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After moving from Westchester County New York to the San Diego area, we were asleep (again) on an air mattress awaiting almost all of our material possessions to arrive the next day.  We were awakened by a call from our moving company that our things would not be arriving tomorrow morning as promised.  Or ever.  Indeed, our furniture, clothes, electronics, papers, photographs, paintings, kitchenware, bedding, etc. had all been destroyed in a truck fire near Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This was something of a disaster for us, and, from a positive “customer experience” standpoint, a disaster for the moving company.

But the point of this post is to point out that in this disaster, there is an opportunity for the moving company to be proactive and excellent and greatly ameliorate or even turn around this customer service disaster. They could, for example, send us a personal apology.  They could be in constant contact about the status of any remains.   They could arrange for us to visit the site of the fire at their expense.  They could arrange to quickly reimburse us at least for the full amount of our insurance with the moving company so that we could get on with our lives as best we could.  Obviously, photo albums, the drawings of my children, letters from friends, my grandfather’s paintings, and souvenirs from a lifetime of travel could not really be replaced.  But what *could* be replaced needed to be so quickly.  And, given that we were in a somewhat vulnerable state, this disaster really offered an opportunity for the company to provide the very best customer service they possibly could under the circumstances. 

That was the opportunity.  What did they do instead?  They basically refused to communicate with us.  At every opportunity, they balked; did not answer emails; did not answer phone calls; did not offer reimbursement.  As we found out later, they did not even pay the towing company who moved their van off the Interstate.  Instead, they focused on how to limit their potential liability by withholding as much information as humanly possible.  They refused to let us even come to the site and examine our stuff.  We found out the day before, thanks to our insurance company, that we would be able to see our stuff on Friday if we flew to Albuquerque and rented a car to drive to Continental Divide.  There we discovered the charred remains of our things.  And, we discovered that nothing had been done for an entire month to protect our things (or those of the other two ex-patrons who shared the misfortune of choosing this moving company).  What was left of our clothes, photos, furniture, etc. was all open to rain, wind, and passersby for over a month.  

Continental Divide is a fitting metaphor for the choice that a company faces when they make a BIG mistake.  They can admit the mistake and do everything in their power to make it right to the customer.  Or, they can do everything in their power to continue to screw the customer in order to save costs, face, and limit liability.