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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; now I have launched a global initiative, Partnership for Change, which is working to improve healthcare, long term care, pensions & savings and technology for a rapidly ageing population. I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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Martin and The Count of Monte Cristo: How to turn a miserable customer into a happy one!

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The Count of Monte Cristo

This is a blog about how to turn a miserable customer into a happy one. It is important to know how to do this for many reasons but not least because, in an age of instant global communication, an unhappy customer is a dangerous thing.

Every year, a couple of days before Christmas, we have Afternoon Tea at a nice hotel in the West End of London, after which we all go to watch a play at the theatre. When I say “we”, I mean my family. It’s a once a year thing and, if you’ve never tried Afternoon Tea at Christmas, I highly recommend it.

 

As we worked our way through quintessentially English cucumber sandwiches, and scones with lashings of cream and strawberry jam, we discussed the play we were about to see at the Olivier Theatreon the South Bank: The Count of Monte Cristo.

 

Written in 1844, Alexandre Dumas’s novel opens as the dashing young sailor, Edmond Dantes, returns home aboard the ship Pharaon. The Pharaon is owned by Monsieur Morrel, who rushes to meet it – only to find that the captain has died during the voyage and Dantes has assumed command. However, despite his youth, Dantes clearly know what he is about and M. Morrel therefore plans to appoint Dantes officially as the next captain of the ship.

 

Also, the beautiful Mercedes is anxiously awaiting his return from sea and can’t wait to be reunited with him.

 

It is all looking good.

Unfortunately for Dantes, a bunch of conspiring, dastardly, rogues set him up and he is thrown into jail (for crimes he didn’t commit), where, for fourteen long, hard, years, he plots the ultimate, perfect, revenge on his enemies.

It is a literary classic concerned with high themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness.

So, as you can imagine, we set off for the theatre, full of expectation and anticipation. En route we strolled down Oxford Street, pausing to marvel at the collaborative creative genius of Anya Hindmarch and Michael Howells, the exciting duo behind Selfridge’s extravagantly gorgeous window displays. If you haven’t seen their work, it’s worth a trip all by itself.

 

Then we jumped on the Jubilee line at Bond Street and, twenty minutes later, presented our tickets at the Olivier theatre’s box office.

 

Folks, take a deep breath and sit down. You can only begin to imagine the K-A Family’s dismay as the chap behind the counter said:

 

I am sorry, the Count of Monte Cristo’s been cancelled. We left you a voicemail.

 

At that moment I was Dantes. High hope and expectation dashed to smithereens.

 

Revenge was the only logical response. The blog was taking shape even as the chap waved us away, crestfallen, with a superficial apology.

 

Except; that’s not what happened.

 

Martin (for that was his name) said:

 

I am so sorry you didn’t get our message [it turned out they had the wrong phone number]. This situation is entirely our fault.

 

We have refunded your tickets in full [they weren’t cheap], and to show how sorry we are, you can choose any play we are showing tonight [there were four] and I will put your family in the very best seats, free of charge.

 

Suddenly, things didn’t seem quite so bad.

 

But which play to see? What did he recommend?

 

May I recommend “The Magistrate”? It is excellent, and your family will love it.

 

Once again, I am really very sorry that we got your number wrong. The Count of Monte Cristo will be on next year and we’ll make sure we let you know in good time.

 

It was a master-class from Martin and the Olivier Theatre in how to manage a tricky situation with a customer gearing up for Monte Cristo levels of vengeance.

 

The fact is, you can rescue almost any customer-related malfunction. And if you do it right, you delight your customer, who ends up thinking even better of you than they did before things went wrong.

 

Note the ingredients of Martin’s rescue mission:

  1. A sincere abject apology – no weasel excuses;

 

  1. An extravagant restitution (your money back and some great, free seats for another excellent play);
  2. A display of perfect manners, concern and respect (Martin even stood up to make his apology).

Well, the Magistrate was every bit as good as promised. John Lithgowis outstanding and Nancy Carrol is, perhaps, even better.

 

 

If you haven’t seen it, order your ticketsbefore they’re sold out. All in all, it was hard to see how the evening could have been better.

 

Martin, you are an excellent employee working in an excellent organization.

 

Thank you, and Happy Christmas!

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