It was Christmas Eve. I was at the local grocery store trying to pick-up last-minute items before the store closed at 6 PM. The lines were long and there were store employees everywhere, assisting customers. When a self-checkout counter opened, I quickly walked up, scanned my items and inserted my credit card. The screen displayed “Credit Card Error”. I tried again and after three attempts I had a helpless look on my face.

One of the store employees noticed my frustration, walked up to me and took charge. She printed the receipt and drew a smiley face on it. Then she handed the receipt to me, smiled and whispered to me, “This one is on us. Our credit card processing is down. Enjoy! And please don’t tell anyone else.”

I was not sure what just happened. As I walked out with my groceries, my reaction was, “You cannot do that at a grocery store!” Then I realized how thoughtful the stores action was. With the credit card processing being down they could have easily put signs up for “Cash only” payment. That would have created total confusion among customers as not everyone carries cash. Or they could have closed the store. Instead they understood that being a good neighbor, they needed to be there for their customers on Christmas Eve. Wow! Simply Wow!

What You Do When Things Don’t Go Right Defines You

Technology and processes do not always work as planned. What do you do when things fail? In this case the grocery store clearly understood the business they are in; to be there for last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve. When there was a technology failure, they did not to pass the consequence on to the customers. Instead they stayed true to their reason to exist.

What was even more amazing was how they did it. They did not create a chaos in the store and added stress to their customer. They added extra employees to communicate with each customer individually. They made sure every customer left the store happy with what they needed. I feel that the stores’ actions were planned as they seemed to know what to do in case of an emergency. Their plan and action saved Christmas for each customer, one at a time.

Putting customer’s first with a smile during a problem shows a brand’s character and true commitment. Those are moments that define a brand and create positive feelings that last forever.


3 Steps To Prepare For The Big Failure:

  1. Clearly know what business you’re in
  2. Identify what all can go wrong
  3. Develop action plans in alignment with your brand promise