I’ve always heard that companies and brands that take accountability and apologize for mistakes publicly earn the greatest respect from their customers, and are most likely to have the happiest customers, and the most likely to remain loyal. It’s something about integrity and honesty I guess. I know that even if I’m really mad at a brand or company for something it’s done (or not done), if my “issue” or complaint is well-handled I will walk away a happy customer who will most likely talk about how impressed I was with how brand X or company Y handled a given situation, and I’ll likely speak highly of them, and give them another chance. I have to say that my experience this past weekend/week with the tracking of a friend who was running the Chicago Marathon is, to me, a great example of a company that screwed up, yet is “getting it right” with how it has handled the situation.
Here’s the situation…I wanted to follow my friend’s progress as she was racing, but in order to track a runner and see how he/she was doing in the race at various “split” points (i.e. the 10km mark, the half-way mark, the finish) you had to sign up for notifications with Verizon Wireless. Unlike a lot of race websites which directly track the progress of all racers their own websites, so you can just follow them online, in this instance because Verizon Wireless was a major sponsor of the race, I’m presuming that part of their exposure/package included this exclusive way of tracking racers, which required all interested friends and family to register and then sign up for tracking and notification via email – in other words, a way to “experience Verizon” through this tracking experience. But there was a glitch with this experience. Verizon wasn’t solo in making sure the communication of the results happened as planned. There was another company involved – Active.com – which was actually the “author” of the tracking update emails that Verizon was issuing – because it was their system that was actually tracking the times of the racers – meaning there was a dependency between the two companies and their systems. Unfortunately for Verizon – and the race organizers – in many or all instances, these email notifications were very late, and some came in hours after the individual had actually finished – hardly “real-time” tracking which you’d have expected when you signed up. That was my personal experience in trying to follow my friend, but I didn’t give it too much thought, although I was somewhat annoyed.
Then 4 days after the race I got an email from Active.com (signed by the CEO, so right from the top – where it should come from!) acknowledging there had been an issue, clarifying their role in it, and taking accountability. The email was open, honest and direct. Active.com took ownership for the issue and was very clear to make sure that people did not think it was Verizon’s issue (as I’m sure many would have presumed). The language was pointed yet heartfelt. I’m sure Active.com was under some pressure from Verizon and the race organizers to “fess up”, but regardless they did, and they did it with style, clearly exhonerating Verizon and the race organizers. To me, it was a great example of how to do a corporate “mea culpa” – a company “getting it” when it comes to going public with an apology. I think it’s up there in terms of setting the standard based on what people expect from companies these days. Let’s hope we continue to see more of that. It will only help companies – and their reputations – in the long run. In this case, hopefully all 3 parties come out as winners in the mind of us “runner tracking registrants” who’d signed up for this service.
Here’s the email I received:
Dear Runner Tracking Registrant, Active.com is aware of and has looked into the malfunction within the electronic runner tracking system that caused many updates to populate later than anticipated during Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. For this inconvenience, we sincerely apologize.
In reviewing the situation we found the issue was the result of technical difficulties with the Active.com system that caused significant delays in reception of messages by registered users. Active.com has identified the cause of the problem and has taken measures to ensure it does not happen again.
It is important to note that the issue was in no way affiliated with Verizon Wireless, the sponsor of the Marathon Runner Tracking program, or the technology they provided to the event.
Active.com has been part of the running community for more than a decade and nothing is more important to us than the events and runners. Our mission is to enable people to find events that improve their quality of life and then facilitate their participation. When we fall short of that goal, we not only let the event and runners down, we let ourselves down.
Again, please accept our sincere apology. We greatly value the running community that trusts Active to provide reliable technology and services. We are committed to making sure your next experience utilizing this service is as seamless as possible.
Sincerely, Dave Alberga CEO – The Active Network