Belief in business: you’ve probably heard us talking about it. Boil it down, and it is simply what happens when a customer or stakeholder is both moved by what a business has to offer and can see how it’s equipped to get there.

The combination of the two factors is vital. Without inspiration, you just have trust. Without evidence, you just have faith. That said, I’ve always been passionate about the ‘evidence’ side of the equation – and good customer service has an incredibly important role to play in providing it.

So. The coat in question. It’s a Patagonia one. An obvious choice for a business to believe in, I hear you say. Well – perhaps. But that’s not the business I want to talk about.

Let me give you a little context. I wanted a specific Patagonia parka for my husband’s Christmas present. Having initially ordered a ‘large’ from another company and had a bad experience trying to exchange it, I was left panicking super close to Christmas, in a lockdown, desperately trawling the internet to find the same coat in a medium. It had sold out everywhere except on a website called Flatspot. I’d never heard of them, but they had the product I needed and the digital experience was good. The delivery was free and super-fast, too.

It arrived as expected and I had a happy husband - until a few weeks after Christmas that is, when the pocket stitching came apart. I contacted Flatspot with pictures. They responded pretty much immediately and confirmed ours was one of a few coats that had a manufacturing defect, ticking the excellent, open and transparent communication box in one stroke.

They offered me a range of choices explaining the pros and cons of each - refund, exchange, whatever worked best for me. I love this collaborative and tailored approach. Rather than just saying ‘here’s a refund, thank you and goodbye’, they let me decide what worked best. You’d think it couldn’t get any better, but it did: they also offered me a 20 per cent discount on anything across their site due to the inconvenience. I was delighted - what they’d done up to this point would have been more than enough.

What could have been a frustrating situation turned into me becoming an advocate of a digitally-led, independent skateboard and apparel retailer. Who’d have thought it!

Sure, inspiring your customers is of course incredibly important, but their experience on the journey – and what happens when things go wrong – will really set you apart. Make sure your communications are human, give choices and sweat the detail. And if you can really surprise and delight, there’s every chance you’ll have loyal advocates on your hands who’ll spread the word.

That’s what I am to Flatspot. Check them out. And if you’re wondering – yes, I did spend more with them using the discount. Now I’ve written about them too. That says quite a lot, doesn’t it?                                               

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