Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Customer Recovery: Guarantees and Communication

Recently I had an email exchange with Jeff Frank of Simplicity Sofas, an online furniture retailer.  Simplicity Sofas uses their website as a showroom, and have evangelized their customers who give some of the best word-of-mouth advertising ever.  Jeff shared an email exchange that is worth featuring in an article.  One of his customers had a problem.  Read the email and you’ll be… amazed.  What would the world be like if all problems or complaints were handled like this?

Hi Mary,

It’s nice to hear from you.  Simplicity Sofas has come a long way in the 3 1/2 years since you bought your sofa.  I am attaching a summary of what has been happening to us since then.

Since we first opened in November, 2007 Simplicity Sofas has now sold its furniture to over 2500 customers.  In all that time the company has never received a negative review either from a customer or from professional reviewers and industry “experts.”

You are about to find out why.

At the time you bought your furniture Simplicity Sofas was using the same type of cushion that is used by about 90% of furniture companies in our price range. It has a 6 inch thick polyurethane foam core and is backed by a 1 year warranty.  This type of cushion typically begins losing its shape and resilience after about 3 years.

About a year and a half ago we decided it did not make sense for us to sell cushions that would only last 3 years when the rest of our furniture is built to last for twenty years.

We discontinued all of our lower quality polyurethane cushions and now sell only two options — both of which are backed by life time warranties:

Our current standard cushion uses an 8 inch thick Ultracel High Resilience foam core with a Dacron polyester fiber wrapping.  This type of cushion is normally found in sofas selling for at least $2000. The bottom line is that we will send you a new set of Ultracel foam cushions at no charge.  (Note to the reader — the customer paid less than $1000 for her sofa in 2008.)

The Twillo Bluestone fabric you ordered for your sofa is still available from the mill so we will cover the cushions for you with brand new fabric.  The Twillo is a microfiber so I do not think there should be any noticeable color difference between the new cushions and the rest of your sofa.  If there is I will send you some new covers for the back cushions,

Ann will write up a replacement parts order on Monday.  We should be able to order the fabric, sew the covers and make the cushions in about 2 weeks.  We will ship them by UPS Ground.  You will get an email from Shannon, our customer service manager, notifying you when they ship and giving you a tracking number.

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Jeff Frank, Owner

Simplicity Sofas

Well, that email from Jeff to Mary is pretty clear.  Simplicity Sofas focuses on quality, innovation and improvement.  They jump to supporting their customers and resolving issues.  They communicate, keep their customers updated and follow through.

Lessons: There are some valuable lessons in Jeff’s email to Mary:

1.      Notice how Jeff recapped some history and a bold statement about why they never had a negative review.  That set the tone of the email.

2.      He didn’t give an excuse.  He gave an explanation.

3.      He explained how he was going to take care of the problem – in detail.

4.      He told her who would be taking care of the replacement.

5.      He gave her a timeline.

6.      He promised that the company would notify the customer when the product shipped.

Jeff shared with me some additional important information that makes this story even better.  The cost to Simplicity Sofas for providing free upgraded replacement cushions to this customer is approximately $150.  The customer originally paid $875 for her sofa in 2008.  According to traditional furniture industry accounting standards this is an outrageous amount to “take care” of a customer service “problem.”

Another lesson: Simplicity Sofas justifies this by looking at it this situation as a “marketing opportunity.”  Jeff stated, “If this customer buys from us again or convinces a single other person to buy from us, that already justifies the marketing investment.  When you add in the fact that we can leverage this customer’s “delight” by communicating it to others who may further communicate it (like I’m doing in this article), there is a very high probability that the $150 invested in this customer will result in many thousands of dollars of additional sales.”

We have more to learn from Simplicity Sofas, so sometime in the very near future we will continue these lessons with Simplicity Sofas: Part Two.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Kudos to Jeff and Simplicity Sofas. Too often companies suffer from business myopia riveted only on the quarterly profit and loss statements. Jeff and Simplicity focus on the lifetime value of each customer. I think they’d agree with Walt Disney when he said, “For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds.” I’m looking forward to Part Two.

  2. There is one minor point that I would like to add to this story.

    When the customer, Mary, contacted Simplicity Sofas, it was not to complain about defective cushions. Her complete email stated,

    Do you sell replacement cushions? My cushions on my sofa are starting to sag from use. I love my couch it’s just not as comfortable anymore. Thanks! Mary

    Jeff Frank, Owner
    Simplicity Sofas

    • Ah! The story gets even better. Thanks, Jeff, for adding this extra piece of information. You took your customer’s Moment of Misery and turned it into a Moment of Magic!

  3. Jeff and Simplicity Sofas do what most companies talk about, but never deliver on. Provide a customer experience that that not only answers a questions or solves a problem and leaves the person happy, but WOW’s them. Each and every time. If that philosophy comes our of each and ever person that works for Simplicity Sofas, and it shows with each customer interation, you can’t lose. I’m looking forward to following Jeff and Simplicity Sofas in the future.

  4. “He didn’t give an excuse. He gave an explanation.”

    There is a very fine line between the two, but it makes a big difference in how the situation is perceived by your customer. When you can explain the situation (and the next step) as opposed to looking for someone else to blame, it really makes a wow moment for that customer.

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