Communication is the key to awesome customer service.


This is a true story about communication failure, and it’s a little funny, but had implications for customer delivery.

Cosmo Lounge Suite

A customer purchased a lounge suite and selected a specific colour of fabric. This information was fully documented on the invoice and the order placed with the lounge manufacturer. As the manufacturer builds a lounge suite, they order the appropriate fabrics form the various fabric distributors in the lengths they require for the order. This keeps the manufacturers costs down as they only purchase what they need when they need it. A logical and simple method of not tying up loads of funds an fabrics that may sit on shelves as there are so many variations and choices.

Although the order to the manufacturer was placed via fax (yes many industries are still using the fax as their main form of communication for documents), the manufacturer ordered the fabric from the distributor over the phone. The fabric was dispatched, the lounge suite upholstered and shipped off to the store for delivery to the customer. Many stores do not even get the product in after manufacture. Often it is delivered from manufacturer to customer direct. This reduces handling costs for all concerned and minimises risk of damage to the product.

Quality assurance

In our instance, for quality and customer experience control we get the products delivered to our store for QA inspection before delivery to customer by our in-house teams. Although this is counter intuitive to maximising profits, it is our way of ensuring a consistent quality customer service and experience. A trade off, but one that has paid of many times over.

Colour Samples

On inspection it was discovered that the lounge suite was the wrong colour. The colour wasn’t out just a little, but out by the full width of the colour spectrum. The suite was ordered in a cream colour and received in a dark red. Certainly not what the customer wanted. As the customer was expecting delivery, the situation needed to be managed, customer was informed of the error and the manufacturer was instructed to expedite a replacement in the correct colour.

What went wrong?

The question was… what went wrong and could the error have been avoided?

Well after investigation it was found to have been a simple communication error between the manufacturer and the fabric distributor when the order was placed over the phone.

The fabric colour specified by the customer was Mellow and the lounge was upholstered in the colour Merlot. Two extremely different colours that sound similar over a phone line..

This is how simple errors of communication can undermine a customer experience.

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6 thoughts on “Communication is the key to awesome customer service.

  1. This is a reality in many industries, where a client has requested a specific color, configuration or requirement be met and the end result is never as good as first thought.

    New players seem to think that as the older people don’t write down everything in a meeting, they can forgo the same jotting down.

    Big mistake.

    In one meeting, a long time ago, the client asked my colleague for a computer and screen that could handle CAD. He missed the key word, assumed she meant cash, and tried to sell her a mid range system with an accounting package. The client thought that he understood her needs and accepted the quotation. When the lesser computer arrived, she realised that it wouldn’t meet her needs at all, nor could it be upgraded to make a closer fit.

    She tried to return the computer, but, as the salesperson had bought it cheaply and it was now obsolete, he couldn’t do so. The company eventually took back the computer and wore the return. we sold her the correct equipment, but it was still a jaded experience. She was overheard speaking to a friend in a networking event about how much time was wasted with that firm. The damage was substantial.

    If you are unsure, Ask. If you think you heard the wrong thing, Ask. If you would prefer to use email if possible, Ask. If you don’t, you will never know the answer and the client may be disappointed.

    1. Excellent examples from both of you on the need for communications. When I worked with the service department for Hytec (A Kohler Canada Co.) it was not uncommon to see people order incorrect items based faulty communications or information.

      One learned quickly to double and triple check. A few times a month I would put in a call to wholesalers to confirm what was being ordered, especially if the order was specialized (lots of bath jets, funky colours, etc.). I would say that about 70% of the time we were able to catch communication errors and save ourselves from manufacturing a specialty tub that would be considered non-returnable.

      You would get one or two wholesalers who got saucy, and wondered why you would double check their orders, but the ones whom you saved were your friend for life!

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