“The best time to win customer loyalty is when you make a mistake.”  I heard this surprising comment from an IBM executive speaking at a professional conference, and not long after that had an experience that demonstrated everything he said.

My IBM Thinkpad laptop had developed a persistent but intermittent problem.  I’d sent it in for warranty repair, but it was returned with the problem still present.  When I called IBM they offered to expedite another repair, again paying FedEx overnight both ways.  But I was flying off to Europe in four days, explained that I needed a working laptop, and that this was cutting it too close for my comfort.  The IBM representative promised to see what she could do.  A few hours later, she called back, to say that she was working on it.  And a bit later she informed me that an IBM repair person would be coming out (by boat) the next day to our island home to repair the computer.  This wasn’t normal practice, and she had to “borrow” somebody from another department.  But no matter — I was visited by a knowledgeable repair person who quickly found the real problem, fixed it, and got back on the boat.

The transaction cost here was the cost of sending a repair person to our home — perhaps a half day of his time.  IBM certainly didn’t have to incur this cost, but they chose to.

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