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Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast and changed the immediate futures of many.  Focus will no doubt shift from extravagant extras to just rebuilding the necessities. For many local businesses looking to rebuild as well and turning to their loyal customers and the commitments made prior to this unthinkable disaster, you have to wonder when is the right time to ask your customers to be customers again.

For one local-area sports team, a letter was sent to its season ticket holders affected by the storm offering their support and reminding them their first payment was now due.  If you are a season ticket holder it should come as no surprise that this money is due; you committed to these tickets nearly six months ago if not longer. As a team and a business in its own right, at a certain point disaster or not, there are still employee salaries and bills to pay.  But if your home is gone or you just lost a family member in the storm and you get a letter like this, would you think the team is pretty insensitive to your situation? Or would you feel they were within their right to collect the money you promised to pay?

Does a letter like this damage the customer experience and customer loyalty?  Does it show your most loyal customers, your season ticket holders, that all you care about is their wallets?  Should you go the extra mile and show them you care by calling them individually to see if there’s anything you can do to help them if they were negatively impacted?  Or as your most loyal customers and dedicated fan base should they want to pay the money to support the team they love so dearly no questions asked?

One could argue that a contract is a contract and the customers owe the season ticket money no matter what.  That may be the legal truth in black and white, but when you’re talking about unprecedented circumstances can there really be a one size fits all customer service policy? Should an exception be made for a 20-year season ticket holder that lost his family and home in the storm? For this one instance, for this one natural disaster, should it be decided on a case-by-case basis? Or if you start with the exceptions do you run the risk of losing all that season ticket revenue?

What would you do if you received a letter like this?  What would you do if you were the sports team and had to write a letter like this? When is the right time after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy to ask your customers to be customers again and get back to work?

About Jim Rembach

Jim Rembach is a panel expert with the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and an SVP for Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM). Jim spent many years in contact center operations and leverages this to help others. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence (EQ) practitioner and frequently quoted industry expert. Call Jim at 336-288-8226 if you need help with customer-centric enhancements.

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