My Sherpa pens.

My Sherpa pens.

One of my favorite online stores offered a special a while back. Buy one Sherpa™ pen cover and get a second one free. If you love writing utensils like I do—must be a throwback to my teaching days—this was an irresistible offer.

At two-for-one I could indulge my passion for whimsical or unusual pens without experiencing the wrath of my inner critic. You know, that wicked witch who scolds: “That isn’t practical. What were you thinking?” or “Do you really need one more pen, much less, two?”

I put the witch on hold and went for it. The sale was on for only a day. I went online to Paradise Pen and selected the two I wanted to add to my collection.

I selected “Polka Polka” and “Circuit Board”—one for each side of my brain—and an assortment of refills. So far, so good. Then I proceeded to the checkout line. There my joy ended. No matter what I tried, the site would not give me my second pen free.

I stewed and fumed while the wicked witch cackled. Then I picked up the phone and called the store. I was on the defensive when I explained my problem but Karen made my frustrations melt like butter on just-out-of-the-oven scones.

She confirmed that I should get the second one free, and apologized for my substandard experience. She never sounded condescending. I got the impression she genuinely was dismayed about my bad experience. Even took it personally.

Then she took my pen order. Together we struggled through the refill order because the online order numbers didn’t jibe with her list. But we worked it out. We were a team. Collaborators against the unresponsive Internet.

All in all, she spent a substantial amount of time with me. Wow, I thought, this must be what Princess Kate feels like when she goes shopping at Whistles, one of her favorite London clothiers. (Minus the complimentary flute of champagne, of course!)

Never mind that my total order was only worth about $50, I received $500-worth of customer service. I felt good the rest of the day. And that’s why I’ll always buy my writerly goods from Paradise Pen.

It didn’t end there, however. Karen told me to expect my pens and refills within three days. I got them in two. And tucked inside my package was a high-quality white envelope with a hand-written note-card inside.

Dear Ms. Held,

Thank you for your order for the Sherpas & refills. We are sorry you had trouble with our website, but please know you can always give us a call & we will be happy to help.

Paradise Pen

All that for a $50 order.

So what can we learn from this?

• Be genuine. No one likes to be patronized. We’ve all heard the saying, “the customer’s always right.” The implication is that often the customer is wrong. And that undercurrent, or attitude, comes across to your client loud and clear.
• Treat your client like you’re going to be sitting across the dinner table with them. Empathize with your client’s frustration and do what it takes to fix the problem.
• Under-promise rather than over-promise. If you think a project will take you three days, quote four. That not only gives you some lead-time in case you run into a hiccup, it makes your client happy if you deliver early.
• Do the unexpected. Little gestures can yield big returns. In this case, it was the hand-written card. But an e-card, perhaps with a $5 Starbucks gift card included would also do the trick.

Fantastic customer service like I experienced with Paradise Pen sticks. Clients may not mention it to you, but they won’t forget it. I know that for a fact. My experience happened last October, and I still haven’t forgotten.