Netflix says they’re sorry

I (and many others) received this email from Netflix today, subject line: “We’re sorry”:

Dear Gabriel,

As you may have heard, our shipping system was unexpectedly down for most of Monday. We should have shipped you a DVD but were unable to. Your DVD was shipped today, Tuesday, March 25th, instead.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. We will issue a 5% credit to your account in the next few days. You don’t need to do anything. The credit will be automatically applied to your next billing statement.

Again, we apologize for the delay and thank you for your understanding. If you need further assistance, please call us at 1(888)638-3549.

-The Netflix Team

When I used to wait tables, one thing I learned early on was that a small mistake by me or the kitchen was actually an opportunity for me to make more money. Customers were routinely far more impressed with a well-handled mistake (which they actively noticed) than with trouble-free service (which they took for granted). As far as my tips were concerned, it was better for a steak to be overcooked, replaced, and proactively taken off the bill than for it to come out perfectly the first time.

This phenomenon was so predictably true, I’d often alert customers to mistakes I’d noticed and remedied in the kitchen that they’d otherwise never have discovered, simply in order to collect on their gratitude.

The 5% refund Netflix is issuing for the one-day shipping glitch is a bargain price for the move they’ll enjoy out of the ad space on blogs and news sites, and into the editorial space, where they’ll be praised for “doing the right thing” by “taking proactive steps,” which “companies are now realizing is the only way to effectively address significant customer service problems in the digital age.”

Given the company’s web-savvy nature, I’d expect no less than this from them, and neither should you. The one thing that really did impress me about Netflix’s handling of this matter was the inclusion of a customer service phone number* right in the body of the email.

Update, following comments:
Regarding the inclusion of the phone number. The Amazon / Google / eBay / etc. cabal of uber-successful dot coms tend to act as though the telephone were an obsolete method of contact. Implicitly, their sites are just “that good.”

No doubt that by including the phone number in the email, Netflix has received many, many times the call volume regarding this issue than they otherwise would have, as they’ve all but¬†prompted¬†customers to pick up the phone. It’s the one aspect of their handling of the issue that goes beyond what should be regarded as the minimum threshold for proactive customer service by a company like Netflix.

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