What do you do when a customer means to order one product, but somehow manages to order another? If it’s a T-shirt or a DVD, you’d probably just exchange it, but what if it’s a really big ticket item that has high shipping costs? Or a customized item that can’t just go back into the warehouse?
In the not too distant past, a customer we’ll just call “Gilbert” ordered a full property’s worth of window blinds from Blinds.com. In his own words, “unfortunately I ended up with aluminum metallic blinds, when I ordered white Faux no texture off white color blinds.” According to Blinds.com, however, Gilbert called to process the order that was already in his shopping cart, which was for 2″ aluminum blinds. He also verbally confirmed the color choice. The call was (appropriately) recorded for quality assurance purposes.
While Blinds.com was 100% in the right to make Gilbert eat the cost, CEO Jay Steinfeld decided to do something remarkable. While it’s clear that he doesn’t want to make a habit out of it, Mr. Steinfeld offered Gilbert the option to donate the blinds to a local charitable organization and send him the proof for a refund. Gilbert chose to give the blinds to Habitat for Humanity and went on record to say that he will order the replacements from Blinds.com.
What Could Have Happened?
If Blinds.com accepted the blinds for a refund, there probably would have a bit of time and money lost in shipping (for either, or for both, parties), and the aluminum blinds would have waited in their warehouse until someone decided they wanted that Jetsons look for their condo.
If Blinds.com refused a refund or any further action on their part, Gilbert would have been stuck with blinds he didn’t want, a bad customer experience, and a heck of a story to go with it. He could have sold the blinds at a steep discount in the aftermarket, which could have stolen a sale from Blinds.com. Chances are, he would also have turned to a competitor to buy the replacement blinds.
While the average customer probably doesn’t buy a new set of blinds too often, every business owner knows that a customer who has a uniquely poor experience is more likely to leave a review, tell their friends, and advocate for the replacement company. They also had no way of telling if Gilbert was the kind of person who would have insisted that he ordered the white blinds, despite all evidence to the contrary. The long term damage could have been substantial and almost impossible to price.
What Happened Instead
While most business owners don’t want to give away a big ticket item, Blinds.com managed to:
- Avoid releasing a potentially toxic user experience into their online ecosystem
- Write off the cost of the blinds (since they were technically a donation)
- Made a charitable donation, which they can now turn into a positive PR piece (even if it was an accident)
- Potentially create an advocate for their brand
So, good going, Mr. Steinfeld. You took a weird, poor user experience and salvaged it as well as anyone could. I hope you get lots of great anchor text that helps people find your business for window blinds and shades.