to lemonade!

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