Jul 112004

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

I’ve always thought that the ability to stare down adversity in business — or turning lemons into lemonade, as a former boss of mine used to say — is a critical part of being a mature professional. We had a prime example of this a couple weeks ago at Return Path.

We had scheduled a webinar on email deliverability, a critical topic for our market, and the moment of the webinar had come, with over 100 clients and prospects on the line for the audio and web conference. There was a major technical glitch with our provider, Webex (no link for you, Webex), and after 5 or 10 minutes, we had to cancel the webinar — telling all 100 members of our target audience that we were sorry, we’d have to reschedule. What a nightmare! Even worse, Webex displayed atrocious customer service to us, not apologizing for the problem, blaming it on us (as if somehow it was our fault that half the people on the line couldn’t hear anything), and not offering us any compensation for the situation.

As you can imagine, our marketing guru Jennifer Wilson was devastated. But instead of sulking, she turned the situation on its head. She rescheduled the event for three weeks out with a different provider who was technically competent and a pleasure to work with, Raindance, and sent every person who’d been on our aborted webinar a gift certificate to Starbucks so they could enjoy a snack on our dime during the rescheduled event. Not only did we have full attendance at the rescheduled event, but Jennifer received dozens of emails from clients sympathizing with her, commending her on her attitude, and of course thanking her for the free latte.

It’s hard to do, and you hate to have to do it, but successfully turning lemons into lemonade is one of the most satisfying feelings in business!

People rarely comment on this blog (or most non-political blogs, I’ve noticed), so feel free to share your best lemons-to-lemonade story with me in a comment, and I promise I’ll post the best couple of them pronto!

Filed under: Leadership

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  • http://thiskids.blogspot.com Jackson

    I produce business meetings for pharmecutical companies, and we are in the lemons to lemonade business. It’s murphy’s law 24/7 around here. I have no specific example, but I would like to say that my most favorite thing to do is to let the company that let us down know exactly how bad they screwed up, and which company came through, and that of course our business now belongs to them. I had a Kinko’s employee tell me once that they could not make 80 copies of a three page document by 9am (requested the previous evening at 6 pm). I found a nearby office who’s inhabitants were kind enough to let me make some copies, and promptly fired off en e-mail to Kinko’s HQ to let them know that they lost out on business to thier competitor. I negelcted to tell them that I did it myself.

  • http://www.emaildatasource.com Bill McCloskey

    Well, this is one of the reasons we switched from Webex to GotoMeeting over a year ago. Maybe they will be better under Cisco.

    While it didn’t happen to me personally, the example of this that I read recently was the company whose trade show booth was lost by Fedex. The company was quick on their feet, went down to Fedex, picked up all the boxes they could find, creating their booth from Fedex Boxes and used the tag line along the lines of: We would never treat you, the way Fedex treated us. They then offered a raffle offering a prize to the person who could guess the closest time to when they booth would be delivered. Apparently, they got more attention and leads out of it than any previous trade show.

  • http://www.corporationfinancial.com Jason D

    Its a bother when service providers have an issue with providing service. It sounds like you were able to make the best of things though. If something hits you with a zig, then zag. I work for a company that also has to deal with rescheduling a lot.

    If the provider spills soda on the server rack, http://www.corporationfinancial.com crashes.