Erin Zwigart | Crain's Atlanta

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Erin Zwigart

Background:  

Erin Zwigart founded Georgia Crafted, an Atlanta-based company that offers subscription and gift boxes of Georgia-made products. It ships nationwide. Before starting the company in 2013, Zwigart was an account manager with Henderson Shapiro Peck, a marketing agency.

The Mistake:

We’re a gift company, so the winter holidays during the fourth quarter are our busiest time. We pride ourselves on customer service. This past holiday season, we ran into a situation with a client. It was their third time ordering gifts for their clients from Georgia Crafted.

On the inside lid of our gift boxes, there’s always a card that has the client company’s logo, a headline of their choosing, and may or may not list the various products included. This particular client from a law firm called me and said she wanted to order from us again. She said their logo changed because one of the partners had left the firm. We put the new logo on the card, and she approved it. And what happens? I send the wrong file to the printer.

We put the cards in the boxes and shipped them to all the law firm’s clients. I called her that Tuesday afternoon. We were a day ahead of schedule, so I was so proud. We were just rocking and rolling, and I left her this great message saying everything’s early. Two hours later, she called and said she opened her box and discovered that we had used the wrong logo.

Your heart sinks. This is a client that has come back for the third year in a row. They spend a lot of money on their holiday gift. I had to put my game face on, and I went into apology mode. But after apologizing, how do you fix it? What kinds of solutions can you offer to the client?

I told her we’d offer some sort of discount, so I went back to my team and came up with some options to fix the situation.

At the end of the day, half of the people who received the box probably wouldn’t have noticed because it was such a slight logo change. But I offered the client a discount on this order and a future order. The client said it was unnecessary. She said she comes to us for our customer service, and she was thrilled with the way we had handled the situation.

Companies need manuals. You need to document your process.

The Lesson:

One lesson is around the customer service side. How can you step up your customer service with your client when you make a mistake? Every company has made a mistake or will a mistake. How you handle the situation with your client will determine your relationship with them down the road.

I try to be very process-oriented, and it was the one time that I stepped out of process and made a mistake. It was a lesson about how to maintain that level of customer service and how to respond going forward.

After this mistake, we ended up making a checklist for each order. Every order is customized from one person to the next, and we now have a whole new process that we follow. When we process orders for an individual or a company, there’s a step-by-step checklist to follow. The situation was a great learning curve, and now we have a checklist that won’t allow that to happen again.

Companies need manuals. You need to document your process. When you have it in writing, it’s one of the best ways to avoid a mistake.