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5 real-life examples of how to convert almost any situation into positive word of mouth

Here’s a guest post Jeff Frank, owner of Simplicity Sofas — a company that designs and manufactures furniture for small rooms and narrow entranceways, wrote for our WordofMouth.org project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day.

Simplicity Sofas is a furniture manufacturer who sells products direct to consumers through our website. Our marketing program relies heavily on word of mouth. We routinely convert problems, mistakes, unreasonable demands, surprise gifts, routine procedures, and anything else that happens into opportunities to amaze and delight our customers.

Since we conduct our business through e-commerce, we rarely have face-to-face contact with our customers. As a result, nearly all word of mouth is generated through email and phone conversations.

The following are five actual emails we sent to customers which successfully generated an enthusiastic word of mouth reaction.

1. Typical Delivery Problem

This customer will love us forever.

Our email:

Margaret,

I am sorry to hear of your experience with the UPS driver. UPS leaves situations like this up to the discretion of its drivers as to whether or not they will deliver in any specific situation.

We have a 24/7 customer service hotline (800-813-2889) just for situations like this. If you had called we would have suggested that UPS drivers are often more flexible if you offer them a $50 tip. We would also have offered to reimburse you for the amount of the tip required.

If that did not work we could have arranged for the UPS driver to return the furniture to his local terminal and hired a local delivery service (with a smaller truck) to make the final delivery the next day.

Although it is too late for these solutions we will be sending you a $50 check as partial compensation for your trouble and aggravation. Even though we have no direct control over our delivery services we still accept responsibility for the fact that your total experience with our company was less than perfect.

The reply:

I anticipated a reply to my email, but I was surprised to read your generous offer. A $50 check is quite sufficient and is most appreciated; especially when Simplicity Sofas wasn’t at fault.

You have incredible customer service. If there is anything I can do to help you or your company here in the southwest, please do not hesitate to contact me.

2. Oops! The Factory Made the Wrong Product

Taking an embarrassing and potentially expensive mistake and using it to create a loyal fan at modest cost.

Our email:

Hi Jeremy,

Your sofas and slipcovers were completed and scheduled for shipment today. Unfortunately in the inspection process it was discovered that the pattern used to make the slipcovers did not allow for the fabric’s stripes to be matched. Although many companies sell slipcovers like this without matching, we feel that our furniture looks far better when the fabric is properly matched up.

The fabric you selected is new for us and we will need to make up completely new patterns for each of the different size slipcovers. This is a time consuming process that will probably take several weeks.

Meanwhile, I can reschedule the shipment for Tuesday (or possibly Monday.) We will be sending you the furniture and the non-matched slipcovers which you can use until the matched ones are ready. You will not need to return or pay for the non-matched slipcovers.

Please let me know if this proposal meets with your approval.

The reply:

I appreciate you making the effort to get this right. The non-matching lines would definitely have bothered us in a short while. I agree with your proposal, so please send us the sofas and non-matching slip covers as soon as possible and then get us the new slip covers when you can.

Thank you.

Jeremy

3. The Fussy Customer

We “outfuss” her.

Our email:

Kim,

Now that we are set on the thickness of the back cushion we are sending you two different back cushion constructions to try out. One will be fiber only and the other is a combination of fiber and down blend. Please try them both and let us know which one you think will work.

After all of our discussions, we believe this is the only way to make sure that we get it right for you.

Please take your time and try them out over a few weeks. If these still are not correct let us know.

The reply:

…Thank you again for caring enough about your product and your customers to follow up on this matter. Your customer service is the best I’ve experienced! I will get back.

Thank you, Kim

4. Surprising the Customer After the Sale

Getting a totally unexpected gift certificate or present after the sale has already been completed gives the customer a great word of mouth story to tell.

Our email:

Hi Wilton,

I guess your wife officially qualifies under the “family” designation but it’s not exactly what I had in mind so I will send her the free pillows under a special exemption and you can also keep the real Gift Certificate.

Throw pillows normally take us only a couple of days but there is a major golf tournament in town and I think my sewer may be gone to the tournament for a couple of days. There should be no problem shipping them early next week by UPS Ground. Just let me know what address you would like them sent to.

The reply:

I have done business with a lot of companies during my lifetime, but never have I encountered anyone like you and Simplicity Sofas. My wife and I will never forget how you have treated us. [This is the last paragraph of a very long response.]

5. The Routine Follow-up

This is basically a form letter. A similar email is sent to every Simplicity Sofas customer within one business day after their order has been received.

Our email:

Hi Cathy,

Just checking to see if everything is OK with your new mid size sofa and slipcover. If there are any problems, let’s take care of them now.

I would also like to hear what you think of our furniture and our customer service. We love compliments, but we also need to know where improvements are required.

Thanks again for buying Simplicity Sofas,

Shannon B. Haire
Simplicity Sofas Customer Service Manager

Although it may appear that the company is generating additional problems that will add unnecessary costs, actually the reverse is the case. Serious problems would have had to be dealt with anyway and working them out with a cooperative customer is far easier and less costly than when dealing with an angry or belligerent customer. The savings realized is greater than the cost of taking care of a few extra minor problems.

On the other side of the ledger, the unusual act of asking about problems exceeds customer expectations. When you exceed customer expectations you create word of mouth. When you create word of mouth, you create more sales.

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Privacy: We won't save or reuse these emails.

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