They were quite clear about it, weren’t they? IT’S NOT OUR FAULT!

So — whose fault was it?

And – what would you guess about the customer loyalty, productivity and morale ratings at this shop?

On a 10 point scale (10 highest), I think most of us would put them at a zero. Let me know if you disagree.

I had the good fortune to spend my early business years in a company that strived for a 10 in all three of these areas. Sometimes we made it. Sometimes we didn’t. But we were always trying.

You may have heard me tell about the time we delivered 15,000 copies of a 300 page telephone book to a school in West Virginia. A few days after delivery, Stan (our client) called to report a problem. He had sent advance copies of the directory to several faculty members and a number of them had called to report that the pages were out of order.

The books had been printed and bound by one of our sub-contractors. Knowing that the books we had in our office were just fine and knowing how a bindery works (much like the collator on your copier) and how easy it is for some pages to mis-feed, we felt certain that these faculty members had just received a “bad box”. But Stan was worried and had stopped distribution. He said he thought we needed to re-print the books.

Oh my!

There was no choice. One of us needed to go to West Virginia. FAST!

Guess who got the assignment?

For 2 days, I stood in the warehouse with Stan. We opened every single box, all 600 of them. We flipped through every single directory to be certain the pages were in the right order. Out of the 15,000 directories, we found 41 faulty ones. After discarding these, Stan resumed distribution.

There had been an error on the part of the bindery. Luckily it hadn’t been too big of an error.

Was it our fault?

Actually – it was the bindery’s fault.

Did the university want to hear about that?

No. They hired us to produce a quality directory on time. And we hired sub-contractor that made the error.

It wasn’t our fault. But it was our responsibility.

Stan never forgot how we took responsibility and how we took it so seriously.

He remained a loyal customer until his retirement. And the university remained a loyal customer until long after that.

One more story.

In the very first year of our contract with a school in Georgia, there was an error in the directory. The Publications Department had sent us camera-ready material. One of these pages was a table of contents and on it the page numbers were wrong. No one noticed until AFTER the directory was printed.

Was it our fault?

No. The pages came camera-ready.

But it was a problem and we wanted to help our client with it.

Our solution. Print a peel & stick table of contents. Drive to Georgia. Stick the peel & stick page onto the table of contents page in each of the 7000 directories.

This time – Allen and Margaret got the assignment.

They were in a warehouse with a few temporary workers hired by the university. Peeling and sticking. Peeling and sticking. For 2 ½ days.

Connie, our contact at this university, was ecstatic. Twenty years later, she was still telling the story about how we came to her rescue.

The error – whose fault was it?

Who cares?

It was our responsibility to deliver a quality directory, on time.

When vendors take really good care of their customers like this– helping them take care of problems no matter who is at fault – the relationships grow stronger and stronger to where they aren’t just vendor/customer relationships.

They are partnerships – which last a very long time.

Author's Bio: 

Jan has thirty years of sales and management experience and loves sharing it (plus her love for solving problems and for making work fun) with others so that they can get through tough situations, make big goals and celebrate these achievements.

She is now President of Business Class Inc which provides resources to managers and business owners such as one-on-one coaching, master mind groups and management team retreats. Plus FREE resources such as a Blog, E-Zine and Quote Libary, which includes over 100 motivational quotes ready to download, print, post and share to help teach, learn, remind and reinforce important keys for business success.