Turning Bad into Good: A Lesson in Customer Service

A few years ago, I started shopping at Fresh & Easy, a grocery store chain that was springing up all over southern California. It had just opened in my neighborhood and quickly earned a reputation for being inexpensive yet high in quality.

A few years ago, I started shopping at Fresh & Easy, a grocery store chain that was springing up all over southern California. It had just opened in my neighborhood and quickly earned a reputation for being inexpensive yet high in quality. After one of my first trips, I discovered that my not-yet-expired half & half (purchased for the low price of just $1.29) was curdled when I opened it. Disappointed, I dumped out the carton and thought, “What a bummer!”.

On my next trip, I grabbed another carton and headed to the check out. I mentioned to the cashier that my last carton had spoiled before its expiration date and I’d like to take this one to replace it. Not only did he smilingly say “Of course!” but he also refunded my money from the original purchase. I told him that wasn’t necessary but he insisted. I mean, really insisted. He told me that he wanted to make it right AND make me happy.

What a impact that gesture had on me! He had done something unexpected. He didn’t begrudgingly let me take the replacement. He didn’t argue that I had not used it by its expiration date. He didn’t hem and haw. He confidently–even joyfully–made the situation right AND gave me my money back.

Not only did they actually make me happy, they turned a negative experience for me into a positive one. As a result, I became a Fresh & Easy evangelist. I told my neighbors about the new store. I shared my story of unexpectedly good customer service. I suggested my friends shop there whenever I could. I was so excited, I’m sure people got tired of hearing my enthusiatic promotion of the shop down the street.

As I reflect on how this lesson can be applied in the world of rentals, the examples are endless. Clearly setting expectations for customers seems to be the first part of the equation but having a plan for what to do when things go wrong needs to be considered as well. When you have a plan, any company can see something “going wrong” as an opportunity to transform their relationships with their customers.

Fresh & Easy turned my bad experience with their product into an exceptionally good experience with their company. And, in doing so, they actually made a marketer out of me. I think that was a pretty good way for them to spend their $1.29.