Win Me Back

Sep 04, 2015


For the second year in a row now, I have hosted a little live music event in my backyard. My youngest brother is a budding singer/songwriter and I have twice convinced him to play a live show for my friends, family, and me. It’s a pretty casual affair, but I try to dress it up a bit with a makeshift stage on my back patio, stage lighting, and of course custom-designed koozies for all of the cold drinks on hand.

When it came to fulfilling this year’s koozie order, I decided to go with the same company that produced them the year prior. They were cheap, shipped for free, and the company easily replicated my design. They earned my trust so I figured, why not?

About two weeks before the party I received my shipment of koozies. Much to my dismay, the company had distorted my logo design. My perfect circle logo was now squished into an oblong oval. I’ll admit it may not have been the most egregious error, but an error nonetheless. As a designer, I wanted my original design the way I designed it.

I immediately went to their website and discovered that their protocol for complaints was to submit an online form. I was a little weary of the fact that my plea for rectification was being received through something as nebulous as a web form, but I filled it out as they instructed. I stated the fact that I had designed a circular logo, the koozies I had received were obviously distorted from my original design and the design proof I approved, and I would like my original design replicated as intended in a free replacement order. As I hit “submit,” I envisioned my feeble complaint settling gently to the bottom of a sea of unchecked grievances. “At least I tried,” I thought.

Win Me Back_Fig1

Much to my surprise, I actually received a response—in less than 24 hours! “Melissa” politely replied as follows:

“I am very sorry that the product you received was not what you were expecting. I have requested a replacement package to be sent to you. Again, I am very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you.”

Alright, “Melissa!” That’s what I’m talking about! She took responsibility for the company’s mistake and indicated that I was going to receive a replacement order in time for my event. She and her company dodged a bullet considering I ordered these so far in advance of my party that a replacement order was logistically possible, but who cares. She handled this exactly how this unsatisfied customer wanted.

Case closed, article over, right? Unfortunately, no.

Two days before my party, the replacement koozies arrived. As soon as I opened the box, a star-crossed sense of relief washed over me. The logo design was, in fact, proportional and as I intended. So what was the problem? I picked up a koozie to relish in my circular design, but immediately noticed the koozie felt weird. It was light and spongy. Something wasn’t right. I picked up one of the koozies from my previous order—the distorted ones—to compare.

Oh man, they messed it up! AGAIN!

Instead of printing my design on the nicer (and more expensive) neoprene material that I originally ordered, they printed the replacements on the flimsier (and less expensive) foam material. A subtle difference, but not what I ordered.

I quickly checked the invoice email for the replacements. Maybe they had stealthily switched the replacement koozie material from neoprene to foam to sneak it past me. Upon finding the invoice they were not so devious. They had indicated the replacements should have been neoprene, just like the original order. This was just another garden-variety mistake.

The party was in two days so replacements were not an option. All that was left was to blow off steam on their online complaint form. I detailed their latest blunder, indicated I was handcuffed because there was no time for replacements, theorized that they may have intentionally printed the replacements on the cheaper material to cut cost and hope I didn’t notice (not my finest moment), and openly questioned how this latest error was going to be mitigated.

Win Me Back_Fig2

This time, “Melissa” responded within 15 minutes.

“I am very sorry that they printed on the wrong product for your replacement order. We did request it on the neoprene. Can you use the replacement package? If you can, I can offer you a 30% discount on the order. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. Again, I am very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you.”

With the party so close, I ended up accepting defeat. I took the 30% discount and settled for the close-but-not-quite-right koozies I now had in excess. Partygoers did not gasp at the distorted design, nor cringe at the touch of the cheap foam as I had feared, but I was certainly less proud to give them out than I wanted to be.

The lesson here is that customer service can go a long way in helping mitigate the occasional miscue, but it can’t salvage a consistently bad customer experience. I’ve given it some serious thought and judging by my increased spirits after receiving the first replacement communication from “Melissa,” I probably would have kept using that company if the replacements had come in as I intended. They lost my trust after the second mistake, and unfortunately for them, they won’t have an opportunity to win me back.