It’s a funny thing when customer service executives get to interact with each other. In May, I happened to be introduced to Dave Mitchell, Levenger’s dedicated VP of Operations, at the Operations Summit in Memphis.
I’ve been a Levenger fan for years and love the company’s products: I own a number of their bags and many of their tools for reading and writing and managing documents, and I have their furniture both at home and in the office. I had even used them as an example of a company I trust in a different conference discussion about the value of sharing data with suppliers to get a better experience of shopping and product usage (and in doing so, I met Steve Leveen, Levenger’s peripatetic and generous founder).
During my chat with Dave Mitchell, I chivvied him a bit, as any customer might, because Levenger had recently changed the specs of a product I had bought for years so that it no longer served my purpose. Now, of course, companies need to make these changes periodically. That’s part of doing business, and I was neither looking for any accommodation nor expecting anything — it was just some friendly ribbing among customer service professionals.
But shortly after the conference, Dave got in touch with me via email with the following message (all email excerpts are used with permission):
I recalled you ribbing me about it — and it occurred to me that I didn’t try to make it right when you did… I apologize for not seeing what options would have eased the change. I would like to do so now if you would like to afford me the opportunity.
… Let me know what and if I can do anything to get you back to [this product line]. I suspect that some of our new (and previously existing) formats will delight you.
I actually feel bad about accepting special favors, so I tried to let Dave off his own hook by writing:
… Please, please don’t be worried about doing anything for me. Unless this is like the problem for a homicide detective — once there’s an open case, it’s got to be closed one way or another… I’m fine!
With regret for your aggravation,
But Dave was both sincere and adamant:
Oh, gosh, no. … You didn’t cause any problem, I promise. Under “normal” circumstances I would have jumped at the chance to “make things right” … It is truly the service DNA we have cultivated. … So, no “cold case.”
This is what we do, and I am the leader of the crew — and I dropped the ball. Actually, we will use this as an example to the CS professionals. That is to say, to err is human and even the boss has an occasional brain cramp. … I have the honor of working with the best team, period.
So I would love to provide you with a new [product] and for you to use it daily. … and we will remain top of mind.
Please, no regrets on your part and certainly no aggravation at all. Let me know what would be most beneficial for you and I will ensure my team processes out to you without delay.
What a lovely, smart response, I thought, with his giving credit to his people while helping me help them ensure my loyalty. So what else could I do but accept Dave’s offer? Here’s what I wrote to him when I sent my “order”:
Thank you, Dave, for being so clear and generous. I’m taking you at your word … And you can tell your crew that their leader made someone feel very happy!
And then Dave sent something extra and special besides the product we had spoken about.
Every time I look at my [product] I remember my fondness for Dave and Steve and Levenger in general. Of course, for anything in their product category, I will always go to them first. And isn’t that exactly the attitude you want to create and preserve in your customers?
[Thanks to Jeff Klein, whom I had the pleasure of working with years ago when he was at Bedford Fair, before he started his own consulting practice, for introducing me to Dave Mitchell.]