Better business practices

Published 3:40 pm Friday, August 24, 2012

I have used this space on more than one occasion to bring to light what I feel are less than ethical or just bad business practices. Today I come to you with a good story and a model for how businesses should be run everywhere.

I have a coworker and friend, Eric, who is a cell phone fanatic. How I am about Carolina athletics he is about cellular technology. He knows about Verizon’s expanding 4G LTE network, Sony’s layoffs, Nokia’s Pureview Windows phone and a bunch of other stuff I barely understand long before the general public hears anything about it. He researches new mobile interfaces like I do prep commitments and offensive schemes.

Needless to say… the dude is serious about his phone.

He picked up a new phone a little over a month ago and as expected has been marveling over it ever since. He loves it, treats it like gold (for the price it might as well be) and like all of us with our phones he is concerned about protecting it. He doesn’t want it to get wet, dirty, sandy and most importantly he doesn’t want to drop it.

He knows the odds however and like all busy people who frequently use their phone for both business and personal use he knows the odds are more about when he will drop his phone and less about if he will drop his phone.

With this knowledge he immediately went to the store and purchased an OtterBox. OtterBox is a well known manufacturer of “performance cases and protection”. They make tough cases for things like cell phones, IPads, tablets and other such electronic valuables that people tend to drop and spill stuff on.

He was more than satisfied with his new cell phone case until about a week ago. He noticed that the plastic flap that covered his headphone outlet had begun to tear from repeated use.

This is the kind of wear and tear you can expect from any product after a while but certainly not after a month. Eric was quite disappointed, particularly given that he had researched all options before purchasing this case.

He emailed OtterBox and explained the situation. He described to them in detail the damage on his case and even sent pictures of it. He explained to them that he had previously purchased their products and been more than pleased, however he was not satisfied and he was reconsidering his planned purchase of their IPad case.

OtterBox to their credit handled the situation perfectly. They recognized the problem and took responsibility for it. The customer service department emailed Eric back and apologized for any inconvenience. They also informed him that they were not only sending him a new phone case, but that they were also going to be shipping to him the IPad case he was planning to buy.

OtterBox lost money on this deal, but retained a customer and made a fan for life. Eric will purchase all of his future cases from OtterBox because he was so pleased with how they handled his situation. It was a smart business decision on their part and given Eric’s habit of frequently buying the newest and hottest phones it will pay for itself several times over.

There is a lesson to be learned in this that all business owners, administrators, managers and employees should learn. Mistakes will happen, it is simply a part of doing business. What separates your company from all the rest is how you choose to handle these mistakes. Good businesses see them as opportunities to show off their customer service skills and further separate themselves from the competition.

I hope you apply this mentality to your business or place of employment. I think we can all agree that we are in desperate need of better businesses.


David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at