It was the mid-morning on Cyber Monday, somewhere around 2009 or 2010. Sales were absolutely flying in, to the point that our picking was falling way behind. We had a policy that every order that came in before FedEx came and pulled their trailer was shipped that day. Same-day shipping back then was rare and we liked to be rare, being different was in our DNA.
Then it happened.
Our credit card processing gateway went down. Suddenly the overflow of orders stopped and the concern about being unable to keep up was met with the fear of the day lost.
Anyone that has been around ecommerce long enough has seen outages from varying services. Losing your payment gateway is probably one of the worst that can happen – especially on a day like Cyber Monday.
We weren’t alone. Anyone who used PayFlow was offline, and PayFlow owned the market. While misery loves company, it doesn’t make the sale still happen.
This wasn’t going to define us though. We were defined by providing amazing customer service and this was an opportunity to step up and find a solution.
We were lucky in that orders were failing at the credit card authorization, so we had all the customer information.
We formulated a plan to attack the failed orders as soon as PayFlow was back online.
It was simple and exactly as we approached every other problem, it was to use teamwork and the dedication of our employees. We turned from all hands on deck in the warehouse to all hands on deck on the phones.
As soon as PayFlow came back up we started calling each customer and rerunning their cards where they didn’t need to reorder on their own. We aren’t talking a few orders, we are talking about 500-600 orders. Pulling store staff and warehouse staff and launching an internal plan assault to recapture the lost sales was now the goal and in the end, I think we recaptured something like 90% of the orders.
I don’t tell this story to scare anyone as we all stare down the barrel of the busiest selling time, but rather as a reminder that you define the narrative and there are almost no issues where you cannot take a horrible moment and turn it into a positive.
I am certain that those 500-600 people have never had a retailer call out and apologize and offer to help finish the order so that the gift they were buying would still arrive. What is most interesting is that we didn’t flinch. It was in our DNA to provide the best possible service and we were not going to allow someone else’s outage to define who we are. That would never happen to us.
The day ended late, but we achieved our goal of all orders out the same day with some help from our partner at FedEx pulling the trailer later and at the last possible minute to still make it to their sort.
As you head into the holiday season, decide what defines who you are.