Jul 11 2004

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

I’ve always thought that the ability to stare down adversity in business — or turning lemons into lemonade, as a former boss of mine used to say — is a critical part of being a mature professional. We had a prime example of this a couple weeks ago at Return Path.

We had scheduled a webinar on email deliverability, a critical topic for our market, and the moment of the webinar had come, with over 100 clients and prospects on the line for the audio and web conference. There was a major technical glitch with our provider, Webex (no link for you, Webex), and after 5 or 10 minutes, we had to cancel the webinar — telling all 100 members of our target audience that we were sorry, we’d have to reschedule. What a nightmare! Even worse, Webex displayed atrocious customer service to us, not apologizing for the problem, blaming it on us (as if somehow it was our fault that half the people on the line couldn’t hear anything), and not offering us any compensation for the situation.

As you can imagine, our marketing guru Jennifer Wilson was devastated. But instead of sulking, she turned the situation on its head. She rescheduled the event for three weeks out with a different provider who was technically competent and a pleasure to work with, Raindance, and sent every person who’d been on our aborted webinar a gift certificate to Starbucks so they could enjoy a snack on our dime during the rescheduled event. Not only did we have full attendance at the rescheduled event, but Jennifer received dozens of emails from clients sympathizing with her, commending her on her attitude, and of course thanking her for the free latte.

It’s hard to do, and you hate to have to do it, but successfully turning lemons into lemonade is one of the most satisfying feelings in business!

People rarely comment on this blog (or most non-political blogs, I’ve noticed), so feel free to share your best lemons-to-lemonade story with me in a comment, and I promise I’ll post the best couple of them pronto!