We had three examples of customer service this past week, and thinking about them gave me an insight.

My wife ordered some t-shirts for the 4th of July from Cafe Press. She was concerned about them getting here on time and she ordered in plenty of time. She also paid for expedited shipping. On Thursday, June 30, she checked and sure enough, Cafe Press had sent the shirts to the wrong address, on the other side of the country. She called. She explained the timing. The customer service rep was helpful, and assured her that they would reship, so that the shirts would arrive Saturday. They would also refund the expedited shipping.

On Saturday at 4pm. My wife called again. The customer service rep was again very pleasant and explained the mistake on the first shipment (something about FedX rerouting numbers) and the since the expedited shipping had been refunded, the Cafe Press shipping department had sent this batch of shirts by regular shipping. Needless to say, neither of us will buy anything from Cafe Press again, and we will, if asked, tell this story as a warning.

We got the obligatory follow up survey yesterday. Cafe Press refunded the whole order. The shirts arrived Tuesday and then again Thursday. (the first errant shipment).

On Tuesday, I made a reservation on Hilton’s website. It was a special deal for gold passport members. I knew that. I knew that it said that it was not cancellable and that it was not refundable or changeable. And when I hit the button to finish the transaction, I realized that I had entered the wrong date.

I called and spoke to a customer service representative and told her what I had done. She was not in the US. She told me that she could not change the reservation. I asked: So I am stuck? She then said that we could cancel this reservation and rebook for the right day. There was no fuss. There was no “I need to talk to my manager.” She just got the job done. She was polite but not fawning.

I was at the athletic club, trying to log in with their fingerprint reader. It spit back something odd. The receptionist told me to hold on a second. She kept looking at the computer. I was going to change into my bike clothes that were in a locker and ride home. I was in a hurry. At some point, the receptionist got frustrated with the computer and just looked up and smiled and said: You’re fine.

Here is the point. Everyone was polite. The Cafe Press folks were trained to speak politely and even be a little obsequious.


But you must solve the customer’s problem. You have to get it right. Somehow this gets lost in the current scheme of customer service training. Nice is good, but listening is better. The win is solving the problem. To understand the problem, you have to listen to the customer.