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4 Grams

This is a story of how 4 grams can affect a company’s customer service reputation and loss of revenue.

As a brokerage, aims to give customers the best service they can expect in Thailand. We have been voted by customers to be the best in customer service in the insurance industry. Why? Because we send customers their renewal reminders three months in advance via a postal service. We print the renewal notices in our office in monthly lots, send it to our packing team who matches it with the customer’s address, packs them into envelopes, and sends them out to customers via Thai Post. Customers receive these notices and become aware of when their insurance policies are going to expire and give us a call to renew their policies.

It is a fairly simple process where very little can go wrong.

So what happened? The documents followed their regular route. Our messenger picked up the documents and delivered them to the post office; we paid the usual price per envelope and left the post office. But, a few weeks later, we began to get calls, reviews, posts, and emails from our customers complaining that we were acting like a very cheap company. Even though there were not many complaints, the few we had made us question where this was coming from. And, despite training my team to always get to the bottom of every complaint so that it does not happen to anyone else, we could not figure this issue out. We ended up thinking that it was just a few customers being frugal, asking for discounts, which our sales team had refused to give so we bit our tongue with the reviews as we did not want to participate in pricing wars and unwarranted discounts.

The following month we followed the same process. When our team reached the post office, the lady in charge started to complain to us saying that we were shipping heavier items with our envelopes and that we have to be charged more. We were confused as hell and had no idea what warranted this increase in price. It was not a large increase. The price went from 3 baht an envelope to 5 baht an envelope (that's an increase of 6 cents). We obviously asked why and were presented with a sample of last month’s delivery. It looked the same to my team, but to the eagle-eyed attendant at the Thai Post, last month’s paper weighed 4 grams more than this months. What followed was a series of unfortunate events, causing bad reviews and perhaps a potential loss in revenue as well.

Thai Post realized that the envelopes weighed more than they normally should after we had already paid and stamped everything. They proceeded to deliver the envelopes to all of our customers asking each of the customers to pay the 2 baht (6 cents difference) to receive their renewal notice. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with our customers, and after I found out, all the dots connected themselves to where the complaints were coming from. It was time for damage control. We printed a new set on regular paper and mailed everything out ASAP as some of our customers refused to pay the 2 baht to receive a letter. We also had to call all our customers, apologizing for the inconvenience followed by an explanation of what had happened. As you can imagine, we had a very hectic day.

It turned out that we did use a different paper that month as our operations team had thought the increase in quality of paper would give the customers a better experience with our brand. I don’t blame anyone for the mishap. It was the right intention, which is what Frank always focuses on - giving customers the best service and experience, however, it also goes to show that sometimes even the best of intentions can lead up to unexpected consequences. Frank now has a new policy where any changes (big or small) to any part of the operations can be suggested and discussed in a forum where it will be discussed by members of every department to help determine potential issues. At least this way the company culture of bettering experience is kept alive (with a safety net in mind).

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