I'm not sure how many of you have been watching the Hidden Eloise / Paperchase debacle unfold on Twitter and various other social media today, but I think it's it's been fascinating.. In essence, an independent artist, Hidden Eloise, claims that Paperchase have a) plagiarised some of her work, and b) all but ignored her when she brought it to their attention. She has twittered about her experience, the story has gained a following and traveled around the world like wildfire today, as readers are stirred by the injustice of the matter.
The reason it has caught my eye - apart from stirring my own sense of injustice and the incredible power of social networking - is the articles and speculation around how Paperchase should and could handle this 'PR disaster'. I read a really interesting article suggesting that the best way forward would be a heartfelt apology and a 'what can we do to make up for this' approach. Judging by their statement issued earlier today that's not really the route they are taking - this sounds more like worry over losing customers than any genuine sense of concern or regret regarding the artist:
"Above all, we would like to apologise to any customers upset or angered by this allegation against us."
Anyway, why am I writing about this you might be thinking, and there is a reason. You see, within the last few days I have decided to try taking a genuinely concerned, helpful and apologetic tone to any customers who aren't totally happy with any aspect of anything at Cottontails. And to really mean it you know? Not just to grit my teeth and bear it when people want to send things back for example, but to be as helpful and friendly and concerned as I can possibly be - to see it as an opportunity to help someone rather than an inconvenience to myself.
It was kind of sparked off when my first phone call of the week, on Monday morning, was from a lady who wanted to return a couple of toys because there were a few problems with them. Not a great start to the the week and I'll be honest, my heart sank. So whilst I was polite and efficient in telling her how to return them and so on, I perhaps didn't hide my disappointment / frustration very well. (It's hard for a small business, having to absorb things like this). Afterwards I felt rotten. I even tried to call her back and say I'm sorry if I didn't sound happier - imagine that, probably not the sort of service you'd get from many retailers! Because the thing is, she was 100% right - the things I sell are expensive and of course she should expect perfection - of course she should, and anything less than that is up to me to sort out.
As it is I have done everything I can and will be sending her a little extra with her replacements to make up for the problems... And I feel good about it now. I hope she will be happy and will remember the experience and that, ultimately we'll both feel good.
So that's my little change in approach this week - to try and truly, meaningfully do everything I can for any customer who is not 100% happy. It's very free-ing and satisfying to say a genuine 'sorry' and to be absolutely as helpful as you can be, even at a cost to yourself.
I'll let you know how I get on (and hope this won't turn Cottontails into some kind of Marks and Spencer where everyone sends everything back all the time!!) As it is I get very, very few returns as the things we sell are of such great quality - which is why I'm not in the habit of handling problems I suppose?
Gosh, this is a serious post. Something more fun tomorrow I promise, with a few toys thrown in...
Since I wrote this post last week I have done all I can to resolve things with the lady I mentioned (the one who had some problems with her toys), and yesterday I received this lovely email from her:
Many thanks for all your help, received everything today including the lovely little mouse!
The Prncess and the Pea was for my daughter but I love it just as much!
Thank you again for being so thoughful, I will use your company again.
I am just so pleased she is happy, and that 'doing the right thing' has had such positive results. Hooray!