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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

A Service Failure Misteak

As I illustrated last week with Minted, service failures don’t have to drive customers away. An excellent resolution may even result in them becoming more loyal. Yet, we often focus on new business and give short shrift to customer problems. This post, unfortunately, will lay out one way that companies build relationship-killing service failure into their workflows.

Not Expecting the Haute Dog

In early December I sent my father a gift from a well-known gourmet-food purveyor specializing in steaks. His gift was supposed to include, among other meaty treats, filets. But when he opened the package, he discovered hot dogs instead of steaks.

I expected an easy fix: jump on the site, find the customer-service chat and get my dad’s steaks shipped. I figured the whole process would take about 10 minutes.

I was wrong. The first challenge was finding interactive help on the site – there was none. I know chatbots can be our worst nightmare, but most can easily resolve order-fulfillment errors. The link to “Customer Service” led to a static Help Center and a tab on the right was a survey. The only two-way communication option was an 800 number.

product strategy innovation service failure

Okay, I thought, let’s go into my account. Aha! Here are some options for customers with an ongoing relationship with Misteak. Nope. Just two more ways to get to the Help Center, and a different 800 number.

It's pertinent to my main point that the wait on each 800 number was >2 hours; so long, in fact, that the recording recommended they call me back when an operator was free. While this option is an improvement over the 1990's, when you had to stay on the phone or fall out of the queue, it's still irritating. Misteak called back while I was out with friends, and I had to deal with their service failure on their timeline, not mine. Before I got to this point, however, I checked out the Help Center . . .

A Not-So-Helpful Center

The Help Center content addresses dozens of questions. Some of them are certainly important to customers, but many are almost comically unimportant information like “why does the return address label not show [Misteak’s City, ST]?” On the other hand, “what if my order contains the wrong items?” is nowhere to be found.

product strategy innovation service failure

I’m hoping I’m being Captain Obvious for most of you when I say “Help” means help for your customers, not for your marketing department. Whether you sell steaks or sales-enablement software; automated, responsive help workflows can save you a customer and strengthen your market position. It can also save you money and manpower by reducing everyone's dependence on telephonic help. Misteak misses out on all of the above.

product strategy innovation service failure

Now, I’m on a mission. There must be a way to contact this company other than by phone, right? Not unless you click the “No, I need more info” button at the bottom of a Help Center tab. Even then, there’s another click to get to the form itself – which is, again, geared toward ordering and not helping. I submitted mine under the "Other" category - and could imagine how it would rank in priority with that label.

And This Was Only the Beginning . . .

Customers are yours to lose. With Misteak, we’re off to a bad start, and The Great Hot Dog Swap of 2022 still isn't resolved. I'll give you an update when I have one. In the meantime: happy holidays, and innovate on purpose.

About the Author

Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at


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