Looks Like Santa is Not So Jolly

Since my last blog post, I heard back from Santa via voicemail.  His tone told me he was not too pleased with my inquiry about pricing.  He stated that the invoice I'd received was correct -- that I'd actually been given a better deal, and he wasn't sure how that had happened.   That I could call back.

Wow.  So a customer calls to inquire about pricing, stating that the prices charged didn't align with those on the website and the promised 20% discount.  She immediately gets an email saying that the difference would be credited. Then a day goes by and there's a voicemail stating that she was in the wrong.  (No thank you for the order, nor inquiry about how the wines were tasting.) The last time I felt like this about Santa was circa 1979 when I had a healthy skepticism about not-so-jolly red men in suits with fake beards.

I really don't understand how I got a better deal than the promised 20% case offer when the $20.00 Chardonnay is marked down to $18.00 on the winery's website and I was charged $19.20 per bottle.  Even using the original higher $20 rate, this is a 4% discount -- not 20%.  (I won't bother going into details of how the other 20% discounts don't add up.)

When I receive an email offer marketing wine, a winery should know that a normal next step in the customer buying process is to check prices online.  The prices listed online are in effect the promise made to the customer.

If I was incorrect, why not politely explain my error and take the opportunity to ask about the wines I've just purchased?  This would change the tone of the brand conversation -- it is quite possible I'd want to buy more or sign up for a wine club.  This is actually an opportunity to create loyalty here by developing the relationship.  Versus assume the customer calling with a question wants to pick a fight.  (More on this in a moment.)

From a customer service lens, the reason behind a service error doesn't matter. A business might choose to briefly explain why the error occurred and what has been done to ensure it won't happen again.  The main focus should be on correcting the problem -- this is both the right thing to do given the brand promise, and provides a good return on investment when done well.  The service recovery paradox shows that when a customer's negative experience is solved successfully, her loyalty increases.

 In Harvard Business Review's  "The Profitable Art of Service Recovery", the trio of authors demonstrate how a Club Med manager turned a group's horrendous travel experience into "the most fun they'd had since college."  He went much, much farther than would be expected, especially since the airline delays were not under the resort's control.  The vacation that should have been ruined before it started became a story of delight that has no doubt been told many, many times over.

It is worth noting that the only difference between these two posts by me and another high frequency wine consumer is that my counterpart would have mentioned the winery's name.  This creates what is known as the ripple effect, where dissatisfied customer shares her negative service experiences much more frequently than the instances where she is satisfied.  Behavioral studies have shown a similar phenomenon called loss aversion theory (or prospect theory). When applied to finance and market performance, investors hate their losses 2.5 times more than they celebrate their gains.

Did I return Santa's call?  No, because it's not worth it to me to argue over the money. Especially when I'm dealing with an interaction that should be delightful.  It is worth it to me to take my wine business elsewhere -- after all, we're all in the hospitality business first; the epicurean industry second.