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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Automated Faux Pas




Editor’s Note: Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

Business is great in oil country! Jill Whelan couldn’t have asked for better. Not only had the recession skipped over their part of the world, but with the blessing of a great staff, Jill and her team at J. Avery Gems have seen double-digit increases in sales each of the past 8 years. During that time, Jill has taken full advantage of everything she’s learned from her buying group friends and has been more than grateful for the technology that’s helped her manage her growing business.

J. Avery’s award-winning, interactive website is a point of pride for the store, while also being a major generator of incremental sales. Clients are encouraged to “chat” with Jill and store associates through the site, which is also tied to their social media “personality.” The site’s customer service page provides a quick and easy way for clients to ask questions and offer valuable feedback to the team. A built in auto-response function provides an efficient way for the store to acknowledge comments that don’t require personal attention.

Four years ago, at the advice of her marketing team, Jill decided to make active client development a major emphasis at J. Avery. She began by installing a sophisticated POS system, complete with an advanced CRM module, and then implemented a training program to support her expectation that salespeople would collect valuable client information at the counter. Important touches like thank you notes and birthday and anniversary cards became part of J. Avery’s non-negotiable service standards.

As her business grew, simple logistics became more and more difficult, so Jill was thrilled when one of her buying group friends recommended a service that sends out birthday and anniversary cards, complete with specially designed J. Avery gift cards, to the store’s customer base every month. Jill was able to choose the look of the cards, and to upload scanned signatures of everyone on her team, so the cards looked professional and personal at the same time.


Although she’d gotten lots of positive feedback from clients who’d received birthday and anniversary greetings, and although she could easily document any number of additional sales made to people redeeming the gift cards they received, Jill’s enthusiasm for the service – and for the convenience of automation – turned to a queasy feeling as she re-read once again the e-mail exchange that came through her website:

Nov 13, 2012 7:36 PM
Comments: I am sending this in response to the mailer I received a couple of weeks ago congratulating me and Nate Charles on our upcoming anniversary. Though I can appreciate the marketing effort, Mr. Charles and I have been divorced for two years. As I was about to throw the kindly offered congratulatory gift in the garbage, I felt I should contact someone at this establishment and thank them for the quite painful reminder of our dissolution of marriage. It would have been 16 years, and it continues to be difficult every single day. Please remove me from your “anniversary” mailing.
Rebecca Charles
Nov 13, 2012 7:55 PM
Dear Rebecca,
Thank you so much for letting us know. We will remove that information from our system.
Jill Whelan
J. Avery
Nov 13, 2012 8:51 PM
How nice. Thank you for such a brief and careless response to what I said. Please remove my information from your system completely.
Rebecca Charles

The BIG Questions
What went wrong? Is there anything Jill can do to make things right with Rebecca? Are automated systems worth the potential risk? What can Jill do to ensure that this kind of situation doesn’t happen again?
Comment below (please leave your name and store) or at [email protected]




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