Best Practice: Dealing with Problems

Wein + Vinos Logo
It is not just at Zappos that everything is about customer service. Wein & Vinos, Germany’s largest online wholesalers of Spanish wines have set the goal of making all customers happy.

It is tragic when, despite this, every shipping deal’s nightmare comes true. They only wanted to do something good for themselves and their customers, by switching to a Magento shop after 16 years of in-house development and bringing their software and inventory management systems up to date.

Because of technical difficulties Christmas sales sank into chaos. Even the customers were not spared. They received wine they hadn’t ordered, deliveries for the holidays arrived late or not at all, and larger orders were delivered in lots of small parcels.

This was a worst case scenario for the wine shippers, who also have stationary shops in Berlin and Munich. The danger of losing customers forever was extremely high. In such a situation, there seems to be no way out. They decided to take the bull by the horns – in a letter the CEO openly asked the customers for forgiveness.

The complete letter can be read here (in German only).
We thank to Wein & Vinos for their kind permission.

5 reasons why the letter is an example of best practice:

  • Showing face: The director himself wrote the letter, explained in detail what was going over Christmas, and how it came about that the customers had to suffer the chaos. The photo, signature, and long hand ‘kind regards’ gave the letter’s form a personal touch. A fun detail: the word SOFTWARE as a voucher code.
  • So geht das mit der Entschuldigung nach einer Panne im E-Commerce

  • Truthfulness:Here it was basically crisis management and it wasn’t done as if it were anything else. The letter is headed with “Sorry!” and exactly what happen is described over the course of the two page document
  • Tone: The mistakes and incidents are outlined with a good measure of self-irony, without sounding as though the situation is being taken lightly. It asks for the customer’s understanding, praising improvements at several points. The company also positions themselves on the customer’s side, looking at the incident from their point of view. A taste:

    » At some point, every customer is so disappointed and annoyed that they turn their back on the company in frustration. Admittedly: I would not have done any differently! «

  • Reconciliation offert:With the voucher in the letter, a wine valued at 26.90 euros can be claimed with the next order. In this way, customers can also see for themselves that processes are running normally again.
  • Communicating values: When already in contact with the customer, it doesn’t hurt to communicate the company’s own values. For Wein & Vinos this is the topic service, created by product consultation and a certain good will in day to day business. For instance, a certain year may not be to the customer’s taste and can be returned. The customer is reminded of these advantages and the personal connection at numerous points in the letter. Perhaps some customers hear about the service orientated nature of the company for the first time and will take advantage of it in the future.


The letter from Wein & Vinos is a pleasant example of how (e-commerce) enterprises can deal with problems believably.

The letter rouses emotions, and the company appears personable and open. It is clear that staff and managers are sorry about the process turbulence, not just from a financial perspective, but also because they were not able to meet their own goal of serving customers particularly well.

This strategy was able to soothe annoyed customers, and those not affected we able to see the company’s values explained again clearly and practically implemented with a generous voucher.

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