It's going to happen. No matter how amazing your client service is, you're going to disappoint a client at some point, somehow. The difference between losing and retaining a client comes down to how you handle the situation. There's no perfect formula for righting a wrong, however, Zappos has a pretty good technique you can learn from.

I'm sure you've heard of Zappos, maybe you've even purchased shoes from them, but where they really shine is in their level of customer service. I order from Zappos because it's so convenient. I know I'll get my order the next day and can always return it--free of charge. I've never been disappointed, that is until July 8, when I needed a pair of shoes for an upcoming trip and I ordered them two days before leaving. When I placed that order, I expected to get my shoes on July 8. They didn't arrive. Instead, I got the following email:

Dear April,

So, this is embarrassing... behind the scenes, we had a perfect storm of things that went wrong at our warehouses and your order will arrive one day later than we originally promised. We tracked down part of the issue which was the result of human error which partly caused us to do the wrong thing. We just did the math and about 13,000 customers were affected by this, which frankly makes this completely unacceptable since we normally try to underpromise and overdeliver, but that clearly wasn't the case today.

So, instead of your order being delivered by Tuesday, July 8th, as promised, it's now expected to be delivered by Wednesday, July 9th instead. If this is causing you undue hardship, please call us at 800-927-7671 or email us at [email protected] and we will bend over backwards to make it right. We promise.

If this isn't causing you undue hardship but is just extremely annoying, please call us and ask whoever answers the phone to do something weird or embarrassing, like sing "I'm A Little Teacup" or do their best audio impression of a cute little kitten.

You trusted us, and we failed this time...

Our goal is to always WOW our customers... while we can't change the past and the human error, what we can do is change the present and the future.

If there's anything we can do to get a little smile out of you, just let us know what it is and we'll do our best to accommodate.

-Tony ( CEO)

I'm smiling while reading that my order is delayed. It's so tough to be upset when the CEO emails me, takes complete ownership of the mistake, and makes me laugh along the way. Was this really causing me hardship? Absolutely not. I'll get the shoes right before I leave. Of course, out of curiosity, I called and the customer service representative was wonderful and assured me my order was on its way. Talk about service with a smile. In case you're wondering, yes, they have had requests for silly tasks--one rep sang a lullaby at a customer's request.

Your practice may not be Zappos, but you can strive to make your client smile. Take time to delight your client, even when faced with a mistake. Go above and beyond to tell him or her how you'll make it right, and follow through with that promise. And, keep your team in the loop with what you've promised--every representative at Zappos read that email and was prepared to sing or meow at a customer's request.

Always offer excellent customer service and delight your clients when they least expect it.

Want more information on delighting your clients? AAHA offers several resources to help you deliver the best service possible. Check out the Veterinary Management Institute to find out more on how you can grow as a leader and keep your clients returning time and time again.


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