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Last week, a major sporting goods chain failed one of its hard-working, 'make-it-happen' front line customer care warriors. And I was a witness....

The Facts: When I entered the sprawling sporting goods store on Thursday morning, I was on a critical mission for a dear friend, whose 2 year battle with blood cancer had left her weak and fragile. Days before, her mother had passed away and on Friday, her oldest son would turn 13.
My friend's fervent wish was to get the collapsed ping-pong table in her basement (thankfully covered by a service agreement) removed and replaced by another table within 24 hours. Her son was hosting a birthday sleepover and ping-pong would be in high demand. Shaky and fatigued, my friend shuffled into the retail store where the table was bought a few months back. We found her a chair.
I quickly located the manager, "Dave," and out of ear-shot of my friend, I laid out the facts and appealed for his help: please make this happen. Dave 'got it' and pulled out every stop. Within 4 short hours, a fully-assembled, new table was standing in my friend's basement. I profusely thanked Dave. His only request? Go to the Web address printed on the store receipt and answer the customer survey questions.
The Letdown: If only it was that easy–. the retailer's feedback system was a nightmare: (1) Back at my friend's home, when I typed in the survey's site address, the page had expired. (2) Next, I went to the corporate Web site in search of another feedback option, and found nothing. (3) I then searched the corporate site under 'Contact Us' for a corporate snail-mail address. Again, nothing. (4) Next, I searched the site under 'Investment Information'. Surely, this public corporation's headquarters address would be posted. Again, nothing! (5) I finally called the store and explained my dilemma and a different manager on duty gave me a blind email address to send my comments. (6) Fearing my email would funnel into a black hole, I also requested the corporate headquarters mailing address for which she had to look up and call me back.
The Bottom Line: Dave's corporation failed him. Big time. The corporation failed Dave's team, too. The chain's sloppy feedback system and poor corporate oversight discouraged customer feedback, to put it mildly.
In almost any other circumstance, this manager's stellar performance would have gone undocumented by the customer. What kept me in the game? The thought that this amazing customer warrior and his team were trapped in such a system. As I saw it, I OWED it to Dave and my ailing friend to provide the 'high five' feedback. So, whatever it took, I kept prodding the retailer's dysfunctional apparatus to find a way.
But, sadly, most customers stop after one failed feedback attempt. The tragic result? Everybody---the corporation, the employee and the customer---loses.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (as we say here in Texas), senior management continues to ponder why employees become demoralized and customers stray........

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image of Jill Griffin

Jill Griffin is an executive trainer ( and author.