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A Moment Of Magic...Or Misery?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

When handled incorrectly, a store's response to website blunders—like missing expiration dates on its printable coupons—can severely undermine customer service efforts. Rick Segel, principal at Florida-based Rick Segel & Associates, a firm specializing in retail marketing and retail sales training, recently "blogged" about his own negative coupon experience in a May 22 post on his website. (Editor's Note: Giftbeat received permission to edit the original article.)

A Moment of Magic or Is It a Moment of Misery?

A colleague of mine, Shep Hyken, wrote a book called Moments of Magic, where he separates customer service experiences into two categories: Moments of Magic and Moments of Misery.

Recently, my kids and grandchildren had come to my house for the weekend, and we decided to have a family bowling tournament. I went online to check out the hours of operation for the bowling alley. The center had a very acceptable website with all of the information I needed. It even offered a couple of coupons, which I printed out.

When we got to the bowling alley, I discovered that the online coupon was expired, but had no expiration date on it. I asked about the coupon—not so much that they would honor it, but just to share my disappointment and maybe receive some type of consideration (like game tokens) for my grandchildren.

I apparently got the new counter person. He was a bright college kid, and his first reaction was perfect. He said, “I’m sorry that happened to you and I’m sure we will honor that coupon.” Great—that was a Moment of Magic. He said the right thing and made me feel important because I was smart enough to check out the website and print the coupon.

That Moment of Magic turned into a Moment of Misery when the clerk asked the manager about the coupon. The manager loudly replied, “That promotion ended two weeks ago,” and gave me a look which said: “What are you trying to pull off? You cheap so and so.” Not wanting to make a scene, I just accepted the rude and degrading service.

Forget about what the manager’s attitude did to me: think about what it did to the employee. No one wants to work for a jerk.

Here are the lessons:

1. If you are going to publish a coupon, honor it. Regardless of circumstances.

2. If you are going to change your policy, then change the website. That is the act of the amateur.

3. Think about the effects your actions will have on your employees. It is easier to attract good customers than it is to keep good employees.

4. Just because customers ask for a discount doesn’t make them bad people. Respect them, compliment them for trying, but don’t treat them as second class citizens.

5. It takes little fish to catch big ones. I didn’t need the discount to satisfy my request. As I mentioned, a few game coins would have gone a long way and cost him nothing. But even a simple, “I wish we could…” would have calmed me down nicely.

Note: You can reach Segel at 800-814-7998 or To access Segel's blog, go to To order a copy of his book, "The Essential Online Solution: The 5 Step Formula to Small Business Success," log on to

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