Recently a direct selling company promoted a big sale that they were going to offer. They prepared their consultants with online techniques to promote the sale, provided lots of materials, and everyone was excited. There were some great offers on some amazing products, and people stayed up late to get first dibs on the sale items.
And then the site broke. For most of the day, people who attempted to access the sale got error messages. It was a disaster. Finally, the company had to admit that they did not have the capacity for the unprecedented demand, and they had to indefinitely postpone the sale.
And what impressed me most was the incredible grace of my consultant throughout the challenge.
It is very easy to get upset with your company when they’ve promised something and then do not deliver. It was not intentional…the company just did not predict the demand. But the consultant, who had set up a group for her customers to promote the sale, was incredibly graceful throughout, providing updates from the company on the status of the sale, and finally offering free shipping to all her customers when it became clear that the sale would not go on.
It was likely an embarrassing situation for the consultant…for all the consultants in the company…who had promised something to their customers and couldn’t deliver. It probably felt even worse for the corporate office who likely worked for hours on end trying to get things back up and running. Most corporate offices are highly aware of the faith and trust they build with their salespeople, and do everything they can to maintain that relationship.
In the end I think the company made the right decision. Better to postpone until better technology could support customers appropriately than to deliver a sub-par experience which would damage the customer relationship even more.
But I have to give kudos to the consultants for this company that understood this, and managed this experience with their customers with grace. It is very easy to point fingers. It is harder to be understanding when you feel embarrassed, even when everyone gave their best-faith effort.
Will the company learn lessons from this experience? Undoubtedly. They will make sure they are prepared next time.
But I also think we can all learn lessons from the grace of the company’s consultants. Rather than tear down their company when they were already down, they managed the situation well, and the comments that I saw from customers were filled with understanding and appreciation, mingled with their disappointment. I’m sure there was internal feedback given by consultants to the corporate office. But the public face was grace, and it was impressive.
The next time you are disappointed with something your company has done, think on this. Yes, give feedback privately. But remember that the customer relationship with both you and your company is paramount to build a long-term business. Communicate well with your customers, and do your best to support them through any disappointment, without bad-mouthing your company. You look more professional. And you’re likely to wind up impressing your customers.
And this is what builds long-term business.