What the Germans have to learn

Today I received an e-mail that showed, how to handle communications with your customer, if things have gone south.

It's so simple, that I cannot understand how anybody could do it differently. But people do. Especially the Germans. Let me paint you a picture of what happens when a german company (at least most of them) fucks things up.

Best case:

You'll get a letter-of-apology. Kind of… They will never take responsibility. They will point out some "unusual circumstances", that "weren't handled correctly by the system in place" and assure you that they will "take appropriate measures to better handle this kind of exception in the future". Then they will hit you with some legal mumbo jumbo, that essentially just tells you to be lucky, if you get what you ordered in less than 4 weeks. They will cite some court-rulings and point to their general-terms-and-conditions. And at last, you will read something like:

"Despite all this (read: "Although you are an idiot and we can totally get away with fucking you hard"), and with no legal obligation, we value you as a customer and are happy to offer you a partial refund."

Worst case:

They don't do shit and just wait for you to take actions. Then, they don't do shit and wait for your lawyer to write them. Then they write you back and after a short waiting period of approximately 3 to 5 years, you may get a court to decide on your case and you both split the cost 50/50.

Ok, now let's take a look at what the guys from www.mybanana.com did, when they made a mistake with my order.

That's the e-mail I received:


Dear Mirko,

Thank you so much for your order from MyBanana!

I'm afraid we have some bad news for you.. There was a miscalculation from our part and unfortunately we have run out of stock on the case you have ordered for your 15" Retina Macbook Pro. You purchased the last one on Friday, but we had miscounted 1 more in stock. We understand this is unacceptable and we would like to apologize for this inconvenience that this has caused to you.

You now have the following options:

1. Change to a light grey colour and we will also give you a 5% refund for the trouble we have caused. This is the one: http://www.mybanana.com/collections/mac/products/wool-felt-grey-black-leather-strap

2. Wait for one to be made for you, which I am afraid will take approximately 1 week to arrive to you

3. Cancel your order and receive a full refund immediately, even though we would hate ourselves for it :(

Please let us know how you'd like to proceed as soon as possible so that we can process the shipment of your case tomorrow!

My best regards and apologies for informing you so late,

Mike & MyBanana Team


So, what happened here?

  1. They took responsibility.
    Personal responsibility. Not some "unusual circumstances", just a plain: "we counted wrong". Also not: "a third party, that was subcontracted with counting from 1 to 5 made an error…".
  2. They were honest.

    Again: "We miscounted". That is an error that can happen. It shouldn't, but it can.
  3. They offered a solution.
    Three solutions to be correct. Each of them totally acceptable: Getting a different color, with a discount. Waiting a few more days for the original order to be delivered and last but not least: canceling my order.
  4. Being personal and funny.
    The whole mail is really personal. Not only did they address me directly, there is an actual person (Mike) who wrote this mail. And they were fun too ("even though we would hate ourselves for it :(" )

What I did was to go with the light-grey alternative. A few minutes after I answered this mail, I got a reply. That also was one of the nicest mails I have received this month. And an hour or so later, I got my shipping notice.

Now, look what being honest did for Mike and his team. Not only do they now have a new and satisfied customer, no, they turned a shitty-situation for a first contact into the exact opposite. And I even took 10 minutes of my time to blog about it and spread the word.

I really hope more companies take this approach.

Thanks Mike.