Shit happens. It’s what you do as a company to listen and to accept responsibility that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Recently, my wife ordered some hand soap-filled dispensers online from Save Plus via When the package came, one of the dispensers had leaked through the box, making a soapy mess. She alerted the company of the issue, and they apologized and asked for photos of the container and the offending dispenser, and if she wanted a partial refund or replacement. She responded with the requested photos and asked for a replacement. In their response they apologized again, indicated they would seek reimbursement from the shipper (even though it was clearly not the shipper’s fault), and said two things marring the experience:

(1) Were sorry your [sic] having this problem with your order and have refunded your Amazon account $8.74 for the damaged items.

(2) While we do our best to ship our orders well packaged and as quickly as possible, sometimes packages do get damaged by the courier which is beyond our control.

With the first one, obviously the CSR didn’t thoroughly read and appropriately respond to my wife’s request. It’s an oversight, but when you already have an issue on your hands, it’s even more important to be diligent and make it right. If you bother to ask the customer’s preference, respond appropriately and accurately.

With the second one, the company is doing its best to shirk responsibility. Your customers don’t care who you use as a courier as long as the package is delivered undamaged and when promised. Your choice of shipper is a business decision you have made based on reliability and value. But in the end, you’re still responsible for the end-to-end experience your customers have, even if some of it is outside of your direct control.

Even when circumstances demand it, alerting your customers you intend to seek reimbursement from the carrier is information they do not need. That’s not part of your interaction with them and provides no value. The appropriate response to this issue would have been:

We’re very sorry for the issue and will examine our packing approach to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Thank you for sending us photos of the damaged container as it will help us figure out what went wrong. We appreciate your patience and we’ll be shipping out a replacement dispenser, which you can expect to receive next Tuesday.

Responding in this way acknowledges the issue, acknowledges the customer’s negative experience, thanks the customer for their help, and lets the customer know the company cares by re-examining their packing and shipping processes.

So when something goes wrong with one of your customers, will you pass the buck or will you find ways to make it right and keep it from happening again? Those who do the latter will succeed in the marketplace. Those who pass the buck are eventually doomed to failure.

A contestant jumps into a frozen lake during Nederland's Frozen Dead Guy Days.

A contestant jumps into a frozen lake during Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days.