Customer service

I just wrote a thank you note to a company that has failed to fulfill an online order in a timely fashion. That is an odd thing to write: I thanked this family-owned company for great service despite failing to receive my order, and I wish I had more occasions to do such a thing.

First, some backstory: As I write this, I am awaiting deliveries from two other companies as well, and neither has notified me proactively of their delayed shipment; both simply dropped the ball without any update. Sadly, in today's world, this is the norm; but this is where the company to which I sent my “thank you” seems to stand out.

I placed my first order with a mask company last Saturday after I continued to read about it in news stories regarding credible places to purchase KN-95 and N-95 masks. Immediately after my order, I received an email thanking me, explaining a delay in fulfillment times, and sharing the owner’s pride in a family business started by his grandfather (in fact, the parent company produces all those dog-tag chains worn by our military around the world, and they are proud of their service to the country). This message impressed me further when the owner shared his personal email address should I have any questions. Who does that in today’s impersonal online world?

A few days later, I received another email explaining long delays and expressing regret at this situation. Then again, a day or so later, I received another, similar message. Keep in mind, my order has not shipped, I have not received anything tangible, but I am grateful for a company who reaches out to me proactively to acknowledge an experience that is less than they wish to provide. The emails convey a serious sense of mea culpa and a sincere expression that they wish to do better. This is the mark of great customer service, and I wrote to congratulate them on taking these customer-service steps. Someone who acknowledges that they’ve missed the mark and offers a sincere apology is like a balm—it is simply hard to be upset when you know they know they’ve disappointed you.

Now, those other two companies I mentioned earlier provided flimsy excuses: One blamed a weather system that didn’t hit their area until a week after my order. How many times have you been on the receiving end of an excuse that you knew was untrue, and you knew the person providing it knew it was untrue as well? That produces great anger. As St. John Paul II wrote, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.” One is disrespected in such situations, and they rightly recognize they are dealing with someone lacking in character.

A good lesson is learned from my new mask company friends on how to handle affairs, and it seems to me that we in the Church have a duty to handle ourselves with this type of integrity. “All have sinned,” St. Paul writes, “and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are all imperfect, and we all make mistakes, but how we deal with those errors is a litmus of how we are living our faith. Do we make excuses instead of taking ownership? If so, we’re protecting lies instead of casting them out into the light so that we can grow. It can be painful; after all, it never feels good to admit a failure. But in this time of stress and tension, integrity is a much-needed balm that can soothe wounds and, hopefully, lead to dialogue.

Sadly, we’re becoming a society that seeks the lie and the excuse. But Jesus is the Truth, and even painful truths must be sought if we want to see the world change. This doesn’t mean we are called to magnanimous actions. Maybe it all starts with a simple, proactive email that reads, “I’m sorry, I missed the mark and failed to live up to my standards. You can expect better from me going forward.”