Two different approaches to the same problem

Customer service problems can and will happen. I wish they didn’t, but they do. And when they do occur, how the company resolves the problem can make a big difference.

I recently experienced two very different problem solving approaches from the same company. The first approach made the problem feel much worse. The second was wonderful.

The Situation
My wife, Sally, and I recently opened a nice bottle of wine to go with a special dinner she had made. Unfortunately, the wine had a strong vinegar taste that made it undrinkable. This was a fairly expensive bottle that we had bought at the winery three years ago, so naturally we were disappointed.

We’re planning another visit to the winery in a few months, so I decided to send them an email and ask for a discount on our next purchase.

Approach #1
Don’t respond.

It shouldn’t shock me that companies don’t respond to emails in this day and age, but it does. Three days later, I emailed the winery a second time. This time I did receive a response. It was very uninspiring:


I forwarded the email to my tasting room manager.  You should hear back from her soon. 

The Hospitality Team

Can you spot the problems with this message? I see at least three:

  • Who is it from? I'm pretty sure "The Hospitality Team" isn't their real name.
  • Who is the tasting room manager? Let’s give this person a name too so I know who will be contacting me. Maybe they will become my new BFF.
  • When exactly is soon?

“Soon” turned out to be two days later. Sheesh – I really need to get a dictionary because I thought soon meant, well, sooner than two days. 

The email I did receive was underwhelming:

Dear Jeff,

I left a voice mail for you today. Please give us a call to verify the address that we can send the call tag. Or if easier, just email back.

Best regards.

Mary Ann

This was a little better than the first message. But it was still poorly done.

First, the person’s voice message and email were focused on her needs rather than mine. Mary Ann wanted to get back the empty wine bottle. I wanted to get a discount on a future wine purchase and to have my frustration acknowledged by a caring and compassionate customer service professional.

Second, it’s a good rule of thumb to use the customer’s preferred method of communication. I had emailed because it was more convenient, but Mary Ann had called me and left a voice message with most of the information she wanted me to have. 

I did end up calling AND emailing, but did not receive a response.

Approach #2
Solve the problem swiftly with caring and enthusiasm.

I was contacted by someone else named Elizabeth the day after my last email to Mary Ann. Notice Elizabeth’s very different approach:

Hi Jeff!

I just wanted to reach out to you regarding your bad bottle of wine.  I apologize you didn't receive the response from our tasting room manager, but we would be happy to organize getting a new bottle to you!  What address do you prefer to receive shipments to?

And just so that we can continue to improve on our end-- out of curiosity, where and when was the bottle purchased?

Again, we apologize that the bottle was a disappointment.



I replied to Elizabeth’s email with my shipping address plus an explanation that I had purchased the bottle at the winery. She quickly responded to let me know she received my message and apologized once again. A new bottle arrived the very next day.

It’s too bad I didn’t encounter Elizabeth first. I had emailed to ask for a discount and she had responded by overnighting me a replacement bottle which feels like outstanding service to me. It’s the hassle in the middle I could have done without.